You could sum up Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Weber’ version of Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat in one sentence something like this. “The story of Joseph is the story of how God prospered one spoiled brat from an obscure county to make him one of the most important people in the ancient near east.” A summary like that emphasises the goodness of God and his blessing on individuals who trust and serve him. The story would then be a perfect parable for David Cameron’s Britain just as much as it used to be for Tony Blair’s Britain and for the whole American enterprise culture. But for me a summary like that would miss the most important point of the whole Joseph story – the most part important as far as the history of the world at that time was concerned anyhow, most important for the millions of Egyptians alive then and for the future of the Egyptian Empire and Culture and its impact on the rise of civilisation. And the most important point for God’s masterplan of salvation through the descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. I think a different summary is much more appropriate.
“The story of Joseph is the story of how God used one of his servants to save the nation of Egypt, the children of Abraham and the whole surrounding region from death and disaster when the seven years of famine struck.”
We can become so individualistic in our reading of the Bible – what does this story say to ME ? To Christians? So individualistic that we miss the point of what the Scriptures are saying to the NATIONS, to the whole WORLD! Surely the story of Joseph is not just about Joseph. It’s greatest importance lies in telling us of one vitally important occasion when God in His mercy intervened in the history of the world. It’s the story of how Joseph became the Saviour not only of Egypt, but of the whole of the Ancient Near East!
Note how severe the tragedy was destined to be.
28 “ God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
Genesis makes clear that the famine is in God’s hands – it is something that GOD will do. Perhaps, like the plagues of Egypt which would come 500 years later, it was the hand of God in Judgement on the false gods the Egyptians worshipped instead of worshipping the one true and living God. Perhaps it was part of God’s cosmic masterplan to humble nations like Egypt and bring them back to their Creator again. Today we’ll pass over the question of WHY God permits, or even purposes, natural disasters – not so much because I spoke on that question back in November, but simply because Genesis gives us no answers to that question !
Instead we see in Genesis 41 the great mercy of God. Even though the famine was pre-determined, God was also acting to bring salvation within it. Through that spoiled brat Joseph, God would make sure that the suffering and damage from that famine was minimised.
Note how God had manoeuvred his servant Joseph into a position where he could be used in this way.
It all started with the Dreams God gave Joseph in Canaan – dreams of sheaves of corn and even of the sun, moon and stars bowing down before Joseph. Those dreams provoked his brothers to jealousy and hatred. So much so that they sold Joseph into slavery. Then in Egypt it was the false accusations by Potiphar’s wife which left Joseph in prison’s false just so he could meet Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker to interpret their dreams. That was two whole years Joseph would meet Pharaoh!
Over all those years from Canaan to Egypt , God was doing two things in Joseph’s life. By His sovereign providence God was bringing Joseph into the right place at right time, through an intricate chain of events all so that he could be introduced to Pharaoh at the proper time. But then secondly, God was preparing Joseph. God was humbling him by his experiences of rejection, slavery and imprisonment, God was changing Joseph so that the spoiled brat with the Technicolour Dreamcoat could be used by God when the time came.
God cares about individuals. God does work in individual lives, but not just to bless US. God also works to purify us and refine us and change us into the kind of people He can use for His glory. At the same time, God is at work behind the scenes to bring us to the right place at the right time for his purposes.
8 In the morning Pharaoh’s mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no-one could interpret them for him. 9. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.” 14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
According to God’s sovereign plan, He brought Joseph out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. And the masterplan of salvation didn’t end with delivering that warning. Joseph would have an even more important role in saving Egypt from disaster.
33. “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.” 37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no-one so discerning and wise as you.
God placed Joseph into a position where Pharaoh would trust him, a foreigner, only 30 years old, to save the whole nation. And Pharaoh trusted Joseph – because he saw that He had the Spirit of God in him. Even the pagan Egyptians could see the Spirit of God in Joseph.
We thought last week about the ways God can speak to us through dreams and visions. It is interesting this week to see that even Pharaoh linked “the Spirit of God” with interpreting dreams! We thought about some of the 60 places in Scripture where God spoke through dreams. We thought how our conscience can speak to us in dreams and we also thought about the many occasions in scripture when dreams gave revelations of future events. We remembered how dreams gave guidance to Joseph and Mary to keep them safe from Herod, and to Paul in his vision of a man from Macedonia saying “Come across and help us”. We though how dreams gave encouragenment and reassurance to Abraham and Jacob and Paul and warnings like here to Pharaoh. And we were reminded that it is the Holy Spirit of God who speaks through dreams and gives the interpretation of them, and that He can speak to US in the same way.
Joel 2:28 -> Acts 2:17 “`In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams.
Speak Lord, your servants are listening! Pharaoh knew the Spirit of God was upon Joseph, because he was given the interpretation of dreams! So God blessed Joseph and used him and his wisdom to save Egypt.
46. Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and travelled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
This was GOD’s provision for the whole nation of Egypt. Because God cared for the Egyptians. He didn’t want THEM to suffer!!!
53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” 56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt.
So Joseph became literally the Saviour for Egypt. God rescued the Egyptians and the whole of the Ancient Near East from disaster in very concrete physical ways.
In earlier generations preachers would devote whole books and sermon series to comparisons between Joseph and the Lord Jesus Christ. They found at least 30 very significant comparisons between Joseph as physical Saviour of Egypt and Jesus as spiritual Saviour of the World. They saw Joseph as a TYPE or a PATTERN for Christ. Here are some of the similarities those preachers noticed.
1. Joseph was sent to his brothers. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent to His brethren, the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
2. Joseph was hated by his brothers without a cause, and this is what the Lord Jesus says about Himself, “They hated me without a cause.”
3. Joseph was sold by his own brothers, and the Lord Jesus was sold by one of His own twelve apostles.
4. Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver. The Lord Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver.
5. The brothers plotted to kill Joseph. God’s own chosen people plotted to kill the Lord Jesus –
6. Joseph was 30 when he began his work for Pharaoh. Jesus was 30 when He began His ministry.
7. Joseph was hated by his brothers, and they delivered him to foreigners. He couldn’t defend himself, and he was unjustly accused. The Lord Jesus was also delivered by His own to the religious rulers who in turn delivered Him to the Gentiles. He was innocent.
8. Pilate did not believe the accusation which was brought against the Lord Jesus. He found Him innocent, yet he scourged Him. And Joseph had to suffer although Potiphar probably knew that he was innocent. Potiphar had to keep up a front before Pharaoh as Pilate had to keep up a front before Caesar.
9. Joseph was mocked by his brothers. When they saw him coming, they said, “Behold, this dreamer comes.” The Lord Jesus was mocked. When He was on the Cross, they said, “If He be the Christ, let Him come down now from the cross.”
10. Joseph’s coat dripping with blood was returned to his father. They took the coat of the Lord Jesus and gambled for it.
11. Joseph was numbered with the transgressors. He was a blessing to the butler, and he was judgment for the baker. The Lord Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One thief was judged and the other thief was blessed.
12. Joseph was put into the pit which was meant to be a place of death for him. The Lord Jesus was crucified.
13. Joseph was raised up out of that pit. The Lord Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day.
14. The brothers refused to receive Joseph, and the brethren of the Lord Jesus, the Jews, refused to receive Him. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”
15. Joseph became the savior of the world during this period, in the physical sense — he saved them from starvation. The Lord Jesus Christ in every sense is the Savior of the whole world.
16. Joseph was the one who had the bread! Jesus is the bread of life!!!
17. Joseph found favor in the sight of the jailer. And in the case of Jesus, the Roman centurion said of Him, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
So Joseph became the Saviour for Egypt and all the surrounding regions, as many years before the birth of Christ as we are living after it. And the story reminds us that we serve a God who cares about ALL people – not just about his chosen people, his special people, but ALL people! Everything that happened to Joseph was not just for HIS benefit, nor even to fulfil God’s promises to the Patriarchs Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and his descendents forever.
Gen 50:20 (Joseph to his brothers) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
It was all for God’s glory – TO SAVE MANY LIVES So we are also humbled when we remember that God is the God of the nations, the great God who is not just Lord of those who acknowledge Him as Lord, but King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Lord of all!!!
THIS is the God whom we serve – the God who is not just concerned to bless US, to make OUR lives comfortable, but who IS concerned with floods and earthquakes and famines and tsunamis. The God who cares as much about those dying from AIDS and malaria and a lack of drinking water as He cares about you and me. The God who is concerned about peace in the Middle East and Syria and Iraq and Ukraine and who loves every refugee and every child and every orphan in all these places JUST AS MUCH, JUST AS MUCH, as he loves US and OUR own children. The story of Joseph stirs us to cry out in prayer for the great needs of this rebellious world today to our God who is King and Kings and Lord of Lords!!
The story of Joseph is NOT about the ways God will bless us if we trust in Him. Instead, “the story of Joseph is the story of how God used one of his servants to save the nation of Egypt and the whole surrounding region from death and disaster when the seven years of famine struck.” And the story of Joseph also points forward to God’s gift of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who is an even more wonderful Saviour to us than Joseph was for Egypt.