When Presented with Challenging Tasks
Explore the Bible Series
April 27, 2008
Background Passage: Genesis
Lesson Passage: Genesis
41:1, 12-13, 15-16, 28-30, 32-40
Joseph, to this point in his life, had a very difficult
life. As a teenager, the young boy
received wonderful promises from God, but, from that time, Joseph’s life did
not reflect the favored status that God had promised. As we have seen in previous lessons, the
patriarch experienced fraternal betrayal, slavery, false accusations, and
unjust imprisonment. Furthermore, the
king’s cupbearer, who had received Joseph’s help and encouragement, forgot his
debt to the young Hebrew prisoner. More
than a decade had passed between Joseph’s initial dreams and the story recorded
in Genesis Forty-one. At each step, the
Lord had favored Joseph, even in the dismal circumstances of slavery and
imprisonment. This splendid young man
demonstrated remarkable character with every new development in his life. Even a cursory reading of the Joseph
narrative reveals these outstanding qualities.
and longsuffering: The text of Genesis reveals no hint of impatience or
frustration in Joseph. I see no
reason to assume that Joseph did not have some normal human emotions as he
encountered one setback after another.
His brothers’ betrayal must have hurt and confused him. The shamefulness of slavery, no doubt,
perplexed the young man.
Furthermore, the sexual temptations in Potiphar’s household must
have tested Joseph’s moral resolve, and, of course, the hardships of
imprisonment must have puzzled him.
Nevertheless, Joseph waited on the Lord.
I marvel at Joseph’s ability to thrive in any circumstance. As his personal situation deteriorated,
he worked hard to honor God. When the
Ishmaelites sold him to Potiphar the young man quickly gained the respect
and trust of his master. After
Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph, he rose to prominence in the
Egyptian prison. He may have
disliked his circumstances, but he made the best of each situation,
Joseph did not quit. Many people, I
suspect, might have spiraled into self-pity, bitterness, and
depression. Instead, Joseph
continued to serve the Lord and prepare for the task God had
promised. The dreams of his youth
inspired Joseph to do his best whatever the humbling circumstances he
encountered. I feel certain that
Joseph, after he became prime minister of Egypt, must have rejoiced that
God had graciously prepared him for this great responsibility.
Joseph had a tender heart. When Mrs.
Potiphar’s seduced the young servant, Joseph, out of respect for Potiphar,
refused to yield to the woman’s allurements. Also, when Joseph encountered the
troubled inmates (the cupbearer and baker), he showed great sensitively
and compassion to the two men.
May these qualities grow in my life and in yours.
Pharaoh’s Troubling Dreams (41:1-36)
two dreams (vv. 1-8)
1. dream of the cows (vv. 1-4): In the first dream, Pharaoh saw
seven well-fed cows. Then, seven lean
cows emerged from the Nile
River and devoured the
of the ears of grain (vv. 5-8): Seven full ears of grain arose; then, seven
blighted ears swallowed the good ears.
These dreams troubled Pharaoh, and the distressed monarch called the
seers of Egypt
to interpret his visions. Of course, the
magicians, for all their superstitious efforts, could not decipher the meaning
of the dreams.
interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams (vv. 9-32): After two years, the cupbearer
finally remembered his imprisoned benefactor, and the king’s servant told Pharaoh
about the remarkable wisdom of the young Hebrew. After the monarch recounted the dreams,
Joseph determined that both visions foreshadowed future events. Egypt, according to Joseph, would
experience seven prosperous years, followed by seven years of grave
famine. God was in control of the
situation, and these things would certainly occur, just as the Lord had
revealed. Joseph impressed Pharaoh that
the monarch had no control over these circumstances. God had had determined the future, and Pharaoh
must bow to Jehovah’s sovereign design.
counsel to Pharaoh (vv. 33-36): Joseph, prepared by the hard circumstances he
had endured, possessed great wisdom, and he encouraged Pharaoh to appoint a
prime minister to prepare for the severe famine that would, in seven years,
plague the land. The king sensed the
divine hand on Joseph and followed the Hebrew’s counsel. He appointed overseers to collect one-fifth
of the nation’s grain production and save the excess for the lean years to
Joseph’s Rise to Power (41:37-57)
reward for Joseph (vv. 37-45): Pharaoh, though an idol worshiper, recognized
the hand of God on Joseph, and, in gratitude for Joseph’s service, appointed
him as prime minister over Egypt. No honor would be withheld from the young
Hebrew, and Pharaoh afforded Joseph all of the tokens of authority: a signet
ring, fine linen garments, a gold chain, a chariot, and a marriage to a woman
of high social standing.
administration of Egypt (vv.
46-57): During the years of plenty, Joseph traveled throughout Egypt and
collected grain. The Lord blessed his
labors, and the storehouses teemed with abundance. God also blessed Joseph and his wife with two
sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. In time, a
terrible famine struck the region, and many people faced the possibility of
starvation. Joseph, however, arranged to
sell grain to the Egyptian people. Not
only did Joseph sell grain to his adopted nation, but people from other lands,
including Canaan, came to seek provisions from the wise prime minister of Egypt.