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21 the LORD was with Joseph and remained loyal to him. He caused the jail’s commander to think highly of Joseph. 22 The jail’s commander put all of the prisoners in the jail under Joseph’s supervision, and he was the one who determined everything that happened there. 23 The jail’s commander paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s supervision, because the LORD was with him and made everything he did successful.
9 Then the chief wine steward spoke to Pharaoh: “Today I’ve just remembered my mistake. 10 Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker under arrest with the commander of the royal guard. 11 We both dreamed one night, he and I, and each of our dreams had its own interpretation. 12 A young Hebrew man, a servant of the commander of the royal guard, was with us. We described our dreams to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us, giving us an interpretation for each dream. 13 His interpretations came true exactly: Pharaoh restored me to my position but hanged him.”
14 So Pharaoh summoned Joseph, and they quickly brought him from the dungeon. He shaved, changed clothes, and appeared before Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, but no one could interpret it. Then I heard that when you hear a dream, you can interpret it.”
16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It’s not me. God will give Pharaoh a favorable response.”
37 This advice seemed wise to Pharaoh and all his servants, 38 and Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man with more God-given gifts [Or like this one, in whom is the spirit of God] than this one?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, no one is as intelligent and wise as you are. 40 You will be in charge of my kingdom [or house], and all my people will obey your command. Only as the enthroned king will I be greater than you.” 41 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Know this: I’ve given you authority over the entire land of Egypt.”
A Hebrew slave unfairly jailed by a rich Egyptian owner—how could Joseph escape that fix? God helped Joseph explain dreams for two fellow prisoners. After two years, Pharaoh’s restored steward finally remembered Joseph (still in jail) when the king had baffling dreams. Pharaoh, impressed by Joseph’s discernment, made an unexpected (no doubt shocking to ambitious Egyptian officers) choice. He freed the Hebrew and made him his chief deputy, with power over all of Egypt!
Merciful God, how powerfully Joseph exemplified the spirit of your kingdom as he saved his brothers and his Egyptian captors. Keep growing in me a capacity to embody and act out your mercy. Amen.
None of us are certain of the ways God will use us, our gifts, or redeem our experiences. Joseph’s journey drives that point home for me. I think of how easy it could have been for Joseph to turn callous and hardened by the circumstances he faced up to the time our Scripture passage for today picks up. He has been faithfully following God and ends up in jail for something he did not do.
I sense this ease in Joseph’s demeanor, though, despite the pretty traumatic events he’s experienced to this point. I sometimes read between the lines of Scripture and let my imagination wander. I am thinking about what Joseph was experiencing and contemplating in his jail cell. How he likely was asking God to change his circumstance or to offer some hope. A simple loaf of bread, a friend, or even just freedom alone. But our God likes to show off His marvelous and beautiful creations (us) and encourage us to live into our fullest selves by revealing our gifts.
God provides Joseph with the opportunity to reclaim his experience through a redemptive lens. We learn in Genesis 39 that God doesn’t look at our circumstances and think, “There’s nothing more I can do here.” God sees the opportunities in our hardships. During a particular hard season in my life, my college Pastor once spoke these words over me: “God doesn’t make everything happen for a reason but makes a reason out of everything.”
Joseph’s gift of dream interpretation offers him the chance to sit at the right hand of the most influential person in Egypt. Joseph, a person who has the perspectives of being at the bottom, now has the opportunity to center the experience of others who are at the bottom while he guides decisions being made at the top. And it turns out (spoiler alert) he uses this opportunity wisely and humbly. How are we using our gifts to empower those around us?
* Adam Hamilton; Rob Simbeck, ed. Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2012, p. 95.