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Gen. 40:1-23 - Hope In Suffering? - Part 1
Joseph’s story is pretty darn remarkable and unique. Probably none of us reading this has been sold into slavery by our family members, or falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison on trumped-up charges. Many of us, however, have had experiences of being betrayed and let down by family, friends or coworkers in some pretty painful ways.
This world is full of difficult and disappointing experiences, and few of us escape unmarked in some way by them. As a result, we can easily identify with Joseph in his sufferings and find hope in God’s presence with him in the midst of those sufferings.
Yet this chapter ain’t about some new suffering that God asks Joseph to go through. It's about the same old suffering that continues on, long after we think it should be over. This is also something to which we can all probably relate to. We all know what it is to want something good, or to want relief from something painful, and to desire that change with great intensity. We know how hard it is when that good goal seems to be almost within our grasp, only to have our hopes dashed at the last moment. We know what it is to wait for the phone call that will confirm that we have landed the job of our dreams, or that relationship that we had hoped would move forward. But the phone call never comes. Whatever the reason, the hopes that a few days before were so bright are now painfully slipping away. Maybe there wasn’t a definitive moment that blasted our expectation of a different future - maybe it was a slow and gradual one over days, months and even years, until one day - you found yourself empty.
And that’s maybe where Joseph finds himself in this chapter. In some ways this chapter represents the dramatic turning point in Joseph’s story. Events are being set in motion that will ultimately result in him being released from prison, elevated to the Pharaoh's side, and given power over all of Egypt. Yet Joseph ends this chapter in exactly the same place where he began it: rotting away in prison.
So, What is God up to when He makes us wait and wait and wait for His deliverance? Why would a loving, sovereign God leave us stuck in a situation of pain and suffering when He could so easily solve all our problems for us? Great question, right? And maybe we might get a gleaning of some kind of answer in this chapter? So let’s dig in.
Vs. 1-7 - “Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.
When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?”
What we’ve got going on here right out the gate is evidently there’s been a murder attempt made upon the life of Pharaoh, and we can imagine, in his position, there are always going to be those always seeking to kill him or usurp his authority. So he probably was feeling a little rough after lunch one day and thought someone was trying to poison him. He’s not sure if the wine tasted goofy or the food was bad, so it was either the cook or the guy in charge of the drinks. He’s not sure so he goes and throws them both in jail while the investigation moves forward.
As we saw last week it could be Potopher who’s in charge of the jail, but regardless of who the warden is, they put Joseph in charge of these 2 guys. If it is Potiphar, here’s a further indication that Poitphar knows his wife was really the instigator in ch. 39. You don’t trust a guy that you think raped your wife. So we’re being told here that he still trusts Joseph.
Now again, take note of Joseph’s behavior here. He’s not ticked off at his circumstances because he knows God is in control. So once AGAIN, Joseph finds himself in rough circumstances through no fault of his own, but his RESPONSE to the circumstances is faithful. Man is the Lord ever gonna run with that!!
So the Hebrew construction here in vs. 4 - “attended them,” there’s alot of variation in different translations, but the idea in the Hebrew is that Joseph is ministering to these guys, he’s looking after them, not begrudgingly, but with a sincere interest in their welfare. That Hebrew word “attend to, charged, appointed or assigned” that is the Hebrew word “qashab” and means literally “to serve, to minister too.”
So here’s Joseph in a rough spot, in prison, but “I’m gonna be the best prisoner I can be,” and he honors God. Listen, God is made exceptional in the eyes of others when His children are faithful in rough circumstances. It’s easy to be faithful when all is well, is it not?! But it is when all is not well and we’re faithful, THERE God is made exceptional. That is the testimony of the Word of God in all the great men and women of the faith listed in Heb. 11.
Here’s what we gotta get, and mark it well. Joseph’s concern for others, his sensitivity towards what others are going through, is the VERY thing that’s going to lead him out of this prison he’s in. Understand this; that had he been consumed with his own heartache, had his heart been captured by his own letdown in life, he would have stayed in that prison.
Even as you and I, when we become consumed with our own grief, we will remain in the prison of our own minds. We can become so consumed with what we are going through that it totally blinds us to any kind of pain or heartache that anyone else is going through, and what is produced there is a very narrow view of what life is all about.
So, here’s Joseph, he could have thought - “Well, woe is me, look at these horrible brothers of mine, and here’s this stupid Mrs. Potifer, and now I’m living in this prison...” He could have been consumed with his own agony, but look at vs. 6-7.
In the construction of the Hebrew language here it encompasses the unusual nature of Joseph’s behavior. Here he is, instead of being captured by his own grief, he strolls in there with a real sensitivity to the struggles other people are going through! You can see this kid is just walking through the prison and man, he’s just whistling. Why? Because he knows God is in control!
I know I’ll probably get some haters for saying this, but I think one of the reasons, not ALL, that we struggle with depression and anxiety is because we’re simply so stinkin’ concerned with ourselves. The Word of God tells us, Jesus Himself tells us, that one of the reasons we lose our life is because we’re always trying to save it (Matt. 10:39). We’re always trying to hold onto US, we’re so wrapped up in the citadel of self. And when that’s going on we turn our eyes inward and our ministry to others suffers.
The Bible says: “If you give, then you will receive in return.” (Acts 20:35). People always want to make that about money, but it’s a lifestyle issue. If you seek emotional happiness for your life, if you desire contentment in life, then you simply need to seek to bless others emotionally, to serve others and be a blessing to them (Phil. 4:11).
So here’s Joseph going through a rough season, he has that sensitivity to others, he recognizes sadness there, and he has in him a real desire to serve and bless others. That is the very thing we will discover that gets him out of the prison he’s in.
And if you are in some kind of prison of depression or anxiety, go out and bless someone man! And you’ll discover that lift in a real hurry because that’s what the Word of God tells us.
Join us next week as we continue the story of Joseph.