Joseph is an Old Testament example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Jesus' life, his life is an illustration to us that it is possible not to give up hope during the worst and darkest of times.
Fourteen chapters of Genesis (37-50) are used to give Joseph's life story, which spans more chapters and more detail than most of the heroes of the Old Testament. But there is one aspect of Joseph's life that stands out more than any other - Joseph was a dreamer. His dreams came from God and were big. It took many years for one of them to come to pass, but Joseph did not take his eyes off of it. He hung onto the promise of God, knowing "...that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it..." (Philippians 1:6).
One of Joseph's faults, however, was that he told his dreams to everyone in his family, not only causing them to be jealous and resentful toward him, but actually doing him harm. Joseph was especially disliked by his brothers because of his dreams. They called him "the dreamer" (Genesis 37:19).
Joseph's Brothers and Potiphar's Wife
Joseph's first dream was that his brothers bowed down to him like sheaves of corn bowing over in the wind. This came true when Joseph's father, Jacob, made him the head over all of his brothers. Because the brothers had not been diligently watching over the sheep, and Joseph was a faithful son in his duties, Jacob made Joseph the manager over all the flocks, and the brothers were to answer to him. As a sign of his new position and authority, Jacob gave Joseph a coat of many colors. Now the brothers not only hated Joseph, but the coat he wore, because when they saw the coat from many miles away, they had to get to work, or Joseph would report them to their father.
Joseph had a second dream in which he saw his whole family bow down to him. He saw the stars, sun, and moon encircling him and paying homage to him. This dream not only enraged his brothers, but his father also. We're going to see that his dream took many years to come to pass, after many trials and problems. But Joseph did not give up hope, and God's power caused the dream to come true.
One day, as Joseph was coming to check on the brothers in the field, they plotted to kill him. They saw no alternative to their problem. Unless Joseph was killed, they would be under his authority for many years to come. Their idea was to throw Joseph into a pit without food or water and let him die in the wilderness.
When one of the brothers objected, they found themselves in a dilemma. They had already taken Joseph's coat and thrown him into the pit. But while they ate lunch at the top of the pit, listening to Joseph cry out to them for help, a band of Midianites came by on their way to Egypt. The brothers saw the answer to their problem and sold Joseph into slavery. What could be better than this? "Out of sight, out of mind," they thought.
They took Joseph's coat and dipped it in goat's blood, and then they convinced their father that Joseph had been killed by an wild animal. For many years afterward, Jacob grieved for Joseph, and he never fully recovered from the thought that Joseph was dead.
In the meantime, Joseph was sold by the Midianites to a high ranking Egyptian military official named Potiphar. Potiphar quickly saw in Joseph what Jacob had seen in him - his diligence, trustworthiness, and ability to administrate - and made him head over all of his estate. Here, too, Joseph was given a coat that reflected his position and authority, and he was freely allowed to run the estate, even in Potiphar's absence.
Unfortunately, Potiphar's wife saw in Joseph not only an able administrator, but a handsome man. In her husband's absence, she lusted for Joseph, and Joseph had to resist her advances on many occasions. One day, however she cornered him in the house, grabbed him by his coat, and demanded that he take her to bed. Joseph not only refused, but ran from the house, leaving his coat in her hands. Using the coat as evidence, she claimed that Joseph had come to rape her, and Joseph was thrown into prison by Potipahar, who believed his wife instead of Joseph. (It seems that Joseph and coats did not get along!)
In whatever situation he was placed, however, Joseph's faithfulness caused him to rise to the top, even in prison. The prison master quickly recognized what Potiphar and Jacob had both seen, that Joseph was a man to be trusted, and he was given oversight of the whole prison. Although his circumstances seemed to be going downhill and he was repeatedly mistreated and misunderstood, instead of getting mad or taking revenge on those who wronged him, he put the care and burden of his situation on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). Whether it was in his own house, in slavery, or in prison, Joseph continued to find favor with those in authority and end up in leadership positions.
Although it may have seemed as if things could not get worse than being in prison, they did. Potiphar came to the prison one day, found Joseph running the place and commanded that he be put into the lower ward, the dungeon. At this point, Joseph was probably crying out, "What has happened to the dream? Has God let me down? Every time I try to serve God, men wrongfully accuse me and sentence me without trial!"
He was now in the place with the worst murderers and criminals of Egypt, but Joseph also found himself with two men who used to work for Potiphar, the baker and the butler (wine taster). There had been a conspiracy against Pharaoh, and these two men had been thrown into the dungeon for treason. One was guilty and one was innocent.
One night, both men had the same dream and asked Joseph to interpret it. Being a man of dreams himself, Joseph received the interpretation from the Lord: the two men would be released based on new findings in the case: one man would be hanged, and the other would regain his position with Pharoah.
The Lord had also revealed to Joseph that the butler was the innocent man, so he asked the butler to remember him before the king when he was released. Just after the two men were set free from prison, Joseph's interpretation came to pass, but the butler, who was restored to his old position, forgot his promise. Joseph was left for two more years in the dungeon, but he continued to keep his eyes on the Lord and remembered his dream.
The interpretation Joseph received from the Lord foresaw fourteen upcoming years into Egypt's future, seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. Joseph's wisdom impressed the king so much that he made Joseph his prime minister to oversee a massive agriculture program to stockpile grain for seven years in order to endure the seven years of famine to come. Joseph was given a beautiful Egyptian wife and another coat. This time the coat remained, and Joseph ruled as the second in command for many years.
God Has a Plan for Your Life
But what about the dream that spoke of his entire family bowing before him? During the seven years of famine, the land of Canaan also came under the effects of drought, and Jacob had to send his own sons down to Egypt to buy grain. Little did the sons realize when they came into the king's court to purchase food that they were unknowingly facing their brother, whom they had sold into slavery over twenty years before. By now they presumed him to be dead.
When Joseph realized that his brothers were present, he craftily managed to bring the whole family into his court, including his father and a new brother, Benjamin. It was at this meeting that Joseph revealed himself to an astonished and frightened family. He quickly reassured his brothers that he was not out for vengeance. They had intended their actions for evil, but God turned each situation around for good. Joseph's attitude and faith in God's promises had kept him afloat through every trial and circumstance, and at the end of the meeting, Joseph's family came and bowed themselves down to him. His final dream had come true.
Many of you have a call on your life and a God-given dream in your heart, and you feel as if you have messed up the plan of God. You may feel that He is through with your life. I have a good test for you to see if God is through with you: put your hand over your heart, and if it is still beating, God is not through with your life! Until you die, however, the plans, dreams, and hopes God gave to you many years ago are still intact.
The Word of God also tells us that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29). Although you may have sinned many times since the dream died in your heart, and you have tried, as Abram did, to help God's plan for your life, God's will and calling for your life can still come to pass. You are not too old, nor has too much water gone under the bridge, because the same Holy Spirit which energized Moses at eighty and Caleb and Joshua at eighty-five can still revive you! If God could raise Jesus from the dead, your life and calling are a piece of cake!