Sunday, January 1, 2012

Real Success

In our lesson last week we found that because Joseph kept his integrity when faced with the temptations of a seductress, his master placed him in prison. Gen 39:1-21 However, God remained with Joseph and he found favor with the keeper of the prison. 'And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph's hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it. The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing that was under his hand; because the Lord was with him, and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper.' Gen 39:22-23

While in prison, there were two of Pharaoh's prisoners who were put under Joseph's charge by the captain of the guard (Potiphar). Gen 40 Potiphar still believed in Joseph's administrative skills as blessed by God, but he did not want Joseph near his wife. The two men (a butler and a baker) each had a dream on the very same night that caused them to have a sad countenance on their face. Joseph, the dreamer, saw their sadness and told them that interpretation belonged to God. With the help of God, he interpreted the butler's dream, advising him he would be restored to his position in three days. He also asked the butler to remember him for he had not done anything to deserve to be in the dungeon. When the baker saw a positive outcome for the butler's dream, he asked for an interpretaion, also. With the help of God, Joseph interpreted the baker's dream, advising him that Pharaoh would '...lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.' Gen 40:19b Joseph interpreted both of their dreams according to what he was given by God. He did not change their dreams to glamorize any parts of the dreams or make his fellow prisoners feel good. In three days, just as Joseph said, the interpretations came true. It was the Pharaoh's birthday and he wanted to celebrate. Pharaah restored the butler to his position, but the baker met his death. However, the butler was not grateful for his dream interpretation and forgot Joseph's request to remember him to the Pharaoh.

Two years later Pharaoh had two dreams, one night after the other. Gen 41:1-36 The dreams troubled him terribly. He sent for all of the magicians and wise men of Egypt, but none could assist him in interpreting the dreams. The butler then remembered his experience while in prison and Joseph's interpretation of both his and the baker's dreams. When the butler communicated this information to Pharaoh, Joseph was released from prison, shaved, given clean clothes and brought before Pharaoh. He explained to Joseph that he had two dreams that no one could interpret. Joseph advised him that it was not he, but God who would interpret the dreams. Pharaoh told Joseph the specifics of his dreams. With God's help, Joseph told Pharaoh the first dream meant there shall be seven years of plenty throughout Egypt. The second dream was part of the first dream. Following the seven years of plenty, there shall be seven years of famine. Then Joseph gave Pharaoh some good advice as he was blessed with administrative skills. 'Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store to the land against the seven years of famine, which shall be in the land of Egypt; that the land perish not through the famine.' Gen 41:33-36

The dreams that had troubled Pharaoh were finally interpreted. But not only were they interpreted, but a master plan had been proposed to offset potential troubles that would soon come. Both Pharoah and his servants were pleased (Gen 41:37). This week's lesson focuses on Gen 41:37-45,50,52.

'And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath showed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art:' Gen 41:38-39 Pharaoh recognized the Spirit of God in Joseph's life and his abilities. Pharaoh did not believe there was anyone as discreet and wise as Joseph. He asked his servants if they knew of such a man of whom the Spirit of God dwelt. He wanted a man of wisdom to oversee Egypt during the imminent famine. Although Joseph had suffered, he had not suffered in vain. He kept his faith that God would protect him and never leave him. Because Joseph remained faithful to God, he was elevated from the prison to head the relief effort in Egypt. 'Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.' Gen 41:40 All of the affairs of the kingdom were to pass through Joseph's hands as administrator and second-in-command. The Pharaoh would be greater than he only on the throne.

'And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt.' Gen 41:41-43 In a ritual equivalent to an inauguration, we find a transfer of power. Pharaoh gave Joseph rule over all Egypt. Then he placed upon Joseph all the marks of honor that would gain the respect of the people. The Pharaoh took off his signet ring and placed it on Joseph's hand as a symbol of authority. All prison clothing was taken away. Pharaoh gave Joseph new fine linen and a gold chain for his neck to wear to indicate his new status of royalty. Joseph was given a chariot and was made to ride second after Pharaoh. He ordered all to do homage to Joseph, just as they did him, in crying, "Bow the knee". And with a reminder '...I am Pharoah,...' {Gen 41:44(b)}, he told Joseph that '...without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.' {Gen 41:44(c)}. Pharaoh had to let Joseph know he was still first-in-command.

To show his authority over Joseph, Pharaoh changed Joseph's name and gave him a wife. 'And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.' Gen 41:45 In Egyptian, Joseph's new name meant "the man to whom mysteries are revealed".

Joseph was rewarded with a wife who was the daughter of a priest. 'And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Poti-pherah priest of On bore unto him. And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's
house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.' Gen 41:50-52 From each son, two Israelite tribes would spring. The names given them reveal how Joseph recognized the hand of God in his life. Forgetting the bitterness of all the hurt in the past, Joseph looked at his current life when he named Manasseh. His anger had evaporated due to the goodness and mercy of the Lord. In naming his second child, Ephraim, Joseph looked at all of the trials a tribulations he had experienced. He had been proud of a coat of many colors in his youth, but it was taken away. Now he wore another coat. But it was the Lord who had given him the prosperity in Egypt. Ephraim's name symbolized the fact that the Lord prospered Joseph in Egypt. He had received the covering by the Lord.

In the midst of our crisis, remember that God is there to protect us and will continue to show us favor. We must be faithful to God to be a real success.

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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