When we previously wrote of Joseph it was pointed out that with infinite precision and total exactness Jehovah God ordered (Absolutely Predestinated) all of those seeming incidental incidents, and brought them together to fulfill His deep, yet Holy design. And what a wondrous design it was, that He would deliver His people first down to Egypt, then centuries later mightily rescue them from Egypt, and Pharaoh's bondage, to make of them a great and populous nation for Himself. As we concluded our last article we observed Joseph as he was being sold by his brethren into the hand of the Ishmeelites to be taken to Egypt for what, they knew not. And their attitude toward him was what? We find in Genesis 37:27 this expression, "And his brethren were content." How despicable an attitude, and yet how revealing. They were content with their gain, and they were content with being rid of Joseph. But, little did they know their contentment would be short lived, and that their vile actions would bring such grief and sorrow to others, and to themselves as well.
Consider the lamentable condition of Jacob in all of this family turmoil. "His sons and daughters rose up to comfort him." (Verse 35) But he refused comfort. And he said thus, "For I will go down into the grave unto my son mourning. Thus his father wept for him." Gen. 37:35. How sad it is to see the grief that so often others bring to the innocent. Jacob knew concealed the horrible deed as best they could lest the wrath of their father come upon them. All the while, they were content. What a great contrast this is to the expression of the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 6:6, "But godliness with contentment is great gain." The spiritual eye sees great gain in Godliness, and they are made content with their wickedness. And so will it ever be with us too, unless or until God is pleased to intervene, opening our eyes to see what wretched creatures we are when left to follow the dictates of the flesh. While Jacob weeps, and his self-starving sons are contented, the Midianites take poor Joseph to Egypt and there they sell him to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh's, the captain of his guard.
The family ties, such as they were, had been rent. Joseph was no longer at home with his father and his beloved surroundings. He was now in an alien and strange land, and all alone; or so it seemed. It can be seen in this again, a portion of the beautiful type, that as Joseph left his happy climes to eventually deliver his brethren, so Jesus, our Joseph, left the glorious realms of Heaven and His Father's presence, to lay aside all His royal glory that He might dwell awhile in this Egypt world to save His people from their sins. "And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which ad brought him down thither." (Genesis 39:1) Look at the first expression, "Joseph was brought down", and such a downward spiral it was; from everything he was comfortable and happy with, to adversity, trial, temptation, discomfort, and grief. All of this because of his brethren's sin; or again, as we have before pointed out, so it seemed. Joseph was brought down, but not nearly to the extent out dear Redeemer Jesus was brought down when He was made lowly, born in a manger, and walked the shores of Galilee and the deserts of Judaea for His lifetime, that HE might fulfill the law, die on the cross, go to the tomb, then come forth victorious for our deliverance.
Let us look, however, at another interesting point in Genesis 39. Joseph, though despised by his brethren, and bereaved of his family ties, clearly had the full sanction of God His Father in heaven, despite what men, devils or friends might have proposed. All the while that he was in this terrible temptation and trial he was a man of great calmness, serenity and composure. This was nothing more or less than the presence of his God with him. Everything he turned his hand to prospered, as we note in the following. "And the Lord was with Joseph and he was a prosperous man." (Vs. 2) "And Joseph found grace in his sight". (Vs. 4) "that the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake." (Vs. 5) "And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured." (Vs. 6) "But the Lord was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison." (Vs. 21) "and that which he did, the Lord made it to prosper." (Vs. 23) There can be no question; in all of his dealings and doings, day in and day out, the hand of God was upon him for good, and not evil. God superintended his every affair (as well as all others too). He preserved him, kept him, prospered him, and attended to all that was necessary that Joseph might become the great rich type of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. We have no apology to make in saying that our God rules all events, even to the lighting of a gnat on a camel's nose in a sand storm. The history of Joseph makes this conclusion inescapable to any honest soul, and we doubt not that even the unblushing conditionalist feels somewhat taken back by this account.
Somber as it is, we dare not fail to mention that despite the great blessings of God, and His favor at any and all times, this will not prevent temptations befalling us. Despite the many benefits of God's favor and presence with Joseph, we find that at a certain time, (God's appointed time) he was very sorely tried, as the scriptures record; "And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me." (Gen. 39:7) It should be recognizable that no temptation could have been more severe to a young lad in the circumstances that Joseph was in than this lure of adultery. He had been favored to occupy a position in Potiphar's house second only to the master himself. Everything had been placed in his hands. Nothing was denied him. He, no doubts, had normal passions like any man would, and especially at this juncture in his life. Then suddenly as strong a temptation as could be imagined beset him. This passionate and shamelessly unfaithful woman says, "Lie with me." And how did Joseph, as the type of Christ act in this alluring confrontation? "But he refused." (Vs. 8) How blessed then to see that in an instant, yes, at once he hesitated not to refuse the vile offer of seduction. He swiftly declined, and a great and profitable lesson this is for us.
Does it not in a great sense remind us that our dear Redeemer at a most important juncture in His life also was beset with the most extreme temptation that could possibly be imagined (though of a different nature) and, if possible, even far more severe than that which Joseph endured. The time was just after His baptism when the full sanction from Heaven by His Father was announced; the Spirit coming down in the form of a dove descending on Him. Then Satan pitched upon Him furiously there in the wilderness after the forty days of fasting, offering all sorts of inducements if He would fall down and worship him. How blessed though to see that our Saviour was as swift to refuse as was Joseph many centuries earlier. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15)
So Joseph is once again beset with a trial originating out of the sinful minds of others. First his brethren, and now his master's wife. "And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her." Gen. 39:10 Notice how Joseph avoided the protracted temptation as best he could. And so it is for our well being, as we have been admonished; "Abstain from every appearance of evil." It is not enough to simply say no. It is wise that God's children at all cost flee from every sort of allurement, irrespective of how trifling it might seem. Thus did Joseph. But in the process of time, as the story goes on, she snatched his garment from all him as he fled her. She then lied about him to her husband and falsified her report, putting the blame on poor Joseph rather than herself. Joseph's enraged master then took him away, putting him in the prison.
And so once again, Joseph is at a low point in his journey; facing a life of exile for a crime he didn't commit. How consistent however, with the great doctrine of God's preserving His people to see, as is recorded in the 21st verse, "But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison." And do what they will, our enemies cannot make void the purpose and plan of God to bless and keep His people, anymore than they could in Joseph's circumstances. Even though it may foster the question, "Why did not God keep this from happening?" we can only say, as our dear Lord said, "Even so Father, for it seemed good in thy sight." How blessed it is to acquiesce to His will, and bow submissive to every incident and be still and know that He is God.
God's kind providence again brings Joseph to a new circumstance. He was sold from his home by his brothers, carried to Egypt, tempted by a seductive woman who seeks vicious revenge on him, and then he is cast into prison. Yet still the blessings of God are at once again seen to be manifestly upon him. The Lord was with him as before. All that he did the Lord made to prosper. Now the kind and gracious providence of God brings Joseph and Pharaoh's baker and butler together. "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. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound." Gen. 40:1-3 How lovely to see that the hand of the Lord brings Joseph and the two officers of the king's court together at this appointed time. Joseph must go to prison that he there might come into contact with the butler and the baker. There the further purpose of God would be worked out in their dreams and Joseph's interpretation of them. Joseph's ultimate elevation under Pharaoh is the result of this series of events.
And so the three of them, Joseph, the butler, and the baker were there together in the dungeon. While God's providence secretly brought them together, none of the three had even the least knowledge of what was taking place. No doubt the butler and the baker sorely lamented their terrible circumstances; their fall from grace, or the King's favor, so to speak. But there humble Joseph is, awaiting with only hope in His God, the moment when the need would arise for the blessing which God had conferred upon him. And so it was that "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." (Gen. 40:5) It was no accident that they dreamed, or that both of them dreamed "each man his dream in one night". It was no accident that they dreamed "according to the interpretation of his dream"; for they could have dreamed nothing else, or at any other time. They did not have a dream and an interpretation was attached to it, but they dreamed according to the interpretation that God had already assigned to the dream. "And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad." (Vs. 6) No doubt but they felt they had room to be sad. They had once enjoyed the presence of Pharaoh, and now they were in the lowest dungeon. They had each just had a dream which disturbed and troubled them exceedingly. They had no notion of what these things meant. And as they expressed to Joseph in verse 8 "and there is no interpreter of it." But how blessed to hear the words of Joseph, "And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you." (Vs. 8) We would pause here for just a moment to advise our brethren that we would all do well to heed these words of Joseph. "INTERPRETATIONS BELONG TO GOD." It is greatly worthy of our consideration to observe that neither here, nor anywhere else in the Bible did those who had a dream attempt to interpret it themselves, but in every instance someone else rendered the interpretation for them. Interpretations do not belong to the dreamer of dreams, but to Him who gives them; which is God. May we ever be guided and advised by such scriptural import as this, for it will save us many sorrows and confusion in time to come. So they each, without delay, told Joseph their dream. The one who dreamed of the cup; the other who dreamed of the baskets. We will not here occupy the space and time to give the full context of the two dreams, but rather say that for the chief butler, his dream and its interpretation was "a savour of life unto life." And so it was that after Joseph had interpreted his dream for him, he asked the favor "But think on me when it shall be well with thee and shew kindness". (Vs. 14) How blessed to see that this Joseph, who was a servant to prisoners, and was soon to be above them desired that when it would be well with them that they would think upon him. (And conversely, in this connection compare how that when our Saviour hung upon the tree of the cross the thief asked of Him to be remembered.) We realize that man cannot, for all his striving and boasting, do for others beyond what God has intended, and so however much the butler might have desired to think well for Joseph, he did not. But on the other hand, as previously alluded to, the dying Lord did indeed remember the thief when such a desire was asked of Him. The butler forgot Joseph, but Christ remembered His petitioner. With the other, the baker, his dream and the interpretation of it was "a savour of death unto death." And so it was that as Joseph interpreted the dreams, shortly the chief butler on the third day was elevated by Pharaoh, and he was lifted up to his previous position and he was restored again. But for the baker, he was hanged, according to Joseph's interpretation of the dream.
We must mention in this connection that it was Pharaoh's birthday when he made this feast; and that he lifted up the head of the chief butler for good, and the chief baker for death. In all of the Bible only two places do we read of a birthday celebration; Pharaoh here in this text, and King Herod in the New Testament! Startling it is to see that on both occasions someone was arbitrarily murdered; the baker by Pharaoh, and John the Baptist by Herod. This certainly does not speak well for birthday celebrations, does it? But in concluding this piece, notice the last verse of the chapter (Vs. 23) "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him." It would not have done him any good to have tried to remember him, for Divine providence would have prevented such until the appointed moment. As in all else, God was in the matter. Joseph remains behind; the baker has been hung on the tree; the butler has been restored to his position, now only God's good time intervenes between the dreams and the deliverance of Joseph.
(To be continued, the Lord willing.)
Volume 4, No. 3