(A) The Spirit is sovereign and speaking (v1-14)
We pick up where we left off from chapter 40, and here we are told that two whole years have passed by. As Gen 40 ended, are told that Joseph was forgotten. Two years in prison. How do you think he spent his days? Joseph probably prayed and waited for God to act, but this did not mean passivity. Joseph also went about his business, finishing up what the work he was entrusted. For two whole years, it is not unlikely that he had to constant fight to recall the covenantal promises given to his fathers. For two years he had to suffer and wait for deliverance. This quick transition from chapter 40 to 41 is also meant for us to see that his faith survived and was still intact. Would your faith survive a similar situation?
We are introduced to Pharaoh and the two dreams that he had (v1-7). One dream was about cows, the other was about grain. Picking up on the idea in Gen 40:8, we are to remember that in the events surrounding Joseph's life, God continues to give dreams to people for a purpose. Why a dream, and not a talking donkey, a writing on the wall, a pillar of cloud, we do not know. In this particular instance, the God of the Bible chose to speak in a dream to the most powerful man in all of Egypt. This was also a long-awaited opportunity for Joseph to be brought out of prison and be made useful. Finally, another part of God's plan was unfolding.
The dreams were specially designed to trouble Pharaoh, and to stump all of his advisers. It was clearly meant to confound the wisdom of the world, and expose the failure of human knowledge and ways. What can we learn from here? Like what Paul says in 1 Cor 1:19, God's glory begins when human wisdom ends.
The chief cupbearer finally speaks in verse 9. It was no accident that we were introduced to him in the previous chapter. Even here, we need to remember one simple lesson -- God intended for the Bible to be read in its entirety for it to make sense. How do we read it? Do we even read it?
The reappearance of the chief cupbearer also helps us see how God uses all kinds of people for His purposes. When Joseph was forgotten by the cupbearer at the end of chapter 40, we might have thought that it was a huge mistake. Yet, we are reminded here that God might allow what we perceive as mistakes to happen for Him to use at the right time. Furthermore, do you think this man suddenly remembered on his own effort? Certainly not! God, who has been working silently in Joseph's life thus far once more orchestrated this timely remembrance. The God of the Bible continues to work according to no one else's timeline but His own. We call this God's sovereignty.
(B) The Spirit magnifies God’s mighty name (v15-32)
Pharaoh and Joseph have two rounds of conversation from verses 15 to 32. What can we learn from their conversation? Pharaoh retold his dreams and included his own (failed) attempts at interpretation. His distress was also evident. The great king of Egypt had a troubling dream that none of his advisers could interpret. How could this be?
In contrast, from the way the writer of Genesis described the proceedings, we can clearly see Joseph's calm demeanor. This was a man that could reply calmly and confidently despite being whisked out of prison and brought in front of the greatest and most powerful person in the land. Don't we wish we have the same peace like Joseph? This was similar to the peace that Jesus promised to leave his disciples in John 14:27, a peace quite unlike the world. Christians has this peace, because through His Word, we know the real problem with the world -- sin and the rebellion against the rule of God, and the real solution, made available in and through Jesus Christ, who paid the price fully and completely. We know where we came from and where we are headed and this knowledge gives us peace and a sense of calm.
Why was Pharaoh so flustered and troubled? Because he looked to man for his answers. How was Joseph so calm? Because he knew that the answers came from God. How are you feeling today? Is your hope and peace circumstantial or based on something more solid and sturdy?
Joseph's reply to Pharaoh also helps us learn about God:
- "It is not in me, God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." (v.16) -- As we have seen before, Joseph sees and understand that God is fundamentally good, despite all the suffering. As things unfolded gradually, he began to understand more and more how he really is just an agent of the goodness of this God in achieving His redemptive purposes.
- "God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do" (v.25) -- These dreams were not redundant, but highly purposeful.
- "It is as I told Pharaoh, God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do." (v.28) -- God is a God of revelation, a God who speaks and shows us things. He draws back the curtain to help us see what really lies behind. As Christians, we have the ultimate revelation -- Jesus, and the Bible is about him.
- Two dreams (v.32a) -- The doubling of the dream means that the thing is fixed by God. God is not a God of uncertainty. His revelation is precise and exact.
- "God will shortly bring it about" (v.32b) -- This is a merciful God, who warns the people who does not even know Him. He sends his servant Joseph to warn them of impending disaster.
Who is this God that Joseph keeps speaking of? This must have been a question in the mind of the Egyptians. Elohim, was being introduced to the Egyptians, and this was not part of their pantheon of gods. This is actually a lesson for us about how Christians worship. Our worship is not merely restricted to the formal and not limited to certain domains. As we know more about this God and as He transforms us, our lives -- what we say and do and how we think about life -- speak about God and serves to draw others to Him. Christians often speak about magnifying God and bringing Him glory. We don't do so as a microscope does to samples -- make tiny things look bigger than they really are. Rather, we do so as a telescope does -- bringing a big God slightly closer and helping others see him more clearly. How do we do so? Worship, then is tied to what we know about Him. Joseph helps us see that a large part of worship has to deal with understanding God with our minds until it burns in our hearts and overflows in our life.
(C) The Spirit fills the chosen savior with wisdom and presence (v33-37)
Notice that Joseph goes the extra mile beyond just interpretation. What else does he do in verses 33-36? Based on the revelation, Joseph goes to make a practical recommendation to solve the problem at hand. His theology changed the way he understood and looked at the world. Joseph was missional and outward looking, quick to consider the welfare of the people. Because of what he said, Pharaoh recognised something special in Joseph -- that he had the Spirit of God. Pharaoh acknowledged the greatness of this new god that he was introduced to, because Joseph of the way Joseph lived.
What does this mean for us? More than just seeing Joseph as a good model of persevering under trials and doing good to the world, Joseph (and all the characters before him and after him) has one job -- to point away from himself to Jesus Christ. Here, Joseph reveals another important aspect of Jesus -- a man filled with the Spirit of God.
Up to this point, we are basically reading a simple story of a nation that could not save themselves. Their great king was flummoxed over two dreams. But God sent them a man, filled with the Spirit, to bring them salvation. This man was betrayed by family, endured suffering, withstood temptation, and through it all, God moulded his character until this point.
Likewise, Jesus was sent by His Father, to save a world that cannot save themselves. Jesus, filled with the Spirit, lived the life we should have lived in perfect obedience to His Father, and died in our place for our salvation. Because of Jesus, all who believe in Him have the Spirit of God. The God who saved Egypt, is the same God who is at work today. This God continues to fill people with the Spirit.
What does this mean for us? In the first place, do you know the God of this chapter, not merely as Elohim but also as Yahweh? If not, maybe now is a good time to pause and consider everything that has been written. If you, dear reader, are a Christian, do you remember that we have been given the Holy Spirit? We can, therefore, go out and bring people to this God, because only through Him, can there be any true change and transformation. Let us put aside our fears and ask Him to fill us with the Sprit to enable us to go out into the world to proclaim His truths with boldness, and do what we can to magnify His name, because it is truly worth magnifying.