Joseph is more than 37 years old at this point. He was sold into slavery at the age of 18. He has lived more of his life in Egypt than he ever did in Canaan. Now, for the first time in 19 or more years he comes face to face with his brothers. They sold him into slavery because of his dreams and their jealousy of him and their father’s love for him.
Now, here they are bowing on their faces before him. After more than 19 years, Joseph has the opportunity to exact his revenge. He could arrest them, imprison them, and sell them into slavery, or worse. He could mock them, laugh at them and let them starve to death. He could reveal himself and simply threaten their lives. So what does he do?
Joseph decides to test them. He wants to know if they are the same jealous, angry, bitter men that they were when he was a child. He wants to know if there is remorse or if there is humility and love. He wants to know if they care more about themselves, or if they care about their family. So he accuses them of being spies, questions them, and puts them for a short stay in prison. Then he tells them that in order to be released or to get more grain they need to bring their youngest brother Benjamin back to Egypt with them. Meanwhile, he took Simeon and held him until the other brothers returned with Benjamin.
The brothers return home and tell Jacob, their father, what happened in Egypt. Jacob is upset and as time goes by they begin to run out of grain again. The brothers know that they can’t return to Egypt empty handed, so Reuben takes responsibility for Benjamin placing Benjamin’s fate on his own sons heads.
Are there situations that occurred a lifetime ago that you are still bitter and angry about? Do you have anger and unforgiveness towards someone that did something to you, or have you forgiven and moved on. It’s not a question of whether there is someone who hurt you. I don’t think that there is a person over the age of 20 who does not have emotional scars from something someone said or did to them. The question is, what are you doing about it? Joseph tested his brothers to see if they were still angry and bitter towards him and his brother Benjamin, but at the same time, God was testing Joseph to see if he still held anger and hostility towards his brothers.
When (not if) you are tested, how will you respond? Have you allowed anger and bitterness to take root in your life. I know that this is something that i am struggling with, and that i am in the process of trying to deal with. What about you?
So Joseph does what he has learned to do. First he answers the question that Pharaoh poses to him. What does this mean? Then, without being asked and it appears without even a pause he answers the question that results from his answer. He starts out be telling Pharaoh what his dreams mean. There will be seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of great famine. Then he tells Pharaoh what needs to be done to prepare for and respond to the coming famine. One fifth of the produce of the land during the abundance needs to be stored away for the famine time.
As a result, Pharaoh sees God’s hand and blessing on Joseph and places him over the entire nation of Egypt. Joseph was 30 years old at this time. He spent almost half of his life as a slave in Egypt, and most of that time was spent in prison. But the whole time, God had a purpose for him. He wasn’t doing nothing and watching his life waste away. He wasn’t stuck with no hope and no future. God had a purpose for him, and this was that purpose!
God was preparing Joseph to not only excel, but to become the second in command of Egypt; to provide leadership and wisdom to prepare the people and nations for the coming blessings and famine; to save not just lives, but nations from perishing in the flood of famine that would hit for seven years. God had a plan, and that plan had a name. It simply took a life of disappointment and overcoming to prepare Joseph for that purpose… a purpose that was revealed and a change that was laid out, all in 1 day.
How do we see our lives? I know that i struggle sometimes trying to see how and why my life has turned out as it has. I have seen people pass and surpass me in life, and i wonder, ” Why do they get blessed, and it seems like i don’t?” Why do i so often feel rejected and pushed away by God. I know that that’s not really the case and that God has a plan for me as well, but i can’t help feeling sometimes that i have been abandoned and left to rot in prison for some unknown reason. I know it’s not really like that, but that’s how it feels sometimes. Ultimately though, I know that I have a hope, and that God has a plan. That it’s not really about me. It’s about Him, and i have to make sure that i don’t get myself in the way.
So what is your struggle?
John J. Camiolo Jr.
Well, everything begins changing for Joseph at this point. He has been a slave in his master’s house. Then he was put into prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he remained faithful and did an amazing job while being a prisoner. He worked for the chief of the prison and helped out those who were placed there. Even then he was ignored and forgotten. It has been two years since he helped out the chief cup-bearer and chief baker through their dream interpretations. Now everything changes rather quickly.
Pharaoh has a pair of bad dreams, and no one can tell him what they mean. Finally the cup-bearer comes forward and says, “there was this young Hebrew man who told me my dream.” So Pharaoh sends for him and Joseph tells him that the interpretations come from the God who gave him the dreams, so tell them to Joseph and he will see what he can tell him. All that hard work and faithfulness pays off, God answers, and Joseph is about to have a life change.
How long are we willing to wait for God? Do we get frustrated and just give up when things just don’t go our way? Do we feel abandoned when instead of blessing us, it seems like God just puts us through more and more trials? Do we feel like it doesn’t really matter whether we do the right thing or not because either way we are getting screwed? Just because it takes time for the seed to grow, sprout, bud, flower, and come to fruition doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a plan for us. It just means, that His timing is much different from ours.
The fruition of his faithfulness, hard work, and honesty in the face of great trials leads him to this very moment and time… and what happens in the second half of this chapter; tomorrow.
Here we go again. Joseph is still in his bind. He still doesn’t know what he’s doing there or why. He’s still a prisoner, working as a servant to the chief prison guard. He continues to obey God and not get angry and reject the right thing because of his situation that is out of his control. He doesn’t like being in this situation. He knows it’s not his fault, but he also knows that it’s not right and wants out.
So, what’s a young man to do? He does his job faithfully. He works hard. He cares for those he is responsible for. As a result, God blesses him and his master trusts and relies on him. He continues to work, grow, and excel, and God continues to prepare him.
So one day in doing his duty, he sees two under his care in confinement that appear visibly disturbed. So he tries to reconcile the problem. First off, why should anyone care about how two lowly prisoners feel? Isn’t prison supposed to be miserable? …especially confinement? Isn’t the point to make it so that people don’t WANT to be there? Yet here Joseph is, treating these prisoners like they are children under his care.
In probing he finds out that they both had unusual dreams that are bothering them. So Joseph, being the man that he is, tells them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.” He then proceeds to listen and explain their dreams to them. He tells the cup-bearer that in three days he will be back at his old post, and he asks him to remember him in prison because he has been imprisoned unjustly. He tells the baker that within three days he will be hung up by his neck and the birds would eat his flesh. He does NOT ask the baker to remember him in his situation when he meets with Pharaoh.
So, their dreams are fulfilled, and as soon as the cup-bearer is back in his position, he immediately proceeds to forget about Joseph entirely. Isn’t that the way it seems to be sometimes? I can definitely feel for Joseph in this situation. I’ve never been imprisoned on false charges. I’ve never been sold into slavery. But, I have been in situations where it seems like it doesn’t matter that i’m doing the right thing. It seems like no matter what i do, my situation keeps getting worse and worse. It seems like even when i try to get out of the situation, i just keep getting more and more stuck and people just forget me.
But you know what? That doesn’t matter. God knows what He is doing. Even when we feel like He has forgotten about us, He hasn’t. Even when we feel like there is no hope, God is in control. He brings us through when we least expect it. It’s not about us, it’s about Him.
Well, it seems the slower i write, the better i write. Since i ran out of ink in my Pilot Varsitys (disposable fountain style pens) i have had to switch back to ball point. As a result, my writing speed has increased. It is easier to write with ballpoint. The fountain pen is rougher and scratchier, and thereby requires a slower more careful pace. Also, the ink is is lighter in the ballpoint due to the nature of the ink and pen. As a result, i have been writing faster and much sloppier, and it has really been effecting the work. So today, i purposefully started slowing down and writing more carefully. As a result my writing definitely has improved, but by the end of the chapter i can definitely tell that it is slipping again. I really need to get myself another set of Varsitys or other fountain style.
The reality of the human condition and situation becomes darker in the face of this chapter. Here we begin to see the relationships between the siblings. We find that Joseph (Rachael’s older son) is clearly favored by his father and hated by his siblings. He tells his siblings about dreams he had that they and his father would bow down to him, and they become even more bitter and angry.
When they get a chance, a group of his brothers decide to gang up on him and kill him, but Reuben wants to protect him. So Reuben sets up a rescue plan. Unfortunately, at the last minute the other brothers change their mind and decide that money is worth more than blood on their hands, so they sell him as a slave, foiling Reuben’s plans.
Meanwhile; they kill a goat, put the blood on Joseph’s coat, bring it to their father, and allow their father to think that Joseph was killed by wild beasts. Thus their father mourns for Joseph, refuses to be comforted, and almost goes to his own grave. The brothers go on with their lives as if nothing had happened.
So who are the beasts?
Jacob is sent away to marry from Rebekah’s family. He is given a proper blessing by his father, and instructed not to marry from the Canaanites around him. I remember in Sunday School always being taught that Esau heard about this and ran off to marry a Canaanite woman to spite his father and mother. I have also brought that presupposition into my previous readings; so i didn’t pay that much attention.
However, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. The passage says, “So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; and Esau went to Ishmael and married” (NASB). So Esau did not turn away, he simply attempted to fulfill his father’s wishes the only way he reasonably knew how. He did not marry from the Canaanites, he married from his uncle Ishmael, just as Jacob was sent to marry from his uncle Laban. It’s not hugely significant, but it’s one of the things that i have never really caught in the many times that i was just reading the passage through.
This chapter contains some interesting theological situations. For instance, what is described here is a ladder or staircase from earth to heaven. It is a connection point: a point at which heaven and earth almost touch each other. It’s a point at which those in heaven have access to earth and those on earth have access to heaven. Being a dream, I don’t know the extent to which this “stairway to heaven” is literal or figurative, but it does give you reason to pause and wonder how this occurs and how many other of these “stairways” might exist throughout the world. I also don’t know how important this “stairway to heaven” is overall, but it is a unique feature of this chapter.
What IS more important though, is Jacob’s reaction to the situation. Instead of ignoring the “dream”, or running away, or trying to rationalize it away, he comes to realization. He was amazed, and he was afraid, and he was in awe of the situation and where he was; “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Beautiful isn’t it? So Jacob turns around, sets up his pillow-rock as a pillar, pours oil over it, and calls the place Bethel or House of God. Then he makes a vow to God that if He will be with him and take care of him, then Jacob will give a tithe (tenth) to God.
What is our reaction to God when He does something amazing? What do we do when He shows up? Do we run away, or try to ignore it, or rationalize it away, or try to justify ourselves; or do we fall in awe and wonder? Do we, trembling, acknowledge God and make His truth a reality in our lives? Do we pursue that God that we have had a personal experience with? Do we take God’s truth into our very being and let it change who we are as a person? Our reaction tells us who we really are.
John J. Camiolo Jr.