Summary: Affliction is always pure gold in the making for the child of God. This is a truth that is repeated throughout pages of Scripture. Even though it looks like nothing is happening, like nothing will ever change, circumstances are being aligned so that God's plan is working.
Joseph out of the prison
Gen. 41: 1-56
When we last left Joseph, he was serving out a sentence for a crime he didn't commit in a place where the sun never shines - the dungeon for the king's prisoners. Chapter 41:1 tells us that Joseph has marked two entire years doing hard time. Two years earlier, Joseph had told the royal cupbearer who spent some time in jail as well to “remember me when it is well with you” (40:14). Only three days after Joseph made this request, the cupbearer was released and restored to his former position serving Pharaoh directly. But he forgot about his former cell mate, who had been so helpful.
Here was the climactic ending of a long series of malice and injustice. Joseph had already felt the unjust hatred of his brothers, the shock of being torn away from home forever, the humiliation of slavery, and the bite of slander. Now, he faces what looks like a non-ending trip to death in a foreign dungeon.
Each day was nothing more than a monotonous, slow-moving grind, to be repeated tomorrow and the next day and the next day. For Joseph it must have looked like nothing was ever going to change. He must have felt like his whole life was stuck in a permanent holding pattern.
It is here, in the place of continued suffering, that our faith is attacked with doubts, anger, confusion, loneliness, and sorrow. Suffering always changes us, and not necessarily for the better. Joseph was there in prison going nowhere. But he clung to a single truth that kept him going . It is inferred in every word he speaks, every action he undertakes – “there is a design in my distress.”
Affliction is always pure gold in the making for the child of God. This is a truth that is repeated throughout pages of Scripture. Even though it looks like nothing is happening, like nothing will ever change, circumstances are being aligned and in the process of “waiting on the Lord” you are being refined by sufferings.
Listen to Job's own words: “He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my portion of food.” (Job 23:10-12) Job trusted God when it didn't make sense to trust Him and it put steel in his soul.
And then for two long years after the cupbearer left the prison Joseph was waiting for the release that he never got. But God was not silent. He was working – working in the life of Pharaoh. For there was a little matter Joseph knew nothing about: Pharaoh also had a bad dream!
The opening verses of Gen. 41 tell us that after two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. And behold, seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke.
Verses 5-7 tell us that when Pharaoh fell back asleep, he dreamed the same dream again, only this time it involved ears of grain instead of cows. Verse 8 says that in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians (the word refers to the wise men of his court) of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
Right then, the light clicks on for the royal cupbearer. Verse 9-13 describe the cupbearer's testimony about a Hebrew slave he met while in prison a couple years before who accurately interpreted his dream and that of the former royal baker. Verse 14 reports that this was all Pharaoh needed to hear.
In a very short time Joseph is transported from the stinking hole where he had whiled away many years of his life to the resplendent courts of the ruler of Egypt. Imagine the scene as Joseph hurriedly shaves off his scraggly beard, bathes, and puts on clean clothes for the first time after a long time . Think of that moment as he strides into the place of power.
In v. 15, Pharaoh addresses the prisoner by explaining that he's had a baffling dream and that he heard reports of Joseph's ability to explain it.
Stand there with the broken man - Joseph. Pharaoh has rolled out the red carpet for him. This is the golden moment for our mistreated, maligned friend to strut his stuff. This is when the desire to get out of the prison can make you desperate: "I've got to convince Pharaoh that he needs me here in the palace. I can't go back to that dungeon again!"