One must appreciate the beginning of chapter 41. “After two whole years….” Joseph has been in the dungeon for many years now. Joseph is 30 years old now, 13 years removed from when he lived with his father and brothers in Canaan. For 13 years Joseph has lived as a slave or prisoner in Egypt. Joseph interpreted the dream of the cupbearer and begged him to not forget him when he was return to his position before Pharaoh. But he did forget. Two whole years have passed by. Two long years have passed since that moment.
But then Pharaoh has a dream. He has a dream that he was standing by the Nile River and out of the Nile River came up seven beautiful, plump cows which fed on the grass. But then seven other cows came up out of the Nile but they were ugly and thin. Then the seven ugly, thin cows ate the seven beautiful, plump cows. That is the end of the dream and Pharaoh woke up. Then Pharaoh fell asleep and had another dream. Pharaoh sees seven ears of plump, good grain growing on one stalk. After them sprouted seven thin and blighted ears of grain. The thin ears of grain swallowed up the plump, full ears of grain. Then Pharaoh awakes from the dream.
These two dreams are disturbing to Pharaoh and he wants to know the meaning of the dreams. So he calls for all his magicians and all the wise men in Egypt. But none of these people could interpret his dreams. Then the cupbearer remembers. The light bulb turns on. Notice the words of the cupbearer in verse 9. “I remember my offenses today.” He goes on to explain how when Pharaoh threw him in the dungeon and how he and the baker had dreams that a young Hebrew was able to interpret. So Pharaoh sends for Joseph. Now Joseph is a prisoner living in a dungeon. Verse 14 reminds us this because they give him new clothes and clean him up before he is presented before Pharaoh. Please notice the language of verse 14. In Genesis 37 we see Joseph thrown into a pit by his brothers. Notice that the text does not say that Joseph was taken out of prison. Rather, Joseph was taken “out of the pit” (many translations miss this correspondence but it is the same Hebrew word in Genesis 37:24 that is used here in 41:14). Once standing before Pharaoh, Pharaoh says he’s heard that Joseph is able to interpret dreams.
Listen to the wonderful words of Joseph: “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” It is not in me. But God can do it. We have observed this point in nearly every lesson of Joseph’s life. Even though Joseph has been sinned against, falsely accused, mistreated, forgotten, and disappointed by life, he is still pointing to God. He does not look at himself and think that he can do this. He knows the power resides with the Lord and he is going to give God all the credit on this day. Keep these words always in your heart each day of your life. “It is not in me. It is God.”
Joseph then explains the dreams to Pharaoh. God is going to send seven years of great plenty throughout all Egypt. But after the seven years are over, there will be seven years of famine which will be so severe that all the time of prosperity will be forgotten. Joseph then advises that a wise man be set as administrator so that the nation can begin storing up during the seven years of prosperity so they are ready for the seven years of severe famine. The proposal pleases Pharaoh and recognizing that Joseph has the Spirit of God, he sets Joseph over all of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself.
Notice the intentional reversal imagery in verse 42. Back in Genesis 37:23 Joseph is stripped of his robe. Now Pharaoh puts his signet ring on Joseph, a gold chain around his neck, and clothed him with fine linen robes, signifying royalty. In verse 43 we see that Pharaoh made Joseph ride in his second chariot, calling for all of Egypt to bow down to him. Further, he is given complete rule over Egypt (41:44).
Joseph is made a full Egyptian. His name is changed to Zaphenath-paneah. He marries an Egyptian woman who was the daughter of an Egyptian priest. During the seven years of plenty, Joseph is able to store up mass quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea (a phrase used to refer to the Abrahamic covenant). God has his hand over this situation so that the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will be fulfilled. Joseph has two sons with his wife. The first son is called Manasseh because “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The second son is called Ephraim because “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” Then the famine strikes with the severity that God decreed and all the earth came to Egypt and stood before Joseph to buy grain (41:57).
God Is Greater Than Your Past
I love what we see in the names of Joseph’s children. He has a new life and recognizes that God has given him a fresh start. Joseph names his children to show how God has made him fruitful in the land of his affliction and how God has made him forget all the hardships these past 13 years. What a statement of faith by Joseph! God has made me fruitful despite all my afflictions.
God’s people are not defined by the difficulties of the past. I have noticed an ever increasing phenomenon of blaming present problems on past circumstances. Just play a victim role and blame everyone else. But I hope that we will see that Joseph’s faith in God does not allow him to do that. God’s people look for the grace of God working in their lives. We do not wallow in our hurts, disappointments, or weaknesses. We learn from Ephesians that we have a new identity in Christ. We are not defined by our career, color, or culture. Neither are we going to be defined by our past. God has made us new creatures in Christ.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)
God is bigger than our past. Joseph is declaring this truth in the names of his children. Our hurt does not define our value or worth. What has happened in your life cannot make you something that the blood of Christ is not strong enough to overcome and radically change! God takes our wounds from life and mold us for his purpose and for his glory.
The Day of Deliverance May Be Today
Joseph’s life looked hopeless. There was nothing in his life circumstances that could lead him to know or believe that today would be the day that he would be taken out of the pit and made viceroy over Egypt. God did not tell him not to worry when he was in the pit because in 13 years everything would change. We do not know when the day of relief will come. We do not know when good news will break through the darkness we are dwelling in. We do not know what day our circumstances will shift. Just as a trial can blind side us one day, so also the day of deliverance can blind side us.
We must carefully notice that Joseph’s life is not fixed. Joseph is not back in Canaan. Joseph is not back with his family. Joseph is not given back all of those lost years that he spent in slavery and in prison. Your life is not going to fixed, as if a magic wand was waved and your life got a restart. Rather, we learn another important truth to assist our faith: it is not always going to be like this. Circumstances are going to change. Your life will not always be like this. It can feel like it. It can look like. Look for the times when you can catch your breath. Look for the shifts that happen in life that allow for a peaceful day. How do we know that today will not be the day when that sudden shift in life happens? Today might be the day when you are taken out of the pit.
1. Let the past be the past. You are a new creature in Christ, given a new life with a new relationship with the Father. Don’t let your past plague your present. You have a new life in Christ if you will give your to Jesus in faith. Only God strengthens us to let the past be the past. Which leads to the second point.
2. God is able to make us forget our hardships. God has promised one way that he is going to do that. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)
3. Do not give up your faith in Jesus. You do not know what day you will be pulled out of the pit.