Read Genesis 41: 1 – 57
Focus: “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.” Genesis 41:16
If you’ve read the previous two chapters of Genesis as well as today’s reading, you will see that Joseph spent a lot of time in prison for a crime he was accused of (sexual assault of Potiphar’s wife) but didn’t commit. We don’t know exactly how long Joseph was imprisoned, but we are given clues in Genesis 39 – 41. We know from Genesis 39:22 that he was in prison long enough to have impressed the warden in such a way that he put Joseph “in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison.” We also know from Genesis 40 that “some” amount of time had passed before Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker were imprisoned with Joseph and “they remained in prison for quite some time” before they had their dreams which Joseph interpreted. Genesis 41:1 tells us “two full years later”, after the cup-bearer and baker had been released, Pharaoh has his dreams that eventually led to Joseph’s release.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to get a little testy when I’m accused of anything I didn’t do; I can’t imagine how I would react if I were forced to spend years in an ancient Egyptian prison for a crime I didn’t commit. We don’t know much about how Joseph handled years time of imprisonment; however, we do know a couple of important facts – Joseph continued to serve God by serving others (for example, he interpreted the dreams of the cup-bearer and the baker), and he continued to give God the glory. Looking at today’s focus verse, if in his shoes, I imagine I would have been tempted to claim credit for my amazing dream interpretation skills with the hope of earning Pharaoh’s favor and my release from prison. But we see that’s not at all how Joseph handled it. Instead, he tells Pharaoh that interpreting dreams is beyond Joseph’s power and gives all of the credit and glory to God.
Joseph’s response was one that God calls us all to adopt into our lives. In Jeremiah 24:7, God tells us:
But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
The Apostle Paul furthers this when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:17-18:
As the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” When people commend themselves, it doesn’t count for much. The important thing is for the Lord to commend them.
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, the same message is repeated – boasting about ourselves or our own accomplishments is wrong (or as James puts it in James 4:16 “As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”). Instead we are to be thankful in all circumstances (even ones we wouldn’t otherwise choose for ourselves such as the time Joseph spent in prison) and boast only about God – His awesome power, mercy, grace, loving kindness, care, etc. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:7: “What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?”
Prayer: Lord, thank You for everything I have and everything I am. Thank You that You provide us examples such as that of Joseph so we can see who we are to emulate. I’m sorry that I’m sometimes arrogant and boastful; I acknowledge that I have no reason to be because everything comes from you. I pray that You would increase in my life, and I would decrease so instead of feeling like I need to give myself glory, I would point to You. In Jesus’ name… Amen.