Lessons from the Life of Joseph Part IV

Genesis 39.21 – 40.23:

“But while Joseph was there in the prison,the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

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?” “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, “In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”

When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” “This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”

Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand—but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”

God Has Not Left Us or Forgotten Us

In Genesis 39.21 – 40.23, Joseph is sent to prison. Once in prison, Joseph earned the trust and confidence of the warden enough to be put in charge of the prison and its’ prisoners. In this passage, we also learn that Joseph interprets the dreams of the former butler and baker with each dream coming true exactly as Joseph predicted. The butler was restored to his position, the baker was hanged. The frustrating part for Joseph as that the Butler forgot all about him after being released. Joseph sat in prison another two years with no hope of getting out. While he might have been in the pit a few hours, he was now in prison a few years.

God sent Joseph to prison to further work on his character and “readiness” for the ministry to which God would one day call him. No ordinary trial could have revealed to Joseph that which he needed to learn about himself. God had to take extra-ordinary steps by giving Joseph a long-term trial of suffering in order to surface that within Joseph which needed the most work – his independence. His independence needed to be transformed into his full dependence on God so that God could use him to literally save the known world from starvation. It is the combination of time and stress that will prepare Joseph.

But the Lord had not forgotten Joseph. Genesis 39.21 tells us that “the Lord was with Joseph” and that it was the “Lord [who] gave Joseph favor with the prison warden”. What is interesting to me is that in the midst of his prolonged uncertainty about his future and his life purpose, God was at work giving him more experiences and skills for the life call that God would place on him.

As Christian Business Owners, we sometimes feel alone, frustrated and we wonder if God really understands the nuances in our business. “Why does this happen to me?” we ask ourselves. The story of Joseph reminds us that God is always at work, even when it appears that He has abandoned us. God’s purposes and plans cannot be thwarted by man – just read Job, chapter 42 for further confirmation on this. But we should be aware that some trials last more than a few days or weeks. Some will last years – heaping stress upon stress until that part of you which keeps you from serving God fully is ground to fine dust and what is revealed is a strength of character and a purity of motive that you would not have had any other way. Business ownership is not for the faint of heart. If you’re going through difficult times now with your business, consider that God is working on you, not your business.

Leading Your Business Means Leading a Diverse Group of People

Notice that the warden doesn’t bother to worry about anything with Joseph in charge of other prisoners. The contrast could not be more stark. In Potiphar’s House, Joseph was in charge of those who could be described as:

  • Law-abiding
  • Compliant
  • Socially acceptable
  • Connected
  • Wealthy
  • Influential
  • Polished culture

By contrast, in prison, Joseph is in charge of those who:

  • Made mistakes – perhaps unwitting
  • Rebellious – sometimes
  • Social outcasts
  • Disconnected
  • Lost their wealth
  • Lost influence
  • Less polished culture

When God calls us to lean an organization, we need to realize that we’re being called to lead a diverse group of people. Some will be law-abiding and get their work done, on time, as requested. Others will be less polished, sometimes rebellious and won’t really care if they make serious mistakes. God’s call as a Christian Business Owner is to lead them all. Joseph was learning how to do just that.

Joseph’s Did Three Things Right in Stewardship

Joseph was an excellent steward for three different bosses who never cared one whit about God. When we look at the life of Joseph, he had three core bosses: Potiphar, the prison warden and Pharaoh. Potiphar placed his house and attendants under Joseph’s care. The prison warden placed the King’s and his government’s law-breakers under Joseph’s care. Finally, Pharaoh placed his entire kingdom under Joseph’s care. Have you ever wondered what Joseph did to deserve all of this trust?

First, he paid attention to and furthered the interests of his masters. Biblical Stewardship is all about the agenda of the master, not the steward. For example, when Joseph started to gather the grain and then sell it back to the people (especially foreigners), he was keeping the interests of Pharaoh in mind since the impoverishment of his own people and the countries around him could only make Pharaoh that much stronger.

Secondly, Joseph made sure he had a good relationship with his boss. We never see Joseph usurping power or going behind the backs of his superiors. Later, we’ll see how he coaches his brothers to speak with Pharaoh and displays significant use of protocol with Pharaoh when asking him for Goshen in which his family can grow. Joseph showed proper deference to his leaders and, from what we can find in the Bible, he never talked evil about them behind their backs.

Finally, Joseph engaged in conflict resolution to the betterment of his master. Here, I’m thinking of how Joseph resolved the problem of the people not being able to purchase more grain because they were out of money. Joseph agreed to take their land and livestock, but did it in such a way as to better Pharaoh’s financial position.

Summary

As Christian Business owners, we should take seriously any entrustment given to us, especially from those who don’t believe in God. When a customer entrusts to you the completion of a product or service, we should take that seriously and work hard to complete our part of the effort.

But we should also realize that God may very well use the ebb and flow in our business to refine us a Disciples of Jesus Christ.  He’ll work on us until we’re ready to fulfill our life-long purpose – which is to accurately reflect the character of Jesus Christ.

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