We read in the Psalms that Joseph “was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him”, Ps. 105.17-19. We shall consider now how that he was
“And Joseph’s master took him, and put him into the prison”, 39. 20. It is better to have a clear conscience and be in prison than to do wickedness and to sit at the king’s table. Others since Joseph’s day have had a similar experience – John in the isle of Patmos, Bunyan in Bedford gaol and Rutherford in Aberdeen but the Lord was with them as He was with Joseph, 39. 21.
To the butler Joseph was a savour of life unto life; to the baker he was a savour of death unto death, 2 Cor. 2. 16. The Lord Jesus died between two thieves; one only was received into paradise.
Despite the appeal of Joseph “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him”, Gen. 40. 23. One has said tersely, “and his name isn’t always Butler!”
Evil is wrought by want of thought
As well as want of heart.
Have you forgotten something?
Pharaoh said “thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou”, v. 40. As a lad of seventeen Joseph was sold for a slave; thirteen years later he was prime minister of Egypt. Here are some lessons to learn:
God’s sovereign purpose is unaffected by people and events. The fierce brothers, the unconcerned slave dealers, Potiphar, his wife, the prisoners, Pharaoh, were but links in the chain of Joseph’s exaltation.
Joseph’s path to prosperity was fraught with many trials; had his brethren not hated him and sold him, had he not been imprisoned, he would never have ruled Egypt.
Joseph was being prepared for the administration of a kingdom by his oversight of Potiphar’s house and of the prison. Neither the ring on his hand, the chains on his neck, nor the vesture of fine linen that he wore set Joseph in authority, but the trials of patience, faith and temperance. A man is judged by character not clothes.
Note Joseph’s immediate activity on entering into office. “And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt”, 41. 46. Like all true men, he thought more of his duty than his dignity. He had been promoted to reign, and to reign meant to serve; the higher the place the harder the task. Whatever our task, let us embark upon it with strenuous activity knowing as Joseph did that the years of privilege and plenty are but few.
“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren”, 45. 1. See him revealed as:
“Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither”, 45. 5. Joseph’s harsh treatment of his brethren had been to test them; to discover any change of heart in them. True reconciliation must be preceded by repentance; then it was that the simple but noble phrase was spoken, “I am Joseph”.
“God did send me before you to preserve life”, 45. 5. Joseph had learned that it was neither chariots nor chains, prisons nor palaces, but to do the will of God was all supreme. See how humble was this man in his greatness. He says “Haste ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him … come down unto me, tarry not”, 45. 9. Though father and family may be stared at and perhaps mocked in the Egyptian court, an abomination to the Egyptian, yet Joseph was his son. No elevation makes a true son forget his reverence for his father.
As Jacob gathered his sons around him, he remembered and reviewed their acts of shame and deeds of honour; their vices and their virtues. Judah is a lion’s whelp, Issachar is a strong ass, Dan a serpent, Naphtali a hind and Benjamin a wolf, but “Joseph is a fruitful bough… whose branches run over the wall”, 49. 22. Though the target of the archers, persecuted and afflicted, he remains standing, his bow is strong, the arms of his hands strengthened by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. His faith and strength is in God. We go not to war at our own charges nor by our own strength; for he who fights for God never fights without Him.