Remembered and Rewarded!

This series of devotions from the life of Joseph is featured in our Expressions of Hope newsletter. You can subscribe here, or view the full devotional series here

Joseph’s troubles have been many: hours in the dry cistern, a weeks-long trek from Canaan to Egypt, time on an auction block waiting to be sold to Potiphar, two years in prison —forgotten by the cup bearer. During all that waiting, Joseph could have grown bitter, cynical or angry—yet he didn’t.  We, too, dream of restoration of normal—how long will that take? Joseph’s years of waiting make our current months of waiting pale by comparison.

 In our lives—not just during the Age of Coronavirus—preparation and testing are the norm. God may rescue sooner rather than later; he may delay but never abandon. God is always faithful. While we’re waiting, God is working.

Behind the scenes, God was preparing Joseph for a new ministry. Ironically, that new ministry came when he was asked to interpret yet another dream or two—this time, two troubling, indecipherable dreams given to Pharaoh. No magician or wise man could interpret the two dreams for Pharaoh. But then the cupbearer to Pharaoh finally remembered someone who could. Joseph was fetched from prison. He humbly admitted he couldn’t interpret the dreams, either—only God could (40:8; 41:8–16).

When God revealed the one true meaning of the two troubling dreams, Pharaoh acted to resolve what had been revealed. He promoted Joseph from prison to palace, second only to the Pharaoh himself. Hence Joseph designed and implemented a food storage plan—tithing 20 percent during seven years of abundance. This plan saved enough food for distribution during the seven years of famine that followed, thus saving the Egyptian empire from total economic collapse (41:33–40).

Joseph’s God-given qualities—his wisdom, discernment, and moral integrity—are remembered and rewarded. Praise God!

We see at least two lessons in this.

 First, we do well to trust God and avoid panic. As we wait for the global pandemic to lift and the economy to fully reopen—or as we wait through any extended period of isolation—we cling to the God who never forgets his people. God uses waiting to work in us, to shape us and toughen us for future assignment.

Second, in getting promoted, let us give credit where credit is due—thank God and avoid pride. Thank him not only when you prosper, but also while in that dungeon of life—because God is with you even there. When restrictions block you, glorify God for what he will yet do. Know that God is preparing you, leading you, and working out all things for ultimate good.

In Joseph’s case, he not only gets the opportunity of a lifetime, but also a new name, wife, and a new family in Egypt. Despite his newly acquired power and prestige, Joseph remains humble and serves a Higher Power. We know this by how he names his sons, using a play on words. Their Hebrew names reveal Joseph’s continued hope and trust in the Lord. One son’s name, Manasseh, means “God Made Me Forget” … the trials endured at the hands of his brothers. Another son’s name, Ephraim, reminds Joseph that “God Made Me Fruitful” … in this land of enslavement and suffering.

Ancient names held meaning and revealed character. Renaming was equally significant: Abram became Abraham, Jacob became Israel, Simon became Peter, and Saul became Paul. Joseph’s new name, Zaphenath-Paneah, conveyed “the God speaks and he lives” (literal translation). You might think faith best befits a man on the way down, with nowhere to look but up. But Joseph teaches us that faith also befits one at the top. Setbacks in life prepare for future ministry—for Joseph and us.

Given what you’ve been through, for what new role could God be preparing you? For what are you now waiting on the Lord? Whatever it is, may you rest in the Lord and abide there.

Dietrich Gruen

Dietrich Gruen writes staff spotlights and devotions for JAARS. He currently lives in Madison, WI, where he is a free-lance writer and benevolence fund coordinator for a church serving those displaced and impoverished by COVID-19.