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In the unfolding story of your life, who are the most important actors? Or to ask the question a different way, who are the two agents most responsible for who you are and what your life is like? The answer, not surprisingly, you and God. The two agents most responsible for who you are and what your life is like are you and God.
Now that may sound obvious to hear in a church, but think a bit about that answer. In saying you, it means that you are a responsible agent. To be sure, we are all affected by parents, friends, genetic code, teachers, colleagues, the country we’re born in, the house we’re born in. All sorts of things shape us, affect us. Our circumstances are often outside of our control, just like they were for Joseph, as we’ve been seeing and will see again this morning. It was not his fault he was sold into slavery, it was not his fault he was cast into prison, and neither was it really his fault or his good planning that landed him as second in command in Egypt.
So, yes, are profoundly affected by the people around us. But nevertheless, no human being had more control over Joseph than Joseph. I hope you believe that about yourself. Whatever your circumstances you’re in, whatever sort of hand you’ve been dealt in life that seems good or very bad, no one has more to do with shaping who you are, no human being, than you.
And of course, no one is the ultimate master of his destiny. Ephesians 1:11 tells us that God works all things after the counsel of His will. This isn’t really a sermon about human responsibility and divine sovereignty except to say at the beginning that yes, the Bible teaches both of those things. God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. The Church father Augustin once said, “The will of God is the necessity of all things.” The way things are ultimately is according to God’s eternal immutable decree, and at the same time, we see clearly in the Scriptures, we are responsible.
So most famously in the Bible we see in Acts as the apostles are preaching, they say that Jesus was handed over, was crucified, according to God’s predestination, according to His foreordained plan. That was God’s plan from all eternity and it was going to come to pass, and at the same time those men that crucified Jesus did a wicked thing. They were held responsible.
So God gives us brains and feelings and wills, so in one sense Joseph was responsible for who Joseph was and who Joseph became, and you are responsible for who you are and what you are becoming. Yet we know that God was for Joseph working all things according to His purposes and so it is true for all of His people.
So to put it another way, don’t think of the story of your life as a solo performance. If you want to carry the metaphor, you may be the lead actor or actress in some sense, but then let’s bet quick to say God is the writer, the director, the producer, the makeup artist, the choreographer, as you act in the sense, the philosophical sense, that you have a soul that is acting according to a God-given will.
As you think about your life, who you are, what you want to accomplish, what you want to become or who you don’t want to become, never forget with all of the circumstances in your life and all the people that have shaped you, that the two most important agents in your story are you and God.
And that’s what we see once again as we continue with the story of Joseph and God’s providence. I hope you have your Bibles open to Genesis chapter 40 and genesis 41. This is a long passage, two full chapters. So we’re going to do this a little differently this morning. And I’m not going to read through the whole text, which would probably take 15 minutes, but let me summarize the story. Some of you will have heard it many times, for others maybe it’s the first time here hearing this wonderful story.
Let me summarize it and then in the course of the preaching we’ll go back and look at specific verses. So you do want to have your Bibles open to Genesis chapters 40 and 41. But let me summarize what happens. If you remember from chapter 39, Joseph was a slave for this Egyptian master Potiphar and the Lord was with him and so Joseph was successful in whatever he did. So much so that Potiphar put him in charge of his entire house, things were going very well for Joseph until Potiphar’s wife entered the picture because Joseph was well-built and handsome and his master’s wife wanted to sleep with him, and he refused her advances day after day until finally she grabbed hold of him and said, “Come to bed with me.” And Joseph did what any man should do in that situation – run as fast as you can and don’t look back.
But he did just that and now Potiphar’s wife was standing there with the cloak, which seemed to be incriminating evidence, so she lies. She tells everyone Joseph was the one trying to sleep with her and her plan works and Joseph ends up in prison. That’s chapter 39, bringing us to chapter 40.
But again, here in chapter 40, the Lord is with Joseph, and he still is the same man, he still has the same gifts, and just as he managed Potiphar’s household well, he gets to prison and he manages the prison. This man has tremendous gifts for organization and administration, and so the warden puts Joseph in charge. This arrangement goes on for some time. We don’t know the exact chronology, but by the time we get into chapter 40, Joseph has been in slavery or prison for 10 years.
So Joseph meets, in chapter 40, two men, two new men in prison, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and Pharaoh’s baker. Each of these men have a dream and Joseph interprets. The cupbearer’s dream is good news – in three days he’s going to be restored to his old position. The baker’s dream, on the other hand, is bad news – in three days his head will be lifted up from his neck. Very dramatic twist there. Sounds good – it’s really bad. He’s going to be hanged.
Things happen just like Joseph said they would happen. But it doesn’t do much good because the cupbearer, whom joseph had helped and shown kindness, he forgets about Joseph. You see that at the end of chapter 40, verse 23 – “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember joseph but forgot him.”
Into chapter 41. Two more years pass by and now Pharaoh has a dream. We’ll come back to this in a little bit, but notice how dreams in this story come in pairs. So he has a dream about fat cows and skinny cows, and then a dream about plump ears of grain and thin ears of grain. Joseph, at the very beginning in chapter 37, he had two dreams. The cupbearer and the baker have a total of two dreams. Pharaoh has two dreams.
Well, Pharaoh can’t figure out what’s happening. He sends for his magicians, his wise men in the kingdom. No one can interpret his dreams and then, light bulb, something goes off, ahh, the cupbearer remembers, “That’s right, I forgot, two years ago there was this young Hebrew guy in prison and he can interpret dreams. I can’t believe I forgot all about him.” So Pharaoh sends for Joseph – “Bring him here to interpret my dream.”
And Joseph does. He says, “Pharaoh, your two dreams mean the same thing. Egypt is headed for seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine.” And Joseph goes one step farther, not only interpreting the dream but laying out counsel for Pharaoh. He says, “Here’s what you should do. You should start taking 20% of the harvest and appoint commissioners over the land and you should find a wise and discerning man to be your project manager.”
So Pharaoh likes this plan a lot and whether Joseph was angling to be the man or as sometimes happens in committees, “Hey, that’s a great idea you just gave. You should do it,” he says, “All right, that’s a brilliant idea. I put you in charge.”
So Joseph is in charge of this project. He becomes second-in-command over the great empire of Egypt at 30 years old. We read that he gets married to a local girl, he has some kids, they enjoy seven abundant years just as joseph predicted and then seven years of famine, as he also predicted. We end with all of Egypt, and after that the whole world, at Joseph’s feet to buy grain.
Look at the last verse in chapter 41 – “Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”
You may remember in chapter 37, Joseph’s initial two dreams about these sheaves bowing down to him. Well, soon it will be his family, here it’s Egypt and the whole world is coming to Joseph, the man who was thrown into a pit to die, sold into slavery, betrayed by his master’s wife, forgotten in prison, and now second-in-command in all of Egypt with the whole world bowing before his feet.
How do we make sense of these stories? Of this aspect of Joseph’s life? From the pit to the penthouse, as it were.
Well, remember what I said at the very beginning – the two actors, or the two agents, most responsible for who you are in your life, you and God.
And we get important lessons for us in living out our lives from looking at Joseph and God in Joseph’s life.
So that’s our big picture outline, very simple, we’re going to look at joseph and what he does and who he is and then we’re going to look at God and what He does, and this will help us as we think about who we ought to become and who we are in light of God’s providence.
So number one – Joseph. Joseph is the most exemplary character in Genesis. Don’t you think that’s true? There’s lots of famous people in Genesis – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel and Leah. Noah was a man of righteousness. But from start to finish, the most exemplary character, you could make a very good case, is Joseph.
The point of this section is to show that. So have your Bibles open, look at chapter 41, verse 39 – “Pharaoh said to Joseph, “God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you.””
You could put that as a banner over these two chapters – Joseph, there is no one as discerning and wise as Joseph. If you look at the verse just before it, “Pharaoh said to his servants,” verse 38, ““Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?””
Remember I said last week, the only person in all of Genesis about whom it is said that he or she has the Spirit of God, this is Joseph. And it’s very obvious to the people around him that he has a special gift that comes from God for interpreting things. Go back to chapter 41, verse 13 – ““And as he interpreted,”” this is the cupbearer talking about Joseph’s interpretation of his dream, ““as he interpreted to us, so it came about.”” It happened just as he said, eat your heart out, Bruno.
He’s got even a better power of prediction and prophecy. Not just wise to interpret the dreams, but then to come up with a plan and to execute that plan.
Remember Genesis, you can see is the first book of the Bible. Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and then there was obviously some person who kind of put the finishing touches on it, we know, because Moses dies at the end of Deuteronomy, so Moses didn’t write about his own death.
One of the things that we’re trying to get from Genesis and this story of Joseph, is an example of the sort of leadership that Israel needs and should follow. This line here in chapter 41 about Joseph being wise and discerning has a very deliberate parallel at the end of the Pentateuch. Pentateuch – first five books of the Bible.
Turn to the end of Deuteronomy chapter 34. You can just see this for yourself. So Moses writes these five books, yes, to tell about the history of the world and its people, but remember, as he’s getting to the end of his life and he’s going to die, and he does die at the end of Deuteronomy 34, where are the people? They’ve been wandering, they’re on the cusp of entering the Promised Land.
So part of what these five books are to remind Israel here’s where you came from, and also he’s giving a picture of how they should conduct themselves moving forward.
So look at Deuteronomy 34, verse 9 – “And Joseph [sic] the son of Nun,” that’s his dad’s name, “was full of the spirit of wisdom.” It’s almost a direct parallel to what is said about joseph.
Part of what the Israelites are to see, “Okay, we’re a little scared, we’re a little nervous, we’re heading into the Promised Land, Moses is gone. We need Moses. Moses led us out of Egypt. He led us through the Promised Land. Moses’ face got all shiny. He gave us the 10 commandments, the Law.” Moses is gone, but don’t fear. Joshua is one like Joseph who has been given a spirit of great wisdom.
This is the kind of leadership God’s people should desire and should follow. Whatever leaders you have in your life, and it could be parents, teachers, pastors, whatever sort of Christian leaders you have in your life, here’s a good simple prayer to add to your list: Pray that they would be people who are given by God’s grace a spirit of wisdom and discernment. Not just knowledge or smarts or abilities, but wisdom and discernment.
You see, Joseph is a precursor to Solomon and all of his wisdom. And he prefigures Daniel, especially, the interpreter of dreams in a foreign kingdom. This Joseph can see the purposes of God in the affairs of those around him. He is the prototype of the wise men to come and ultimately of wisdom made flesh to come in the person of Jesus Christ.
But not only does Joseph point us forward to the wise leaders who are to come, we’re also meant to look backward and see that Joseph is a new and better Adam.
Let me see if we can connect the dots here. Look at chapter 41, verse 26. Here’s Pharaoh’s dream. As Joseph said to Pharaoh, and he talks about it, verse 26: “The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one.” It’s the Hebrew word “tov,” translated good, that’s what it means, good. So you have a dream, Pharaoh, about good cows and good grain.
Now look back up at verse 19 – “Seven other cows,” this is earlier in telling the story, the dream, “Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin… And the think, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning.”
Now that’s a fine translation to say “ugly,” but you could also be very literal and translate it, “they were evil of appearance.” And it’s the usual Hebrew word for evil, “ra.” They were evil of appearance and the other cows, they were tov, they were good of appearance.
So what Joseph is able to do with Pharaoh’s dream is quite literally have the knowledge of good and evil. To discern between tov and ra. Between the cows of good appearance and the cows of evil appearance.
Where else have we heard this language? Well, it was the serpent who said, “On the day that you eat of this tree in the garden, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And of course Adam grasped after that sort of knowledge in the wrong way. He wanted to eat this tree which was symbolic of choosing for himself. It was a symbol of human autonomy – I can determine for myself what is good and what is evil. That’s why it was a sin.
But of course, to discern in itself good and evil is what we ought to do. To gain a heart of wisdom. So we see Joseph here doing in the right way what Adam grasped after in the wrong way. Namely, having the knowledge of tov and ra, the knowledge of good and evil.
And if that’s not convincing, just think about some of the other connections between Joseph and Adam. Adam has a wife provided for him; so does Joseph, verse 45 of chapter 41, “And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On.” So a wife is provided for him just like Eve was provided for Adam.
Adam initially has two sons, Cain and Abel. Joseph has two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Adam fell when he was tempted by the woman who had already been tempted by the serpent and says to Adam, “Take this and eat” and he eats of it. He does not withstand the temptation from the woman. Joseph, on the other hand, is tempted by Potiphar’s wife and he does withstand the temptation of the woman.
Joseph, fulfilling now what Adam was supposed to be, is made vice regent of the king. Adam, of course, we remember, was made in the image of God. Now see what joseph is remade in the image, chapter 41, verse 42 – “Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck.” He dressed him in royal robes, to clothe him, as it were, with the image of the Egyptian king. Verse 43 – “And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt… Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.””
In other words, here is one exercising dominion as God designed. Just as Adam was meant to exercise godly dominion to subdue the earth, to be a cultivator of the garden, so now we have Joseph as a better kind of Adam who withstood the temptation from the woman, now clothed in the garments of the king, made to be vice regent of the king in the land, exercising dominion as God designed.
So Joseph points us forward to the wise men to come, and he points us back, who’s even better than the Adam who was. He’s come a long way from a teenage boy with a fancy coat to then a slave, to a prisoner, and now 13 years later to second in command in Egypt with the whole world begging him for help.
Joseph has seen, perhaps as some of you have, the good and the bad side of power. He’s been oppressed by authority, he’s also used his great public power for public good. You can tell, there’s so many ways, the Bible’s so rich, you can tell the story of Joseph as the story of providence, you can tell it as the story of family, we’re going to get to that in the weeks ahead. You could tell it in the story of power and authority, because you see the abuse of power and authority and then you see the godly exercises. He uses this authority to save the kingdom of Egypt.
Joseph is a man of impressive character. Hardworking, skillful, he resists temptation. Most men would have a hard enough time not running into temptation let alone literally running away from it when it grabs you. As we saw last week, he could have easily convinced himself, who will know? My family’s far away, my friends and family I have none. Nobody would know. But he understood that God would know, which is why the saying is true, “Character is who you are when no one is looking.” It’s who you are when no one was looking because God would have known, and that was all the reason Joseph needed.
He was pious. He was loyal to those in authority over him. He was patient in the midst of suffering, noble in the face of injustice. A godly man in an ungodly place.
Again, he’s a type of Daniel, who will to come, because Daniel, remember, is given a pagan name, and so Joseph here is given a pagan name. You go back to verse 45 – “Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphenath-paneah.” Yeah, I’d stick with Joe. Zaphenath-paneah. But just like Daniel, and just like it should be true for us, even though he was given a pagan name, he did not take the pagan religion.
He took a foreign wife, Asenath, not a Canaanite wife, but a foreign wife. We don’t know really anything about her. It’s intriguing. There was a novel written many, many centuries later, so it’s hard to say if there’s the least bit of historical accuracy to it, but a novel written during the time of Philo which claimed that Asenath converted to Joseph’s faith in Yahweh. We can hope that it was so. We have no way of knowing for sure, but it is intriguing, and perhaps it is telling, that they give their children not Egyptian names but Hebrew names. So maybe there was something to that old legend.
Joseph knew how to live and work in a culture that was not his own, yet he did not lose his own identity. Surely there’s a lesson there for us. Now there’s still, let’s not kid ourselves, there are many, many ways Christianity has been and still is very influential in American culture, in southern culture, in Charlotte-ian culture. And yet we can see how quickly that is evaporating and changing and many of you already work in contexts where Christianity is a thing indifferent, if not entirely a thing opposed.
So we need to look to someone like Joseph. How do I live and work in a culture that is not my own without losing my identity? Even Pharaoh recognized that he was discerning and wise. Pharaoh called him by a different name. Joseph said, “Okay, Pharaoh, you’re going to call me that, give me an Egyptian name, but I’m still operating as a Hebrew, and I’m still one who follows Yahweh.”
This was the story of Joseph. Probably the most exemplary character in the whole book, and we’ll have more ahead to see about his character.
But like every story, this one is ultimately about God more than about Joseph. So first we have Joseph as a man of discernment and wisdom, then the second agent here in the story is God, the Lord Almighty and the God of sovereign sway. The recurring theme is how God reveals something and how what God reveals is firmly fixed according to His plan.
Just look a few verses. Look at chapter 40, verse 8: “Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? ”” So Joseph’s under no illusion that this is him and he has a reason to be proud about this. No, this entirely comes from God. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do.
Look at chapter 41, verse 25: “Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. ””
Down at verse 28: “It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.”
The thing was absolutely fixed. Verse 32: This “means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will surely bring it about.”
Interesting that verse 32 says “the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream reinforces that the thing is fixed.” The fact that he had the same basic dream two times was a way to reinforce this is absolutely fixed, God’s plan is absolutely unchanging. Which is why I said at the very beginning to notice the doubles.
The two officials together had two dreams. Even the first verse in chapter 41, look at it – “After two whole years” Pharaoh has two dreams. And actually, though we didn’t take time to read through the chapter, we are told about his dream two times; first by the narrator in verses 1 through 7 and then by Pharaoh in verses 17 through 24. And we’ve already seen that Joseph began this whole episode in chapter 37 with two dreams of his own.
The doubling, the pairing, the two dreams, the two tellings, the two years, all the way through is to reinforce the absolute immutability of God’s plan. God was the one who decreed it, God was the one who fixed it, now God is the one who gives to Joseph the ability to interpret the dreams. God uses an Israelite, and not any old Israelite, but a forsaken, sold into slavery, prisoner to confound all of the great ones of the world, all the magicians, all the wise men, all the Ph.D.’s, all the astrologers. Even mighty Pharaoh is putty in the Lord’s hands. Pharaoh is not in control of this story, God is.
Do you think the Israelites could connect the dots here? That the Lord’s sovereign sway over Pharaoh in the exodus, different Pharaoh, of course, to harden his heart, time and again, that He might exercise His power and unleash the 10 plagues and set them free? God’s sovereign power over Pharaoh in Exodus was only a continuation of the same providential care and sovereign sway over a different Pharaoh in the book of Genesis. Same God.
You see with Joseph God’s absolute control over his life. Now all of us hear that. I think if we were to do a quick survey, “How many of you believe God is in control?” Even if you didn’t believe that, you’re going to say, “Well, yes, I’m in church, yeah, God’s in control.” Do you really, not, do you really mean that? Not just big picture control.
Some people have likened God’s sovereignty to an ocean liner traveling from England to America and you’re on the boat and you kind of do whatever you want on the boat, but it’s going to get to its basic destination. And some people say, “Well, that’s kind of God’s sovereignty.” There’s a lot of freedom on the boat and He doesn’t get into all the details, but yeah, He’s basically going to get everything to the end where He wants it.
How is God going to get the whole ocean liner over to America if everyone on the boat has the ability to do just whatever they want? Who’s to know they don’t, I don’t know, run into an iceberg? Praise God, the Lord micromanages. He micromanages. He knows the end from the beginning. Not puppets, you’ve heard me say this before, “Well, this God, this sovereign God, then makes puppets on a string.” No, not puppets on a string. Not robots. Why? Because puppets don’t have their own will. A puppet is tied to a string, the marionetter, you know, does this and your arm goes up or down. The puppet has no capacity for its own decisions. It has no will.
God gives us a will. He operates through our will. He doesn’t override, but rather He operates within our human choosing and willing so that we will and choose according to His own purposes. Canons of Dort say we’re not stocks and blocks, we’re not stones for God to just throw, we’re not robots that He just winds up.
So we do have a will. We are called upon to make decisions. What the Bible teaches is that over and above all of our decisions, is God’s ultimate decision to direct our lives and His purposes according to His decrees. Praise God for that because over and over in Joseph’s life we’ve seen this pattern. God is at the helm as he’s gone from exaltation to humiliation and back again.
Exaltation – Joseph’s given a royal robe. Humiliation – he’s at the bottom of a well.
He manages Pharaoh’s, Potiphar’s household well, so he goes from slavery to in command of this great man’s house. Exaltation.
Then he’s deceived, or rather Potiphar’s wife deceives the others, and he’s back to humiliation into prison.
But then this humiliation turns to exaltation as he is put in charge of the warden’s affairs. But then the cupbearer forgets about the dream that was interpreted – humiliation.
But then he comes again and he is brought to Pharaoh’s court and he becomes second-in-command.
Over and over we’ve seen this pattern in 13 years of ups and downs, exaltation and humiliation, over and over again.
Now most of our lives will not be quite as dramatic as Joseph’s, and we can be grateful for that. But all of you, live long enough and you have seasons you feel like prosperity/adversity, exaltation/humiliation. Do you know that God is Lord of both?
When you’re on top you should be humble. God’s given that to you. And when you feel at the very bottom, you hit rock bottom and you started to dig. Well, that just means that God has a plan at some point to lift you up.
God has been sovereign over all of Joseph’s failures and all of his successes. Notice He directs the affairs of empires for the sake of His people. Don’t lose sight of the end of the story. What is this all about? We’re going to get to it in Genesis chapter 50, Lord willing, several weeks from now. The end of all this was that God would save this little family of 70 persons who came to Egypt, God wanted to do that. He wanted to save one family. So in His sovereign plan, He is going to direct the affairs of an entire dynasty, of the world’s great superpower, because He loves His people.
Do you know God is still doing that? How do you fit in with the plan of the world? Well, whatever God is doing, with Russia and Ukraine, whatever He’s doing with the United States of America, whatever He’s doing with Israel, whatever He’s doing with China, you can be assured of this – He is working out His purposes for the good of His own people.
You may feel like you’re in the moment of humiliation or the moment of exaltation, but God moves the empires of the world for the family that He loves, because God never forgot Joseph. It wasn’t as if exaltation was God’s work and then humiliation was just man’s free will run amuck, and God, “Whoops, I was paying attention to someone else.” No, the humiliation was as much God’s work as was the exaltation.
The Hebrew word back in chapter 37, when he’s thrown into the pit or the cistern, is the Hebrew word “bor,” b-o-r, transliterated. The word in chapter 40 verse 15, ““I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”” Same word used again in chapter 41 verse 14, “They quickly brought him out of the pit” is the Hebrew word “bor.” Translated cistern, or dungeon, or pit and pit. It’s the same exact word.
I wonder if Joseph thought to himself, “Here I am in this bor again, from one pit to the next. My brothers sold me into a pit. Potiphar’s wife threw me into a pit. Why doesn’t God seem to care about me? Why doesn’t the Lord seem to be with me anymore? All I move is from one pit to the next pit.” That’s probably what we would think and can understand why we would think that way.
But maybe Joseph thought a different way. Maybe he thought, “Here I am in this bor again. I wonder what God’s up to. He brought me from the last pit to be ruler over Potiphar’s house. What is He going to do with me from this pit? The Lord was with me in Potiphar’s house and He’s going to be with me here in this pit. Who knows what God has for me.”
Joseph has these two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Ephraim means “twice fruitful.” Manasseh sounds like the word “forgot” because he says “God remembered me and has caused me to forget my hardship.” The lesson here, even in his own children, is that when you are successful, remember it’s not your success. And when you are in the pit, remember that God is with you there.
He loves to bless. He loves to be on your side.
People will forget us. In chapter 40, verse 23, Joseph pleaded with the cupbearer, “I am in this prison, no fault of my own. This isn’t what I deserve. Would you please remember me when you get elevated?” and cupbearer, “Aye, aye. Got it.” But we already read in verse 23, “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph.” How poignant this would have been to the Israelites on the cusp of the Promised Land, because the whole reason they suffered for four centuries in slavery is because of Exodus 1:8, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know, did not remember, Joseph.”
People will forget you. God will not.
Did you notice back in chapter 41, verse 42? What do you think Joseph felt? The man, the boy who was given the coat of many colors, a royal robe when his father loved him and knew he was special, gave him a royal robe and then thrown into a pit, washed with blood out. Here he is, 13 years later, second-in-command in Egypt as he’s given once again a royal robe from a master who can easily see that this is a special man.
No, no, no. God had not forgotten him. Had the cupbearer delivered the news as soon as he was released from prison, it wouldn’t have been the right time. Pharaoh was not in a moment of desperation with his dreams. Even in God’s plan, it was for the cupbearer to forget.
Though everyone may forget you, God will not. No doubt there are some of you who feel this morning as if you’re in that pit and God has forgotten you, from one pit to the next. That’s very understandable. The Bible’s full of lots of laments.
Yet, can you learn from Joseph that as you’re in the pit, you can trust that God has something better in store for you. You don’t know when, you don’t know exactly what, but He has not forgotten.
Most importantly, we can be assured that the cry of every penitent sinner, like the thief on the cross, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom,” will never be forgotten. Jesus remembered him, and He will remember you.
Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word, for all that You have to teach us. Strengthen us when our faith is weak, encourage us when we are in the pit, give us humility when we have been exalted. We pray that as we trust in Your sovereign care we would be those wise and discerning men and women. We look to Jesus to remember us in Your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.