Just a quick thought. I was reading Genesis this morning, about Joseph’s unjust imprisonment and the two servants of Pharaoh whose dreams he interpreted. The cupbearer was restored and the baker executed, just like Joseph told them. Then the cupbearer promptly forgot to tell Pharaoh anything about Joseph (perhaps he didn’t want to use up any favor he hadn’t got on behalf of a Hebrew?) for two years. At the end of those two years, Pharaoh dreams a few dreams, and cannot figure them out. This cues the cupbearer’s memory, and Joseph is summoned to interpret the dreams for Pharaoh.
So now Joseph, clean-up and freshly-shaven, is standing before the man in Egypt who has the most power to do him good or evil. He hasn’t had a favorable time of it so far in this land, so he might be a little nervous. Pharaoh says to him, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (Genesis 41:15). Think about it– this is a lot like when someone asks you to do a huge favor for them without telling you what it is, or when your boss asks you to volunteer for a mysterious high-level project. This might be a really hard dream, and Pharaoh isn’t even giving Joseph a peek at it; he just wants to know if he can do it.
This is what makes Joseph’s response amazing: “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16). Absolute confidence. But here’s my question: how does Joseph know God will do this? Perhaps God told him, but we have no record of that. Perhaps Joseph just knew he could always interpret dreams, but we have no record of that either, and he does say that “it is not in me.” Or perhaps…
Perhaps Joseph knew he was in a tight spot, a prisoner not cared about by anyone, and Pharaoh might decide to “lift up his head” as with the baker if he were not able to interpret this dream. If that were the case, then Joseph’s response is an amazing statement of faith about the promises of God. God had told Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would do good to them and their offspring. Joseph, being daddy’s favorite, probably had heard the stories of God’s relentless blessing of Jacob in spite of Jacob’s boneheadedness. He knew that he was part of a line through which God would fulfill his promise to Abraham by blessing the whole earth.
If all that were running through Joseph’s head, then his response makes sense. What else would God do? This is the same God who honored Jacob’s weird breeding ideas in Genesis 30. Surely the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would not fail to deliver Joseph, the son of Israel’s old age.
It reminds me of Moses, one of Joseph’s distant nephews, who stood on Mt. Sinai and pleaded God’s promises with him. And it gives me confidence that I myself, when tried and tempted, can remind God of his Word to me, knowing that he is faithful to perform it.
“Plead the promise of God in prayer, show him his handwriting; God is tender of his Word.” –Thomas Manton