Two more years went by, and Joseph was still in the king’s prison. He had committed no crime; but one whose dream he had interpreted had forgotten his promise to report to the king Joseph’s unjust imprisonment. So often God teaches us patience by bringing us into situations where we have to wait for Him to give relief. The same thoughts that went through the mind of the psalmist in Psalm 46:10 must have gone through Joseph’s mind during those two long years: “Be still, and know that I am God.” We deny that He is God, you know, when we are impatient and dissatisfied with His ways with us. We want, and often expect, God to jump the moment we cry. But let us understand well that, when that is the case, we assume the position of being God, and we look upon Him as our servant. All too often that is the sinfulness even in those good works which we call prayer.
All through those long years before and after the butler had promised Joseph that he would bring his case to the attention of Pharaoh, Joseph had prayed to be set free and to be able to go to his father’s house once again. And although God answered his prayer, He did so in His own time, and in His own way. Seven more years will come and go, and Joseph will still be kept from seeing his father. He is set free and brought up out of prison. But seven years of prosperity come and go, and he is still in the service of the king of Egypt. More years must come and go before he meets his brothers; and then after a while he will see his father again. It took patience, and it took faith in God. Well may we learn the truth of the song, “Be still my soul, the Lord is on our side.” Repeatedly we must rebuke ourselves for behaving as though we are God and that the world revolves around us. Daily we must .learn that we exist for God’s glory, and not He for ours; that He is not our servant, but that we are His.
God chose to bring Joseph and his father together again in the way of three sets of dreams. Joseph was given two dreams that told him that he would be exalted above his brethren, and even above his father. Two fellow prisoners were each given a dream, the interpretation of which laid the groundwork for Joseph’s deliverance out of prison. And it took yet another set of dreams given to Pharaoh that finally brought him to a position where his father would come to see him in Egypt. God is at work. He never forgets His people. And all things do work together for good to those that fear Him. We must, however, leave the working of all these things in His hands, and walk by faith in the midst of our adversities.
Note as well that two of these three sets of dreams are given to unbelievers, while the interpretation is every time given to a child of God. This is so because what God does is always for the good of His church. The wicked may have to prosper for the good of God’s people; and you can be sure then that they will have things going well for them. They may need reverses and troubles; and these will most assuredly come upon them. We ought to read often and carefully Psalm 73, lest we, like Asaph, envy the wicked and cry out that clean hands are worthless, and a pure heart vain. Likewise we ought to be sure in our minds that when God gives dreams—and they in their fulfillment bring to unbelievers what they call good—to those outside His church, it is a matter that is going to serve the good of His church, and not at any time the harm and destruction of His church.
This is clearly evident in this incident in Genesis 41. And it is so interpreted by God Himself when Moses is led to pen the words of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” The dreams of Pharaoh serve the realization of that purpose of God which consisted in saving much people alive. Certainly included in that “much people” are Egyptians who are unbelievers. That will always be the case here below. Ungodly parents must live and be healthy to bring forth children whom God will in time give a new birth with life from above. Without those wicked, unbelieving parents these children would never be conceived or born the first time with life from below. The chaff serves the wheat; and the scaffold serves the building. But God has His eye on the wheat and on the building. No man erects a building for the scaffold, or raises wheat for the chaff. And the all wise God has wisdom far above the wisest of mortals.
And so at the right time, divinely appointed from eternity, the butler remembers Joseph and confesses his sins before Pharaoh. We read in our English translation that the butler remembered his “faults this day.” The word here translated faults is better translated as sins. Used 34 times in Scripture this Hebrew word is translated 30 times as sin, once as offences, once as punishment (implying sin), and once as grievously, which literally translated would be, “Jerusalem hath sinned sin” (Lamentations 1:8). And it was sin that the butler forgot Joseph. It was that in that he broke his promise to Joseph. And we must not take that lightly. We often shrug our shoulders, pass it off as nothing of consequence to break a promise—and the divorces multiplying also in the church are instances of this—but God calls all breaking of promises sin. What is more, He presents making a promise and keeping it, even when it hurts, as a mark and distinguishing characteristic of the citizens of His kingdom. After asking the question in Psalm 15:1, “Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Thy holy hill?” (Note: His holy hill), the answer in part in verse 4 is, “He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.” Do not argue that the psalmist speaks only of promises with an oath. That certainly is true—and marriages are performed before God’s face and made in His name—but to promise and not keep the promise, even when no oath is taken, is to lie; and lying is always sin!
The butler’s inability to remember his promise God used to bring to the king’s attention Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams. And Pharaoh’s agitation and fear—note that Joseph speaks to him of an answer of peace, indicating Pharaoh’s agitated state—God used to bring Joseph out of his imprisonment and to his exaltation in the kingdom.
Joseph is brought out of shame and degradation to the highest place below the king that anyone could occupy in that day. He was raised above Potiphar who had cast him without a hearing into the dungeon. Yea, because Joseph had been given authority so that all Pharaoh’s people would be ruled by Joseph, he could give orders to Potiphar, and Potiphar would have to obey. Should someone refuse to bring the extra grain to be stored away, Joseph could call Potiphar to enforce the law. Quite a change has come in the life of Joseph, but also in the life of Potiphar who had dishonoured Joseph so deeply.
All this took place not simply because Pharaoh was above Potiphar, but because God is above Pharaoh and the whole creation which He made. Pharaoh asked no questions. He did not inquire into the reason for Joseph’s imprisonment, did not call in Potiphar to verify what the butler told him. He believed what the butler said, because “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Proverbs 21:1). It certainly is true that because of his fear and agitation Pharaoh was desperate, and he was intent on getting an answer to his dreams. Joseph was his last resort. But all this, too, was in the hand of God as He arranged all this and controlled every moment and every part of the circumstances. It is God Who is even now fulfilling the dreams that He gave to Joseph some years before this. All this is not coincidence but God working all things together for those that fear Him. And we may be sure that Joseph, when he advised the king to appoint a man “discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt,” was not campaigning for the job. God moved the king to see the wisdom of having one in whom he believed the spirit of God could be found. Joseph had no way of knowing that in this way his dreams would be fulfilled; and he was not trying to help God fulfill those dreams.
There. is, however, more in that peace of which Joseph speaks than what Pharaoh saw in it. In a state in which his mind was agitated and his heart was full of fear, it would be peaceful to learn that the dreams did not mean that something terrible was going to happen to him and his kingdom, that his kingdom was not those withered, thin, and eastwind blasted ears, or those ill-favoured and lean kine, so that after seven years his kingdom would begin to deteriorate. But even as the dreams were given for the sake of the church, and spoke of good for the church, so the answer of peace which Pharaoh would receive was of a peace that is solely for the church.
This does not mean at all that the wicked, those outside of the church, do not receive what they call good and what fills man’s flesh with delight. It does not mean that God is not good to all His creatures. And that surely includes man, the highest of His earthly creatures. Countless thousands of unbelieving Egyptians ate well during the famine, and had all the food they needed during all those seven years when nothing grew in the fields. And it was good nourishing food that God provided for them through Joseph. Even so today it is good sunshine and good rain that God sends down on the world as well as on the church.
But let it be remembered that all peace comes from God through the One Whom God Himself in Isaiah 9:6calls “the Prince of Peace.” God will give no peace apart from Him and His cross. Man brought evil upon himself when in Adam he fell; but God brings peace only to some whom He saves in Christ. You can argue all you will, you can philosophize as much as you want to, but God says, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” And this is found in the New Testament, after the cross of Christ, and in Galatians 2:10! God does not speak out of two sides of His mouth. His right hand does know what His left hand does. And He does not bless with His right hand His church, and with His left the world.
Peace comes to us through the Prince of Peace. We do well to read that beautiful second chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians where he declares that now in Christ Jesus, we who were sometimes far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ, “for He is our peace,” and then place this next to John 17:9 where this Prince of Peace declares that He prays not for the world but for those whom the Father gave Him out of the world. It is then a very particular peace.
What is more, one error leads to two, if you do not come back to the truth. If we ignore the whole Word of God, choosing select passages to speak of a mercy and grace on all mankind that nullifies the truth that everyone is cursed who does not keep the things written in the law, either by doing so himself or having it done for him by Christ because he is in His church, we are going to corrupt the truth about God Himself. Then we will have to maintain a god who changes. Gracious and merciful he is now in this life; and he loves every man in the world. Yet he lets some of them perish! And the moment they die he has no grace, mercy, or love for them anymore. Our God’s, the only true God’s name, is Jehovah, I Am That I Am. He tell us Himself, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). And that can only mean that those for whom He has no grace, mercy, and love in the life to come, He did not have these for them either in this life.