Explore the Bible

with Wayne VanHorn

Sunday,  February 17

Opportunity Knocks

Genesis 41:15-21,33-40

I frequently tell my students at Mississippi College that their job is to prepare and God’s job is to provide opportunities. When the Lord calls people into ministry, He has a place for them to serve. He gives His followers opportunities to make a difference within His divine plan. The intersection of Joseph’s life with Pharaoh’s life was foreseen only by God.

A Problem (41:15-21)

Pharaoh had a dream that troubled him, but no one could interpret it. Little did he know, the dream was given by God to forewarn him of a devastating famine that was to come upon the whole region. Worse still, no one would be prepared because the famine would be proceeded by seven years of plenty, lulling people into a false sense of security.

Pharaoh discovered from his butler that a Hebrew prisoner named Joseph could interpret dreams. When confronted about the matter. Joseph gave all the credit to God. Joseph’s disclaimer, “It is not me,” revealed the grateful attitude of a humble servant. Joseph continued, “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (41:16; NASB).

That Pharaoh felt comfortable relating his dream to a Hebrew prisoner testified to both his duress over the matter and to God giving Joseph favor in Pharaoh’s eyes. Pharaoh told of standing on the bank of the Nile River, considered the very source of life to Egyptians. Seven fat cows came up out of the river and grazed on the marsh grass. These cows were followed by seven ugly and gaunt cows, which devoured the fat cows. Pharaoh awoke perplexed over the dream. He also recounted a second dream involving seven ears of grain followed by seven withered ears (41:22-24). None of Pharaoh’s magicians could interpret the two dreams.

Joseph spoke to the matter quickly. God was showing what He was about to do (41:25,28). The two dreams concerned one event (41:32).

Joseph used the occasion of Pharaoh’s duress to point him to God. Believers today can point to God as the source of wisdom when called on to address difficult situations.

A Plan (41:33-36)

God showed Joseph the interpretation, but He also gave him a plan. To prepare for the seven devastating years of famine that would follow and erase the seven plentiful years, Pharaoh needed to do three things immediately. First, he needed to appoint a wise man over the administration of the plan with overseers in charge of the land. Second, he needed to require 20% of the produce during the seven prosperous years be gathered and stored. Third, he needed to guard the grain stores, ensuring ample food supply during the approaching famine.

Joseph had sat in the king’s prison for 13 years. During that time, he had not allowed bitterness to rob him of his relationship with God. The Lord was with him. When opportunity intersected preparation, Joseph relied on God. Today, Christ-followers can recognize times when God places them in a specific situation to represent His interests. He is faithful; we can trust Him.

A Place (41:37-40)

Every believer has a place in God’s service. Joseph’s life was marked by five places: the place of favoritism at his father’s table, the place in the bottom of the pit at his brothers’ betrayal, the place of service in Potiphar’s house, the place in the king’s prison, and finally, the place at Pharaoh’s right hand. In every place, the LORD was with Joseph, prospering all that he did and preparing him for higher service.

Joseph’s proposal seemed good to Pharaoh, an indication of God’s favor (41:37). No Egyptian qualified as wise or discerning enough to ascend to the place of authority over the harvest management. Thus, Pharaoh acknowledged that God had informed Joseph of the dream’s interpretation and of the plan to prepare for the harsh famine. He determined Joseph alone was discerning and wise enough to handle this important task (41:39).

Joseph ascended to the place of authority, second only to Pharaoh. The Egyptians were to do homage, obeying Joseph’s every command. By vesting him with so much authority, Pharaoh demonstrated his complete trust in the former prisoner. Joseph would serve as Pharaoh’s right hand man, with the Egyptian king demonstrably on the throne (41:20).

Each facet of Joseph’s life, though often difficult, prepared him for service to God. Jacob’s dependence on God was brought to the fore through Pharaoh’s dreams. Believers can be confident God will equip them to accomplish His purposes in their lives.

VanHorn is Dean of the Mississippi College School of Christian Studies and the Arts.