Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Joseph was waiting and waiting, but his trusted friend, the chief cup-bearer of Pharaoh (the king of Egypt), had never returned to him. Joseph was truly disappointed.
Three days ago, the chief cup-bearer had a dream, and he told his dream to Joseph. Joseph carefully heard the cheap cup-bearer’s dream, and Joseph said, “This is what the dream means.” Joseph continued, “The three branches represent three days. Within three days, Pharaoh will lift you up and restore you to your position as his chief cup-bearer.” Then Joseph pleaded, “And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.”
Pharaoh’s birthday came three days later, and he prepared a banquet for all his officials and staff. He summoned his chief cup-bearer and chief baker to join the other officials. He then restored the chief cup-bearer to his former position to hand Pharaoh his cup again. Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.
Joseph believed that the cup-bearer surely brought his case to Pharaoh because his friend chief cup-bearer promised to talk about Joseph, who interpreted his dream. Joseph overheard the chief cup-bearer start serving Pharaoh again, which made him angry and hurt him mentally and emotionally. Each day in jail became more difficult and longer than before due to his expectation of getting out the jail soon, which never came true.
Joseph started feeling that he was again betrayed. The former jail friend, the chief cup-bearer, followed his brothers’ betrayal. Joseph cried out loudly not to sell him to the Ishmael traders, but they did not hear his cry. Instead, they put a big smile on their faces and received twenty pieces of silver from the hand of the Ishmael traders. They sold Joseph to slavery. They were his brothers, but they revenged against Joseph’s dreams about which Joseph proudly spoke. In his dreams, his older brothers bowed low before Joseph.
Despite the situation, Joseph believed God gave him special dreams and worked hard in slavery rather than living in the miserable feeling of betrayal that his brothers caused. The same dreams made Joseph overcome his misery after being sold to slavery. Potiphar, his owner, noticed this and realized that God was with Joseph, then put him in charge of his house, and God blessed Potiphar’s household for Joseph’s sake. All became good, didn’t they?
No. Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man. Potiphar’s wife seduced Joseph. One day, no one else was around when Joseph went in to do his work. She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. When Potiphar came home, Potiphar’s wife lied. Potiphar believed his wife and sent Joseph to prison. It was not an ordinary prison but a special prison aside for those who committed the most serious crimes against Pharaoh or high-rank officials.
What did happen to Joseph? Joseph kept his faith before God, but God, who supposedly protected Joseph, let him be imprisoned. He felt God betrayed him. Joseph could overcome his brothers’ betrayal by trusting in God and the dreams that God gave him. But how did Joseph continue believing in God? Joseph really struggled. He had no clear answer to explain his situation. Joseph lost everything, his brothers and then God.
Joseph wanted to go away from everything, including God, but he had no place to go. He was confined in prison physically and mentally. He had no more god to plead for his hard life. Joseph tried to forget everything, including God. His days in prison were getting worse. He was rapidly losing his strength and even his will to live. He would soon die in prison, he thought.
However, one day, he heard a voice, which was subtle and gentle. He had no energy even to care about the voice, but the voice was persistent. It kept telling “I am with you.” Joseph realized it was God, but he pretended not to hear the voice because he was hurt by God. But the voice never left him day after day. Joseph tried to escape from the voice but it only got louder. Finally, Joseph gave in the voice, and looked up his eyes, and talked to God in prayer. He could not resist anymore. Indeed, Joseph did not know why he had to pray, but he prayed. However, soon after, Joseph started pouring out all his agony and his harsh feeling against God. Joseph’s prayer was initially hostile to God while asking why. He kept asking God with a prayer while searching for the answer. But no answer came to him.
Joseph’s prayer battle went on many days. However, Joseph did not notice one thing that that his prayer was changing. In his prayer, his harsh feeling and resentment toward God were getting less and less. Instead, his heart was steadily filling up with a strange feeling that he could not describe, which made him calm and peaceful in the mist still in prison. Later, he found that it was God who came into his heart.
Then God blessed him more than ever. Joseph woke up out of his long drained misery and his bitter feeling of betrayal. He began to straighten up his life, and he remembered the dreams. Again he worked hard to become the best among the prisoners. The prison warden noticed Joseph and put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in prison. Joseph stood up again, firm on the hope of the dreams and trust in God.
One day God gave Joseph another opportunity while Joseph was still in jail. Pharaoh became angry with his chief cup-bearer, who offended his royal master, and put him in the same jail where Joseph was. God made the chief cup-bearer have a dream, and the chief cup-bearer told his dream to Joseph. Then Joseph interpreted the chief cup-bearer’s dream and predicted that the chief cup-bearer would take back his former position three days later. As Joseph predicted, the cup-bearer was restored to his former position and served Pharaoh, but the chief cup-bearer did not keep the promise to tell Pharaoh about Joseph, who interpreted his dream.
Yes, it was another huge blow to Joseph. Joseph felt yet another betrayal from his trusted friend, and the chief cup-bearer was the only hope to get out of jail. However, the chief cup-bearer never spoke up to Pharaoh for Joseph as he promised, and Joseph remained in jail.
Joseph had learned and experienced God enough. He was mature in God. For this time, Joseph could endure yet another betrayal in his life, although it was a matter of being out of jail or not. Joseph could be content in jail while looking forward to seeing his dreams, although his heart was yearning for getting out of jail. Of course, the cold reality did not leave him alone. It hit him from time to time. But this time, Joseph remembered God instead, and again and again, he fixed his eyes on the dreams that God gave him, not the hope on the cup-bearer’s promise. Then he always prayed to God rather than letting the cold reality overtake him and take away the peace of God from him.
God saw Joseph’s faith in Him. Joseph continued walking the walk given to Joseph, although each step was difficult and some were torturing. God saw Joseph’s faith, which pleased God. Joseph was right on the journey toward the big plan that God had specially prepared for Joseph.
Two full years later. Yes, two full years later. It was a long time for Joseph in jail. But it was the period that God used to mature Joseph for His plan fully. Joseph grew significantly in faith as walking with God. God had never left Joseph alone under all circumstances. Of course, some bad days hunted Joseph down and made him feel that there was no way out of the jail. Then God came and embraced Joseph warmly and put him in His bosom so that Joseph could continue the day. On the following day, he got up early and worshipped God again. He again lived out to be the best prisoner in the jail. The walk with God was so precious to Joseph, but it was a hidden secret from others. Finally, two years later, the time came, which God set.
Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River. In his dream, he saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. Then he saw seven more cows come up behind them from the Nile, but these were scrawny and thin. These cows stood beside the fat cows on the riverbank. Then the scrawny, thin cows ate the seven healthy, fat cows! At this point in the dream, Pharaoh woke up.
But he fell asleep again and had a second dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain, plump and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were shriveled and withered by the east wind. And these thin heads swallowed up the seven plump, well-formed heads! Then Pharaoh woke up again and realized it was a dream.
The next morning Pharaoh was very disturbed by the dreams. So he called for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. When Pharaoh told them his dreams, not one of them could tell him what they meant.
Finally, the king’s chief cup-bearer spoke up. “Today I have been reminded of my failure,” he told Pharaoh. “Some time ago, you were angry with the chief baker and me, and you imprisoned us in the palace of the captain of the guard. One night the chief baker and I each had a dream, and each dream had its own meaning. There was a young Hebrew man with us in the prison who was a slave of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he told us what each of our dreams meant. And everything happened just as he had predicted. I was restored to my position as cup-bearer, and the chief baker was executed and impaled on a pole.”
Pharaoh sent for Joseph at once, and he was quickly brought from the prison. Finally, the day came to Joseph. Joseph could not believe what was happening, but he firmly believed it was God who made all things happen according to His good will. Joseph bowed low to God and prayed with thanksgiving before following the people sent by Pharaoh.
After he shaved and changed his clothes, he went in and stood before Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream last night, and no one here can tell me what it means. But I have heard that when you hear about a dream, you can interpret it.”
“It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied because Joseph experienced and knew who God was. “But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease.”
So Pharaoh told Joseph his dream. “In my dream,” he said, “I was standing on the bank of the Nile River, and I saw seven fat, healthy cows come up out of the river and begin grazing in the marsh grass. But then I saw seven sick-looking cows, scrawny and thin, come up after them. I’ve never seen such sorry-looking animals in all the land of Egypt. These thin, scrawny cows ate the seven fat cows. But afterward, you wouldn’t have known it, for they were still as thin and scrawny as before! Then I woke up.
“In my dream I also saw seven heads of grain, full and beautiful, growing on a single stalk. Then seven more heads of grain appeared, but these were blighted, shriveled, and withered by the east wind. And the shriveled heads swallowed the seven healthy heads. I told these dreams to the magicians, but no one could tell me what they mean.”
Joseph responded, “Both of Pharaoh’s dreams mean the same thing. God is telling Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. The seven healthy cows and the seven healthy heads of grain both represent seven years of prosperity. The seven thin, scrawny cows that came up later and the seven thin heads of grain, withered by the east wind, represent seven years of famine.”
“This will happen just as I have described it, for God has revealed to Pharaoh in advance what he is about to do. The next seven years will be a period of great prosperity throughout the land of Egypt. But afterward, there will be seven years of famine so great that all the prosperity will be forgotten in Egypt. Famine will destroy the land. This famine will be so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased. As for having two similar dreams, it means that these events have been decreed by God, and he will soon make them happen.”
“Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise, this famine will destroy the land.”
Joseph’s suggestions were well received by Pharaoh and his officials because God prepared the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials. So Pharaoh asked his officials, “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. You will be in charge of my court, and all my people will take orders from you. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”
God finally used Joseph to glorify His name, and Joseph truly experienced God’s almighty hand. He endured in faith rather than blaming his friend chief cup-bearer or digging into his misery out of his feeling of betrayal from a person whom he trusted. What can we learn from Joseph?
We cannot trust all humans. All are self-centered. When there is a need, we humans make many promises, but when the situation changes, we are too. The chief cup-bearer became a completely different person when he was restored to his former position. Once the chief cup-bearer was humble and needy enough to listen to a young foreign ex-slave, but he forgot what happened in the jail, including his promise to Joseph.
We are also limited by being mere creatures. Although our hearts are breaking, we cannot do anything but helplessly watch the consequence of the broken promise. Sometimes we truly want to keep our promise, but we cannot keep the promise because the situation no longer allows us to do what we promised.
Only God is infinitely faithful to His people, and He never forgets His promises. Why? God loves us. His heart is not for Himself but always for us. His love is one-sided. Regardless we give back His love or not, God constantly loves us because He is love. His love is unconditional and unchanging. God is not a creature having a shifting shadow but the creator who has made all things and including us, and most of all, He loves us forever.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)
God loved Joseph, and God gave him special dreams. Joseph liked the dreams, but liking the dreams was not enough for the dreams, but Joseph had to own the dreams, which was not easy for Joseph. Why? The dreams were much bigger than Joseph himself.
God, who loved Joseph, nurtured Joseph. How did God make Joseph nurture to grow big in Him? Three big betrayals. One from his brothers and then from God. Yes, from God also. Then his trusted friend. Joseph had more reasons than all of us to dig deep into his misery and lived in the feeling of bitterness and abandonment. However, Joseph did not let them drive him, but he strived to hear God’s voice and walked the walk God gave while fixing his eyes on the dreams from God by trusting God.
Joseph carefully listened to the voice of God and followed God, greatly pleasing God. Yes, he had never ignored the subtle and loving voice of God. Today, God keeps telling us, “I am with you always and love you,” with a soft and gentle voice quietly among the loud noises of the world.
We should give our utmost attention to His voice, not the loud voice of the world, and follow God. Then God, who has the greatest plan in our lives, starts working out on us according to His merciful plan filled with the unfathomable grace and love. Let’s remember Joseph’s case. God fulfills His infinitely good will at the most unlikely place and the most unlikely time as He did to Joseph when he was in jail. Indeed, we can always be sure that God is faithful and loves us under all circumstances, and He will fulfill His good will. Then we will together witness what God accomplishes in our lives.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; (Lamentations 3:22)