Summary: God plans the lives and events of all creation and history in order to make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy.
I read in the news this week about a “pastor” who converted to atheism because his first pastor-boss was mean and domineering. The poor guy had to work sixty hour weeks while his boss golfed twice a week. And through this terrible suffering, he somehow figured out that there is no God; because if someone’s not nice to you, then God must not be real.
At the same time I read the story I’m also studying the life of Joseph in Genesis. So far he’s has been the victim of a murder plot, thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, falsely accused of rape, and imprisoned; he’s not even thirty years old yet!
And so what should we say to our “pastor” friend? If people are mean to you does that disprove God? If life is hard and evil seems to prevail does that mean we have no real hope? Does that mean Joseph should just give up? If the last several chapters of Genesis are true, then we have to say this other man is wrong. From what appears in the rest of our text God has a purpose and a plan behind every hurt and setback.
I want to be careful to make this the main theme. Too many commentators see Joseph’s story as nothing more than an example to follow. He’s a visual list of do’s and don’ts. “God deserves our loyalty so we have to stick with Him no matter what happens.” But that’s not the main point. Surely we can see Joseph’s example and be inspired by it, but the main point is that God is faithful to us even when evil seems to prevail. He has a plan, and that plan includes suffering for us, but in the end He is glorified and we are shown to be His sons.
And so rather than asking, “What does this teach us about what to do?” we should ask, “What does this teach us about God?” Lord willing, this will be our goal as we read through now. As I said, God has a plan. This plan includes all that Joseph has already seen and now we come to the events of chapter forty:
And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.
Now, remember what we’re asking: what does this teach us about God? Well, if all the days of our lives are truly written even before the first one comes to pass, and if God is as sovereign as we believe, and if this event leads to God’s ultimate goal of promoting Joseph to power in Egypt, then this verse shows us God’s work outside of the prison and outside of the people of Israel.
These guys are probably Egyptians. They’re almost certainly Gentiles. But God has a plan for them and He’ll use them to fulfill the promise made to Abraham. We don’t know how they offended Pharaoh but we do know why. They needed to go to prison for Joseph’s sake. They needed to be there for the saving of many lives. And so they go:
2And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. 3And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. 4And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.
I don’t know if it’s important or not but the captain of the guard is probably Potiphar (39:1). Joseph served him at home and now, likely, he serves him at work with the same results. The two men are brought in and Joseph’s charged with serving them because he’s in charge of the whole prison. They’re under his care and he makes sure they get what they need and that they do what they’re supposed to do. We don’t know how long they were with him, but one day is particularly interesting:
5And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. 6And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. 7And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?
This almost makes me laugh because it should be obvious. If I were in an Egyptian prison with the threat of death over my head I’d probably look pretty sad too. But maybe they look extra-sad and it makes him ask why.