In faithfulness to his calling Joseph gathered the surplus food in Egypt for seven years, and built up a huge store of food for the seven years of famine that were coming. Most likely he bought the food from the farmers, and it was not commandeered by the government. And I say that he did this in faithfulness because once again in servitude he does his calling in the fear of God’s name. In Potiphar’s house he was faithful, even though Potiphar thought otherwise of him. In prison his faithfulness was noticed and commended. Now he is found to be faithful in the office which the king gave him. It was not an office which he sought. He did not after striving, and working himself up, attain to this lofty position in the Egyptian kingdom. It was God’s providence and the king’s appointment that made him next to the king in the land of Egypt.
To that faithfulness belongs also the fact that he did not once try to escape and to get back to his father’s house. In Potiphar’s house there were long periods when his master was gone, and the opportunity certainly presented itself for this slave to become a free man by returning to Canaan. He made no attempt to break out of jail, even though many liberties were given him. His only attempt was that of the legal way of the king reviewing his case. And even then, it would be to return to Potiphar’s house as his slave, or to be sold by him to another man in Egypt. As an exalted ruler in Egypt whose work required of him that he travel from one end of Egypt to another, and furnished him with horse and chariot, and placed huge sums of money at his command, he still did not make a break for liberty. He never used the freedom in Egypt to help him get out of Egypt.
Why? Was he fearful of being caught? Did he have a timid nature that made him so look up against all the dangers of flight, and of hiding from pursuers, that he just could not make the step? Was he— so in contrast to Moses—attracted by Egypt’s wealth and culture? Did he delight so much in the pleasures of Egypt that he forgot the promises of God and the land of promise? It is true, as he said, that “God hath made me forget all my toil and my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51), after Asenath, the daughter of the Priest of On, who was in the service of Ra, the Egyptian sun god, presented him with a son. His lonesomeness vanished both by the acquiring of a family and the press of the work he was called to do. The sharp edge of the cruelty of his brothers, of Potiphar, and the forgetful butler was gone. The memory of the joys at home also faded as years went by and new and exciting experiences were his in this strange land. Yet all this does not explain his failure to attempt an escape.
From God he received the grace of contentment with his lot. Long before the Apostle Paul was on the scene and could write, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11), Joseph had also received that same grace. From God also he received grace to be obedient to those in authority over him. He would, by God’s grace, be obedient to God, and therefore he obeyed Potiphar without complaint, and even as though all these goods were his own. Therefore also he was—though unjustly in prison—subject to the rules and regulations and sought the good of the prison. And now as well, Joseph recognizes the hand of God and an appointment by God to be servant to Pharaoh and Egypt, and he serves to the best of his ability. Today men take little or no pride in their work. They work only for that pay check at the end of the week. And the workmanship on their products is often a shame and a disgrace. But Joseph sought Egypt’s good as though he was seeking his own good, because he saw it all as God’s domain and his own calling to be faithful to God in His creation.
He may have seen his position as one in which he could help his father’s house, for the famine would also be in that land, but behind it all, and basic to it all, is his faith in God and desire to be pleasing in His sight. And we do well to remember Joseph and to emulate him. Our working conditions may not be ideal, and the owner may not care about our life and health. The pay may not be what others get in other places of employment, and for the same or similar work. But look a bit higher. Look to Him Whose servants we all are. And ask not, “What am I worth? Am I being treated fairly?” Instead ask those words of the Apostle Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” and “What does God demand of me?” The unbeliever cannot do that and must go on strike, which causes the cost of living to go up another notch and makes another future strike inevitable, and is equally a failure in the attempt to get ahead of the unbelieving and unmerciful master. But the believer is interested in what God has to say in His Word. He does not try to live by bread alone—and no man ever will live by bread alone—but also by the words that proceed from God’s mouth and exhort him to leave all vengeance and recompense unto God, and, if he must, seek employment elsewhere; but always being “subject unto the higher authorities, for there is no authority but of God, the authorities that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the authority, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (Romans 13:1-2).
Now it is not at all impossible that Joseph expected, or saw the great possibility that his brothers would also come to Egypt for food. We read in Genesis 41:56, 57, “and the famine was over all the face of the earth; and Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because the famine was so sore in all the lands.” And Canaan, remember, bordered on Egypt. They were separated by the River of Egypt, which is not to be confused with The river of Egypt, namely, the Nile.
But before we run ahead, let us consider the reason for that famine. For surely God has a purpose in whatever He does. We are so aimless, and we do so much thoughtlessly, but the All-wise God does nothing without an immediate reason and without an all-controlling reason. The immediate reason for that famine was to get Jacob and his family out of the promised land and into Egypt. The all-controlling reason behind this famine is that which moves God in all His works: the glory of His own name. The move of Jacob and his family into Egypt will serve that purpose of God’s glorification. And the famine will bring Jacob and his family—or let us be a bit more specific, the Church—into Egypt, where He will show forth His glory and get Himself honour and glory both upon the enemy, and in His Church.
Every detail in that coming of Jacob and his sons into Egypt must not be spiritualized. Egypt is going to be a picture of Satan’s power over us in that as hopeless as it became for the Israelites to get out from under the bondage of Pharaoh, so we are in the house of the bondage of sin. But Jacob’s journey into Egypt is not a picture of how we got into that bondage of Satan. For one thing Adam and Eve did not get us into the kingdom of Satan because of a scarcity of food. They had the abundance and wealth of paradise. What is more, God warned Adam against getting himself in the service of sin, while here He encourages Jacob to go and assures him that he will be brought up out of that bondage.
But the broad lines are there. God, in order to glorify His own name, will bring His Church into Egypt and under cruel, inescapable servitude to teach His people their hopeless situation as sold under sin and in the bondage of the devil-And then He will bring them out with a high hand, and reveal to them what He in His grace does for His Church. What is more, He will, while they are in that bondage, show them His blessing as they grow to be a tremendously large nation, so great that another Pharaoh becomes fearful of them, seeing the possibility that they take over his entire land. And this is a truth for us to consider today. We are rapidly approaching those days when Egypt’s bondage and cruelty will be over-shadowed by the cruelty and impossible living conditions in the day of the Antichrist. And although we cannot expect, and must not expect God to bless His Church with earthly, material wealth and treasures, He will as surely bless His Church in those days as He did Israel in that day. He will no more forget His Church in that day than He did for one moment in Egypt. And deliverance will come; and plagues shall fall on that world of iniquity.
But to return to the narrative, how often is it not that what is not said is as important, or even more important, than what is said? We read in Genesis 42:6-9that Joseph knew his brothers when they came and, as the eleven stars of his dream, made obeisance to him, and that he remembered the dreams which he dreamed of them. The brothers remembered neither that dream, nor at the moment the cruelty that they had inflicted on this brother, who stood before them but was unrecognized by them. Nothing actually was farther from their thoughts. And after all they did not know whether the Ishmaelites had sold Joseph into Egypt or somewhere else, and if sold into Egypt whether he was not sold later on and to some remote corner of Egypt.
But although we read that Joseph remembered the dreams, we do not read-and that is significant- that he remembered their cruel treatment of him. He did, no doubt about that. But it is not mentioned, because he was not ruled at the moment by that memory. And his “rough” speech to them must not be understood as the result of a fit of anger at the thought of their great wickedness to him, Emphasis is laid upon the fact that he remembered the dreams which God gave him. He remembered God’s word and God’s promises to him. He saw the dream come true.
And let me ask, “What means more to you, the cruelty men heap upon you, or God’s promises to vindicate His people in the day of Christ? Are you going to run quickly to the rulers in the church with your grievance against a member, or are you going to run quickly to the word of God for comfort and for instructions as to how He would have you handle the matter? Will you listen to Him when He says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God’? Or are you going to write a new Sermon on the Mount and write boldly, ‘Blessed are they that fight for their rights and for the things of this world; and they shall be called the children of God’?” Let me give you some good advice. If the brother sins against you, do not take the matter to the authorities in the church UNLESS YOUR PRIMARY AND ONLY PURPOSE IS TO SAVE HIM FROM SIN. You must go there for his sake, not for your own. You must go there for the sake of the Church of God, not for the return of some earthly possession, honour, or the like for yourself.
And Joseph’s “rough” speech to his brothers had their spiritual well-being in mind. He is seeking to bring them to confession of their sin against GOD, not against himself. Evidence of this is that he puts all their money in their sacks—a manifestation of his love for them. Likewise his speech after their second visit for food, when he could not restrain himself, and had to leave the room to weep. And never forget his words of peace after his father died, “Fear not (for they feared his wrath)… ye meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Joseph is interested in the good of God’s church and not in self-vindication.