Introduction: The remainder of Genesis 41 shows us the exaltation of Joseph to the highest place in Egypt, other than Pharaoh himself. In this exaltation, God kept His Word for the outcome of Joseph’s life. As Psalm 105:17-19 puts it, describing Joseph’s hope for deliverance in his slavery, “They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what was foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.” May we also believe with Joseph that all of God’s Word will come true in our lives in His way and His time. Though we are not prophets or interpreters of dreams, and though we ought not expect exaltation such as Joseph experienced, we nevertheless can be assured as we open God’s Word, that He “knows the plans He has for us… plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Monday: read Genesis 41:32-37. We have already seen in Gen. 41:16 how Joseph humbly deflects all credit for interpreting dreams away from himself, instead ascribing all power to God as the One who “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11). Joseph also uses Pharaoh’s double dreams as proof that God alone had “firmly decided” what would happen in Egypt and the world for the next 14 years of plenty and famine. There was nothing Pharaoh could do to stop God from “doing it soon” (Gen. 41:32), that is, with efficiency, decisiveness and power. In this way Joseph shows that he is unafraid to humble Pharaoh under God’s mighty hand, refusing to puff him up as if the ruler of Egypt could do anything to alter what God had decreed concerning that great land.
Meditate and Pray: Let us begin this week by thanking God the Father for His decisive and all-controlling reign over His creation. God always works with strength and timeliness, and is never late or disorganized, though we often cannot discern His plan or timetable in our lives. As Hymn # 74 says in our Trinity Hymnal:
“God is working His purpose out as year succeeds to year, God is working His purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.” (Arthur Campbell Ainger, 1894)
Tuesday: read Genesis 41:33 & 1 Kings 3:7-12. Joseph’s advice in Gen. 41:33 is both practical and profound. He urges Pharaoh to be on the look out for a man who is not only “wise” (i.e., practical and skillful in the experience of ruling and protecting the kingdom of Egypt) but “discerning,” that is, able to distinguish between what should and should not be done. This is the quality which young King Solomon asked God to give him when he prayed, “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9). Indeed, Solomon, you don’t know how rightly you spoke. Who is able to govern in this world, and especially able to rule and protect the people of God amidst the dangers of this fallen planet? Even Solomon was not able to do so in the end – see 1 Kings 11:4-8, where Solomon fails to discern between true devotion to God and the corrupting influence of his wives’ gods.
Meditate and Pray: “Lord, how urgently your people throughout history have been on the look-out for someone wise and discerning enough to rule them. Thank you that our search is over and we have found One able to discern between evil and good. Even from the womb of Mary, we worship you, Jesus, wise Ruler and Son of God! You are the One who came to ‘judge the needy with righteousness and give decisions for the poor of the earth’ (Isaiah 11:4). We are so thankful that we can rest in your wise government in all matters and concerns which burden and vex us. Amen.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 41:33-40 and Proverbs 2:3-6. This quality of “discernment” which Joseph urges Pharaoh to look for in the one to oversee Egypt is a quality of perception very much prized in the Bible. As Proverbs 2:3 puts it, we are to “call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding” (same root word). Not surprisingly, as the scale of disastrous famine predicted in his dreams begins to dawn on Pharaoh, he turns to Joseph, the only one able to interpret the dreams sent him from God, for such a “discerning” man (Gen. 41:38-39). No one else dares to lead the way through the terrifying days of famine to come. God alone can equip such a leader with the wisdom to lead and save the lives of thousands through all those years of want. Joseph must have had great confidence in God alone to be willing to take on this daunting challenge.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that the highest wisdom we can show is to utterly depend upon God’s ability to accomplish what would otherwise be impossible. It is the wisdom of faith to reckon every day that God can do the impossible – even raising the dead! (Hebrews 11:19). May our faith flourish in exactly the same locale as Joseph’s did: where there is no possibility of life or hope apart from God’s direct intervention. We have a God who lives in the realm of the impossible.
“God, grant us grace to stay with you in the storm, holding on to you by faith even when all else fails. ‘On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.’ Amen.”
Thursday: read Genesis 41:37-40 and John 16:8-11. All seem to recognize that Joseph alone possesses the necessary wisdom to lead Egypt in the years of plenty and the years of famine to come. But it is Pharaoh that is prompted to see that it is the “Spirit of God” which grants Joseph his extraordinary powers in Gen. 41:38: “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God?” What a confession of truth! Just as God could make Balaam’s donkey speak the truth, so God is able to use the lips of this unbeliever Pharaoh to speak almost in spite of himself of the “Spirit of God” and the wisdom He gives!
Meditate and Pray: We often confess that the creation shows the “Glory” of God the Father, with a clarity that no man can deny – see Romans 1:20. We also expect men to acknowledge Jesus at least as a great Teacher and Prophet. But how amazing that men’s consciences must also confess that the Spirit of God is Someone they cannot avoid or deny. As John 16:8 puts it: “When He (the Spirit) comes, He will convict the world…” He has come, and now the world is convinced that it must one day grudgingly acknowledge that there is nowhere for man to run in order to escape the Spirit of Truth. Like Pharaoh, mankind must one day acknowledge the Presence of the Spirit of God in each and every one of His people. Let our prayer be from verse 3 of Hymn # 335:
“Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be;
mighty so as to prevail where unaided man must fail;
ever by a mighty hope pressing on and bearing up.” (Thomas Lynch, 1855)
Friday: read Genesis 41:41-52. God’s Spirit is working in the Egyptians – not only in Pharaoh to convince him of the Divine truth which Joseph speaks – but also in the wife given to Joseph in Gen. 41:45. She comes to acknowledge the work of God in the children she bears him. For in Gen. 41:50-52 she permits Joseph to give her high caste sons Hebrew names: Manasseh and Ephraim – names which themselves are a veritable confession of faith:
– Manasseh: (from the verb “to forget”) “God has made me forget all my troubles.”
– Ephraim: (akin to the word for fruitful) “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Such naming is a miracle when we remember that not only was Joseph’s wife from the kind of family (priestly) which formed the highest class in all of Egypt, but Hebrews were of the lowest and most despised. Remember Gen. 43:32? Egyptians would not even eat with despised Hebrews! Yet here Joseph’s wife names her sons, not with the lofty family names passed down for centuries among Egyptian nobility, but with Hebrew names which confess the faithfulness of the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: Hebrew names of faith which celebrate God’s “fruit” in Joseph’s life (Ephraim) and that Divine blessings have made Joseph “forget” the land of His birth (Manasseh).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His saving purposes, that normally work through families. I think we can say with some hopefulness that God sent Joseph to Egypt not only to save the Hebrews from famine but even to save the daughter of the priest of On, Asenath. As Psalm 68:6 says: “God sets the lonely in families,” adopting Ruth, Rahab and perhaps even Asenath into the family of the living God.
Prayer: “Lord, thank you that no amount of noble blue-blood or years of godless family traditions can stop you from breaking into family units with the saving power of Grace. Remember our unsaved loved ones. If you could save a daughter of a pagan priest, then surely you can also open the eyes of our loved ones, prompting them to say, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ Amen.”