Joseph is the eleventh son in a large household, which must have taken some management to feed, clothe, and care for. Overseeing his father’s extensive flock absorbed the time of he and all his brothers. Little does Joseph know that his boyhood experience form the bedrock of a lifetime of management.
Joseph makes the best of his circumstances when he is bought by Potiphar, the captain of the guard. He simply does what he knows best. He manages. He manages with the awareness of God’s presence. And he manages well. So much so that Potiphar promotes him as the overseer of his house and all that he has.
Like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Joseph has good genes. His handsome form and appearance catch the lustful eye of Potipar’s wife (a real cougar!). Joseph finds himself thrown into jail after being falsely accused of attempted rape. Joseph again does what he knows best, he manages. His organizational skills (and the Lord’s presence); promote him to prison supervisor. During his tenure two of Pharaoh’s servants are thrown into prison and share the dreams that they have with Joseph. He accurately interprets both men’s dreams; one man is restored to his position while the other is hanged. Meanwhile, Joseph continues to do what he knows best. He manages. For two more years.
The Lord interrupts Pharaoh’s sleep with two disturbing dreams. Mystified by these dreams Pharaoh demands an interpretation. The former prisoner remembers Joseph. Joseph is immediately called for. He interprets the dream and offers managerial advise. Pharaoh recognizes the Lord’s presence and Joseph’s managerial skills and promotes Joseph to oversee Egypt’s economy for the following 14 years.
Joseph’s whole life prepares him for this one position that will save an entire generation, including his own family, from massive starvation. Who knew that all these management experiences would lead to an even greater position? God did!
This story reveals a number of truths about work ethic, attitude, and providence:
- A right attitude toward God and adverse circumstances prepares a man to do what he knows he should do. A man with a high view of God accesses each circumstance that comes his way as opportunities to excel for the glory of God. Joseph apparently maintained a joyful attitude and strong work ethic at each juncture of his life. The wisdom writer couples man’s positive attitude with God’s providence, “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
- God uses the adverse circumstances brought about by the evil intent of others to further His redemptive purposes. The wisdom writer states it this way, “A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24)
Joseph only knew in retrospect that each of his managerial experiences in adverse conditions were crucial for the saving of an entire generation of people, including his own.
He is good. He does good. We can trust Him in the midst of adversity.
"When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream." Genesis 41:1)
God works on both sides of the bars. Prison bars.
On the one side He drops two of Pharaoh's servants behind prison bars, gives them both dreams and has Joseph interpret them. I know exactly what Joseph must be thinking when he tells the butler "But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison." He's thinking "I'll be out in just a few more days." Upon his release the butler forgets Joseph. Hope of release disappears as the days pass into weeks. Two more years pass as Joseph finishes his educational course designed by God to teach him patience and endurance, which God knew that he would need to lead the people during days of famine.
Meanwhile on the other side of the prison bars God drops two disturbing dreams into the middle of Pharaoh's sleep which necessitated interpretation. God sovereignly and strategically places the restored butler whose dream has been interpreted by Joseph into position on the other side of the prison bars as well. He remembers Joseph at just the right time. When God is ready.
God works on both sides of the prison bars preparing a prisoner to lead and a Pharaoh to follow. And all because of a promise He made decades before to Abraham regarding his descendents, "Know certainly that your descendents will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years" (15:13).
Joseph has no control over his circumstances. He spends thirteen years as a slave and prisoner. Working in Potiphar's house and time behind bars were years not wasted but years learning about people and about God—things which can't be learned from a book. Time behind bars teach Joseph forgiveness, perseverance, and hope. The time behind bars prepares him, upon his release, to rescue his family and lead a nation during a seven-year crisis.What are you learning behind the bars of your life? Could it be that God is preparing you for the life He is preparing on the other side of the bars? God works on both sides of the bars.
Seeing His work on both sides requires faith.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
- What does Joseph understand about dreams? About God?
- What does Joseph's demotion and promotion teach you about God?
- Read Psalm 75:6-7. What does this verse teach you about God?
Thank the Lord that He is at work in your life right now. Ask Him to help you exercise faith in Him in the midst of whatever circumstances you are going through.