GENESIS 40:1 – 42:38 and MATTHEW 11:1–30
Even though Joseph is in prison we see that favour has been bestowed upon him. (Gen 39:23) It’s clear that it was God’s will for him to be there. We are alerted to two of Pharaoh’s officers, a butler and a baker. In verse 5 we see God intervening on Joseph’s behalf by giving these two men dreams of significance. These dreams had a great impact upon the butler and baker seeing that they were both very sad and troubled. (vs 7) Both the butler and baker share their respective dreams which gives Joseph the opportunity to interpret them. (vs 8-19).
Here are some points to consider: Both dreams have the number 3 as a dominant number. Within 3 days both the butler and baker would be lifted up from the prison, one unto life and the other unto death. We have mentioned earlier that Joseph can be seen a type of Christ. Not trying to over-spiritualize but it is interesting to note a portrayal of what would happen to Christ at the Cross. The baker could represent a picture of Christ’s death. After 3 days Christ would come out of the grave (prison) onto life which is seen in the example of the butler.
Another interesting point of note is Joseph’s comment to the butler after interpreting his dream. He said remember me when you are restored. Joseph also mentions here that he was stolen as a Hebrew and has been put in prison for doing nothing wrong. (vs 14-15) This is the only time we see a hint of his frustration in seeing what he must have been going through. Perhaps it could be justified when we remember that the Lord Himself expressed a bit of humanity when he cried out My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mark 15:34) It is hard to understand how the butler could forget Joseph after such a deliverance from prison.
The Bible is silent on how Joseph must have felt nonetheless it’s clear that God’s timing was at work here. He was preparing Joseph for a day, a time when the world would need a man who would have the answers, a man who would be able to save lives by his wisdom and administration. In the fullness of time, God was preparing Joseph for such a day. In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son to be the saviour of mankind. (Gal 4:4) What about our day? What is the church of the last days being prepared for; a quick hasty exit via the rapture? Scripture, as seen from Genesis onwards would not be consistent if this were the case.
I feel the church of the last days has an even greater responsibility. The church is called to be the head and not the tail, (Deu 28:13) especially in this hour. Joseph provides many insights and keys as to the qualities that are needed. Could we accept and reconcile a prison type experience if we had to endure one? What about the Apostle Paul? The Word of the Lord tried and tested Paul while he was in a Roman prison. What was his perspective of his ordeals? He saw his tribulations as being beneficial due to the fruit of patience that was being developed. (Rom 5:3) He also said that though he was in chains, the Word of God was not bound. (2 Tim 2:9) I think this is true seeing that we are beneficiaries of his prison writings. The Bible also says that the Word of the Lord tried and tested Joseph while he was in prison. (Psa 105:19) Those many years in a prison for something he did not do must have weighed heavily upon him. Then he was forgotten by the butler which only added to his woes. Still, he came out of prison in a day (fullness of time) and was brought to the throne in authority. What about us? It’s not enough to know the account of Joseph there must be a desire and ability in being like him.
In verses 1-7 we have the account of Pharaoh’s dream. The number 7 is very dominant in his dreams which to me has significance. The number 7 denotes completeness. There are the 7 days of creation as we saw earlier in Genesis. There are a series of the number 7 as seen in Daniel. (In the dream he interpreted (Dan 2) and in the vision of the 70 weeks (Dan 9:24-27) Remember Peter asking the question to the Lord as to how many times we are to forgive? (Math 18:22) Jesus answered 70 times 7 which can be linked to Daniel but that is a whole other commentary. There are the seven churches in Revelation. The 3 sets of (7) judgements in Revelation, the 7 Beatitudes of Revelation (7 times when the Jesus pronounces the word Blessed) and on and on it goes. I say all of this to make the point that this dream that Pharaoh had is significant both for his day and a as a picture of what is to come. In looking at verse 8 we see strong similarities to Daniel. In Daniel 2 the king (Nebuchadnezzar) had a troubling dream. No man was able to tell or interpret the dream. But there was a man who stood out from all the others.
Dan 2:10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.
God allowed for a circumstance that was beyond the means of any mortal man. The reason was due to the significance of the hour and for the message that God desired to bring forth. Daniel and his three friends committed themselves to not dishonour God nor defile their privileged position. (Dan 1:8) In Joseph’s day many were defiled by the worldly enticements of Canaan. One man (Joseph) was different. He was favoured and exceptional in every way. Joseph was a man who paid a heavy price. His being in prison was in effect for the benefit of Pharaoh and all of Egypt and beyond. Daniel was a man, who like Joseph found great favour in a foreign arena. The dream that God gave Nebuchadnezzar which was interpreted by Daniel had significance for their day as well as for the last days. Joseph’s experience here is very much similar. Joseph for a season was seemingly forgotten, suffering in obscurity in a prison for no wrongdoing of his own. The next moment he is before the king in a position of being asked to interpret a most disturbing dream that came to Pharaoh. God earlier was able to use Joseph to interpret the dream of both the baker and butler which helped encourage him that God would come through. It was also through his interpretation of the butler’s dream that he now was standing before the king of the known world. (vs 9-13) Only God could arrange such circumstances. Joseph and Daniel are key characters to observe for our days. In verses 14-24 Pharaoh rehearses the dream to Joseph. Then in verses 25-32 Joseph interprets the dream. A notable point is found in verse 31.
Gen 41:31 And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.
This verse struck me as I consider life as we see it today. We are in a season where everything seems to be flourishing. There is an abundance of food. We can flick on a switch and we have instant power. We can communicate in an instant to any part of the world. There is the sense that all of this can go on indefinitely yet there are warning signs all around. The economies of the world are on a knife’s edge. Major world wars are increasingly imminent consisting of nations having nuclear and biological weapons. Lawlessness is abounding everywhere with lessening moral constraints. Life as we know it can literally change in a day. Will we be prepared for it? What if a rogue nation decided to detonate a nuclear device over the atmosphere resulting in the meltdown of electrical power grids? This is no fantasy, it is real and that capacity exists. If the power grids go down via EMP explosions (Electro Magnetic Pulse) a nation could be without power for months or even years. Think of the consequences.
This generation is desperately in need of the Joseph’s, and Daniel’s to come forth to help shepherd and administrate what is to come. We must not be deluded into thinking that we can get by just because we are Christians. The days before us will be ones of great opportunity by way of revival and harvest but it will also be filled with significant judgements upon the earth. The transition from plenty to famine in vs 30-33 would seem to catch many unawares. Thankfully, there was a Joseph who heard from God and was faithful in his areas of administration. His years of estrangement and imprisonment helped to prepare him for such a time. Do not dismiss the days of obscurity, confusion and difficulty.
In verse 38-39 Pharaoh determines that Joseph is indeed the man who can take charge of the situation. The impact of these dreams was such that Pharaoh immediately bore witness to Joseph’s interpretation. Once we again we see God’s sovereignty by way of His intervention coupled with Joseph as the man that God will use due to the choices and excellence of Spirit that he possessed.
In verses 42 -43 we see how Joseph is honoured. It is eerily reminiscent to what is seen in wicked Haman in Esther 6:6-9. God is so faithful in honouring those whose lives please Him and are in accordance to His will. Haman was man who conspired against the Jews and sought their destruction. God in his unique way turned the tables on Haman and allowed his honour to come upon Mordecai in conjunction with what Haman desired. Why was Mordecai honoured? It was for something he had done in the past which was forgotten until a certain time. He spared the kings life by informing him of two men who were seeking his life. (Est 6:1-3) Once again, it was in the night when the Lord troubled King Ahasuerus about this incident.
Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Mordecai came to the forefront of their respective kingdoms at a very unique hour. In all cases you have men and women who were prepared and faithful. At the same time you have God Sovereignly moving in the affairs of men. In verse 46 we see that Joseph was 30 when he was placed into this position. Like the Lord, Joseph had lived in obscurity for a period of years but now has come into the fullness of his ministry at the age of 30. We also see that Pharaoh gives him a name Zaphnath-paaneah which some interpret as “revealer of secrets”. He also gives him Asenath, the daughter of Poti-phera, priest of On to be his wife. Joseph, by reason of this marriage became naturalized but not for reasons of idolatry and rebellion. In many ways Joseph, like David was a man born out of time; able to partake of certain privileges that would have been unlawful to others. David was able to function as both a king and priest in his day which was unlawful before and after his reign up till the time of Christ. The balance of chapter 41 is the fulfilment of the dreams, seven months of plenty followed by seven months of famine.
The land is now under the years of famine and as a result Jacob sends 10 of his brethren to Egypt. He kept his youngest (Benjamin) with him. (Vs 1-5) In verse 6 we find the fulfilment of the first part of Joseph’s dream (37:7-8) where his brothers would be bowing down to him. It is easy to see how Joseph would be overrun with emotion as he called to mind that dream many years before. (Vs 9) We must come to the place of being able to discern the means in which God communicates with His people. We find that God often speaks in dreams as he did with Joseph and Pharaoh. He can speak and make known His will in other ways as well. The prophet Joel re-emphasizes this truth where he states the following:
Joe 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
This will be prevalent in the last days. At the same time we must be very careful because people can and do get carried away with their impressions and interpretations of visions and dreams. A good rule of thumb is to balance these experiences with the Word of God. Secondly, before making public proclamations we should run our impressions by people we trust so that it is tempered. Joseph took his dream(s) to his father. Though Jacob chided him a bit he nonetheless did not dismiss it out of hand. (37:11)
Joseph’s dream took many years to come to pass. During that time he paid a huge price. You will find that there are many today who want to function in the prophetic office. People, like Joseph, who can be an interpreter of visions and dreams. Are we willing to be cast off, to be obscure and perhaps even go to prison? If so, we may then qualify. In verses 10-20 Joseph lays out the terms for the provision of goods. He also feels to test them in certain areas knowing full well what they had done to him earlier. I do feel the Lord was guiding Joseph in how to handle this matter.
The brothers discuss this scenario amongst themselves in vs 21-22. This incident is allowing them to call to mind what they did with Joseph. In their minds, Joseph was dead and it was now that his blood is required, calling out for justice. What they did not realize was that Joseph was hearing their every word. Imagine what must have been going through the mind of Joseph as all of this is taking place. This whole process is working redemption in the lives of Joseph’s brothers. It was important for them to come to that place of understanding their sin so that there would be true repentance.
Joseph did not immediately reveal himself to them for a reason. The fact that he tested them made clear in his wanting to see if anything had changed in their conduct and character after the passing of many years. We must be able to bring forth fruits that validate true repentance. If we do not see ourselves as sinners we then have no need of a saviour. Jesus said that those who are sick need a physician. (Mar 2:17) The response and approach of Joseph’s brothers seem to indicate a remorse for what they had done years earlier. What a wonderful opportunity they are being given. They left him for dead with great indifference now he (Joseph) is literally holding their lives in the balance. As a minister and leader we must seek God’s mind in how to handle such situations. We must not minimize repentance and its true meaning. If Joseph would have revealed himself any earlier it could have short-circuited the work of restoration in the lives of his brother. At the same time it was working the means of his (Joseph’s) ability to forgive, especially when hearing the reports of his father and younger brother.
Mat 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
In verse 29-35, the sons report back to Jacob the terms that were given to them. Reuben as the eldest speaks up (vs 37) and offers to have his two sons slain if Benjamin is not given to him to take to Egypt. This is a rather strange statement from Reuben. Obviously, he never thought that his sons would ever be in any kind of danger. At the same time he was well aware of the absolute need of returning to Egypt with Benjamin. It may be that Reuben needs to be given the benefit of doubt in this instance. It was at Reuben’s insistence that Joseph was not killed outright. (37:21) In fact, he delivered him out of his brother’s hand. This by no means excuses Reuben for what he did nonetheless Joseph’s life was spared. Now he is willing to accept all risk in doing what he felt needed to be done. He knew that Jacob would be unwilling to let Benjamin go but he also discerned that he had to have Benjamin with him in Egypt. Jacob is in great turmoil now because the youngest is being required to go to Egypt. He lost his beloved wife Rachel and Joseph. Jacob was paying a heavy price during through this entire ordeal.
In verses 1-6 we have the account of Jesus answering some questions from John the Baptist via his (John’s) disciples. John was in prison at this time and was nearing death due to not condoning the marriage of Herod. (He wanted to marry his brother’s wife-Math 14:1-4) In chapter 9 of Mathew we saw the disciples of John challenging the disciples of Jesus over the issue of prayer and fasting. (Math 9:14-17) It was here where Jesus said new wine had to be placed into new wineskins. It was evident that the disciples of John were holding onto an experience. At the time of the Lord’s appearance at Jordan, John the Baptist declared that he was the Lamb who had come to take away the sins of the world. (Joh 1:29) He also recognized that his role was now to be diminished. (Joh 3:30) Still, after some time we see that there are disciples who are holding on to something that has passed. It seems now to be affecting John the Baptist Himself as he now wonders from his prison if Jesus really is the Christ?
One of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of the enemy is that of Identity Theft. We hear much about this in today’s culture. In fact, we live in a world where everything today is being redefined. Do not minimize Satan’s ability here. He even tried this on the Lord where he stated “If thou be the Son of God…” (Math 4:3). People today are allowing themselves to be defined by culture and the ways of the world. Worse still, it is happening in the church. At all times we must allow God, as the heavenly Father to give us our identity; to affirm us while giving purpose. Without it we become rudderless, falling prey to the ever changing winds that blow. John’s the Baptist’s identity here is under attack. He was the one who recognized Jesus at Jordan; he was the one that baptised Him now even he has some potential doubts. We must be ever strong in these days in ensuring that we know who we are in Christ. If the Lord could be tested in this area as well as John and others how much more do we need to be forewarned and armed. Once again it is the Word of God that must get deep within us so that we can be anchored and secure.
In verses 7-19 Jesus goes into great detail concerning the person and ministry of John the Baptist. He also makes powerful applications from the life of John. In verses 7-10 Jesus makes clear that this is the one who was prophesied throughout the OT that there would be one who would prepare the way of the Lord. (Isa 40:3, Mal 3:1) There are other accounts as well that speaks of those who will prepare the way.
Isa 62:10 Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.
This is not only speaking of the ministry of John but it is a ministry for the church of the last days as well. John is so highly spoken of by Jesus due to both the life and ministry he exemplified but also for the portrait he gives for the church. John the Baptist was not Elijah but in many ways he is very much like him. It is Elijah, along with Moses who will serve as the two witnesses in the last days. (Rev 11) Moses represents the priestly role while Elijah speaks of the prophetic and authoritative minister. John prepared the way for the Lord. The mandate for us today is that we make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luk 1:17) I feel the Lord is putting strong emphasis on John because of who he was and what he represents.
In verses 20-24 we see that the Lord had moved in great signs and wonders in places like Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum yet there was no repentance. How desperate we are in needing to see the miraculous in our churches and cites. Still, we must be reminded that miracles alone are not enough. In spite of the great demonstration of the power of God through Christ many rejected the message. Signs, wonders, and miracles are by-products of the gospel message, not the primary focus; it is Christ alone who must be our ultimate pursuit. Remember, faith and miracles flow out of a heart of agape love. (Philemon 1:5) In verses 25-27 there is a brief time of communion between Father and Son. This level of intimacy should be an objective in our own lives and it is achievable.
Joh 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Finally, in verses 28-30 Jesus addresses the subject of Rest. In today’s environment people are rushing to and fro at an alarming pace. This is a characteristic of Satan himself. He is restless and has no peace. (Isa 57:21, Job 1:7) This is the product of today’s world system and we must not allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by it. The Rest of God is very real. Why is it today that people are having more demands and expectations placed upon them? This is especially true for many who are in the kingdom. No wonder why God says that the youth would grow weary and young men fail. (Isa 40:30) Why is this so? Perhaps a key in understanding this truth can be understood by looking at some verses in Hebrews:
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Heb 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
There is a labouring to come into that place of Rest. I feel God allows certain events to come into our lives that go beyond natural means in being able to accomplish them. This touches our strength and stronghold of self-reliance. In order for God to accomplish all that is on His heart we must know this place of Rest. We must have an ability to acknowledge our limitations to him so that He can take over at those pivotal times in our lives. This is what Elijah faced as he was fleeing from Jezebel. He was coming off a fresh and powerful victory upon Mt. Carmel but soon thereafter was the end of himself. God brought him to a place of Rest. May God present us our version of “angel’s food” that will help us to pick up and carry on for His glory. There is a rest for our souls.