Joseph had an extraordinary ability to shine in the darkest of places, to thrive under circumstances that could have crushed his spirit. He demonstrated this ability early.
Joseph’s 10 older brothers hated him because their father, Jacob, loved him-much more than he loved the rest of his children. He lavished attention and gifts on Joseph while the rest of his sons burned with envy.
Joseph refused to be intimidated by his brother’s hatred and bullying. He boldly recounted his prophetic, God-given dreams in which his entire family bowed down to him. Of course, that made his brothers even angrier.
So one day they got rid of him. They sold Joseph to slave traders who were traveling to Egypt and then made their father think he’d been killed by a wild animal. In Egypt, the slave traders sold Joseph to a government official named Potiphar. And Joseph was faced with the prospect of being a lowly servant in a foreign land for the rest of his life.
Joseph didn’t curl up into a ball of self-pity. Instead, he worked hard to become the best servant in Potiphar’s household. And Potiphar took notice. He recognized Joseph’s God seemed to bless everything he did-and put Joseph in charge of his entire household.
That’s when Potiphar’s wife stared taking a romantic interest in Joseph. Unfortunately, when Joseph rebuffed her advances, she accused him of attempted rape. Joseph was thrown into prison.
Joseph truly understood what it feels like to his rock bottom. He had no one to help him, no hope for release. So what did he do? He worked hard to become a model prisoner. And before long, the warned put him in charge of everything that went on inside the prison.
When Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were thrown into prison, Joseph befriended them. And wen they both had dreams filled with meaningful symbolism, Joseph interpreted the dreams using his God-given skills. The cupbearer received good news: according to Joseph, his dreams meant that in three days Pharaoh would restore him to his position. The baker was not fortunate: his dream meant that in three days he would be executed.
Three days later Joseph’s predictions came true. When the cupbearer was released from prison, Joseph asked him to put in a good word with Pharaoh. But the cupbearer forgot all about Joseph for two years-until Pharaoh himself had a couple of disturbing dreams.
In the first, the king was standing by the Nile River when seven healthy cows emerged and started grazing among the reeds. They were followed by seven sickly cows, who promptly devoured the healthy ones. In the second dreams, Pharaoh saw seven healthy heads of grain growing on a single stalk. They were followed by seven scorched heads, which swallowed up the healthy ones.
When no one else could interpret the dreams, the cupbearer remembered and suggested Joseph . Pharaoh sent for him immediately. Imagine the pressure of going straight from the prison to the palace, with the eyes of the king’s entire count on you. Many people would have wilted under such scrutiny, but not Joseph. Joseph trusted his God-given skills.
With confidence he told Pharaoh that the seven healthy cows and seven healthy heads of grain represented seven years of abundance for Egypt. The seven emaciated cows and seven scorched heads of grain represented seven years of famine that would follow.
Furthermore, he advised Pharaoh to appoint a wise leader to oversee preparations for the famine. This leader would need to make sure that one-fifth of the grain collected during the years of abundance was put into long-term storage. Pharaoh gave the job to Joseph, making him second-in-command over all of Egypt.
When the famine hit, people from across the region came to Egypt to buy food. Among them were Joseph’s brothers. They didn’t recognize Joseph as their sibling, but they did recognize him as the Egyptian official who could save their lives. So they bowed down to him.
Joseph could have exacted a dark revenge on his brothers for what they’d done to him so many years earlier. Instead, he chose to see God’s hand in his circumstances. He recognized that he was in a position to save his family-not to mention Egypt and the surrounding nations-from the famine precisely because of what God had done in his life.