Prison is not much of a reward for successfully fighting temptation, and not a typical one. But that is exactly where Joseph found himself after Potiphar’s wife framed him because she was angry that he wouldn’t let her seduce him. Put yourself in Joseph’s position. His only real sin thus far, at least as far as we can see, is a bit of arrogance toward his older brothers because he knew that he was his daddy’s favorite son. At 17, his brothers had enough and sold him as a slave to a random group of slave traders who happened to be passing through the area where they were shepherding their dad’s flock. These Ishmaelite traders took him to Egypt and sold him to a prominent official. (Genesis 37) Joseph made the best of it and was promoted. And then, just as things were looking up for him, his boss’s wife decided to try to seduce him. He made the right decision, she didn’t like it, and she had him framed. Now, he is not only in a foreign land – he is in prison in a foreign land. And he hasn’t done anything wrong. But once again, Joseph made the best of a really difficult situation and was promoted quickly within the prison as well. (Genesis 39)
- God’s servants are not immune to suffering, trouble or being treated unfairly.
- God is always ultimately glorified in the lives of his servants, regardless of their life circumstances, because He is always in control.
Both of these truths are played out in Genesis 40-41. God has allowed unbelievably unfair things to happen to Joseph, but He has not taken His hand off of him. Prosperity preachers on TV and other false teachers will try to persuade people that those two things don’t go together. They take a few verses out of context, ignore the clear teaching of all the rest of Scripture, and present a picture of God that says that nothing bad happens to those who are blessed by God. And they can do that and get away with it because there is so much unbelievable ignorance of what the Bible teaches. They can also get away with it because it is incredibly man-centered, just the way we like our theology to be. We love it when it is all about us and our happiness, health and prosperity.
Notice how humble and God-centered Joseph is, even when things aren’t going that well for him:
- In response to the cupbearer and baker telling him about their dreams: They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” (Genesis 40:8)
- In response to Pharaoh: Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:16)
- Again to Pharaoh: Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. (Genesis 41:25)
- Again to Pharaoh: It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. (Genesis 41:28)
- Again to Pharaoh: And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. (Genesis 41:32)
God has given Joseph amazing wisdom and insight into the lives of others – even when He apparently hasn’t given Joseph any answers about his own circumstances! Even the Pharaoh, who was the supreme leader in the most powerful empire in the world at that point, recognized the greater supremacy of Joseph’s God: And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38)
These two chapters are absolutely saturated with the glory of God in the midst of Joseph’s very difficult circumstances. Yes, Pharaoh does elevate Joseph to the second-highest position in Egypt as a result of his accurate interpretation of his dreams. But clearly the emphasis on these chapters is not on Joseph himself, but on Joseph’s God.The pride and arrogance that characterized Joseph’s early years has been replaced with a deep humility as the Lord has taught him what his father, Israel, failed to teach him – that life is not about him. It is about the glory of God.