how were events orchestrated?
“Well, you remember that Joseph was sold as a slave to Potipher?” He continued when Micah nodded, “If Joseph was going to be a successful ruler over Egypt, it was important that he learn the Egyptian method of administration.” Anticipating Micah’s question, Grandpa John explained, “Administration is managing people and their activities.”
“You mean he was learning how to be a boss?” asked Micah. Grandpa nodded. “Why did he need to learn how to be a boss?”
“Well, there are different methods of being a boss, see, and he had to learn how to be a good boss in the Egyptian culture. If you don’t know what is acceptable in a culture that is different from your own, you will almost definitely make some mistakes that seriously offend people. It was necessary that Joseph understand the Egyptian culture in order to do well at the role God had in mind for him.”
“Oh, I see,” said Micah a little uncertainly. He wasn’t quite sure he understood, but he didn’t want to interrupt the story anymore. “How did God get Joseph to be a boss? Did He make Pophti-par like Joseph so much that he made him a boss?”
“He did, but He did it indirectly. The scripture clearly tells us exactly how God did it.” Grandpa paused for dramatic emphasis, and to take another sip from his tea.
“What did he do?” asked Micah impatiently.
With a smile, his grandpa set down his tea before answering, “Our sovereign God simply blessed all that Joseph did, so that everything he did turned out stupendously well. Naturally, Potipher noticed this and it only made sense to promote Joseph, giving him more and more responsibilities.”
Remembering the rest of the story, Micah added triumphantly, “Then Pophit-ar made Joseph the head of his house so that he didn’t have to do anything.”
“Of course, being placed at the head of a large household was the exact training Joseph needed to learn the culture of Egypt so that he would be prepared for later when he would be the ruler of Egypt.”
“But it also made Pophit-ar’s wife notice him.” said Micah, making a face.
“Yes,” said Grandpa gravely, “She tried again and again to get Joseph to sleep with her, but he continually resisted her temptations. Then one day she found him alone in the house and grabbed his coat, trying to pull him into bed with her. But he fled, leaving the coat in her hand.”
“Then she went and lied about Joseph to her husband and he threw him into jail,” said Micah disgustedly.
“That’s true, and things looked dark for Joseph, but the sovereign God wasn’t thwarted by her sinful desires, see. The scripture tells us that God was still with Joseph, and the jailer noticed it and gave him more and more responsibility until he was over all the other prisoners. In this way, he was in a position where he could freely interact with Pharaoh’s butler and baker when they were thrown into jail.”
“Weren’t those the guys who had dreams and wanted Joseph to interpret them for them?” asked Micah.
“Yes,” replied Grandpa, picking up his sweet tea again. Noticing his glass was nearly empty, he reached for the pitcher as he added, “Those dreams were evidence of God again intervening in Joseph’s life. It seems this intervention was to reveal to the butler Joseph’s ‘ability’ to interpret dreams.” Refilling his glass from the pitcher, he said to Micah, “Here. If you give me your cup I can refill it.” Micah pushed his glass over and said, “Thank you. Was it the butler or the baker who was let out of jail?”
“It was the butler,” replied Grandpa, giving Micah his refilled glass and setting the pitcher down. Picking up his own glass, Grandpa continued, “He was so grateful to Joseph for interpreting his dream that he promised to tell Pharaoh about Joseph as soon as possible.”
“But he forgot,” said Micah as Grandpa John took a long drink of tea.
“You got it,” said Grandpa adding with a satisfied sigh, “That’s some good tea! You know, I think if the butler had remembered his promise, Joseph might have ended up as a member of Pharaoh’s household and eventually received a position with lots of responsibility, just like he did in Potipher’s house, see. But thanks to the butler’s faulty memory, he spent two full years in jail.”
“Two years!” exclaimed Micah, “That’s a long time!”
“Yes, and Joseph was about thirty years old by that time. He had spent at least thirteen years in Egypt,” calculated Grandpa.
“Wow,” said Micah, impressed. “I think I would have given up. I can’t believe the butler forgot Joseph!”
“Thankfully, the purpose of God was not dependent on the butler’s memory. Regardless of whether the butler remembered or not, the sovereign God knew how to bring Joseph to the attention of Pharaoh. But He would do it at the right time. He was waiting until the brothers had fully repented of what they had done to Joseph.”
“That’s a long time to wait,” observed Micah.
“It’s a good thing our sovereign God is a patient God,” replied Grandpa. “But when the time was right, God intervened in history. Do you know what He did?”
Grandpa John took to the opportunity for a drink from his tea while Micah puzzled. Finally, Micah responded, “Umm, no. What did He do?”
“Do you remember the dreams He sent to Pharaoh?”
“Oh yeah,” exclaimed Micah, smacking his forehead.
Grandpa chuckled, “I knew you knew. You remember how the dreams God gave to Joseph while he was at home were easy to interpret?” Micah nodded. “Well, the dreams God gave to Pharaoh had an interpretation so obscure that the wisest men of Egypt couldn’t figure them out, see. Yet the dreams were so precise that when Joseph finally gave the interpretation, everyone could see it matched the dreams perfectly. Ironically, whereas Joseph’s brothers refused to acknowledge that God was with Joseph, the Pharaoh and all his court recognized it immediately and made him ruler over all Egypt. This set the stage for the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams about his family bowing before him.
“During the seven years of plenty, Joseph oversaw the storing up of all the extra crops so that food would be available during the seven years of famine. But Joseph’s brothers didn’t know about the coming of the famine, so they didn’t know to store up the food, see. When the famine came, they had to go to Egypt to find food and, guess what?”
“They had to ask for food from Joseph,” exclaimed Micah, “And they bowed before him when they came to him!”
“Exactly right,” confirmed Grandpa. “Do you remember how Joseph tested them before he revealed his identity to them?”
“I think so,” said Micah, “Didn’t he have them bring up Benjamin and put the silver cup in his bag of food and then arrest him?”
“Yes,” confirmed Grandpa again. “Joseph figured that Benjamin was the new favorite son and he wanted to see if his brothers hated Benjamin like they had hated him, see. To his relief and joy, he found they loved their youngest brother.
“After he revealed himself to his brothers, he had them bring Jacob and the rest of the family to Egypt where he could take care of them, see. This was significant, because when Jacob and his family moved to Egypt, they were placing themselves under the care of Joseph, see. That means they were submitting to him.”
Micah thought about this for a while, trying to understand what his grandpa was saying. Finally, he asked, “So, because Joseph was the top ruler in Egypt, when they moved to Egypt they had to obey him because he was in charge there?”
“That’s right,” said Grandpa with a smile. “Not only that, but they said to Pharaoh what Joseph told them to say so that they could make their homes in the land where Joseph wanted them to live, see. And, they were dependent on Joseph to give them food, see. And when Jacob died, the brothers recognized that Joseph could do whatever he wanted to with them, see. That’s why they asked him to be merciful to them for their father’s sake.”
“I see,” nodded Micah.
“And that, my young grandson, is how the sovereignty of God works,” said Grandpa John triumphantly. He leaned back in his chair and finished off his sweet tea with a flourish.
Micah looked confused. After thinking about it for awhile, he said uncertainly, “Um, I don’t get it. God made the dreams come true and that’s what sovereignty is?”
“Don’t you see?” asked Grandpa patiently. “God had a purpose in mind, see. It was to make the family a nation. What He did through Joseph laid the foundation to accomplish that purpose. Not only did He remove the brother’s hatred, but He also placed the family in a land where they would not intermingle with the natives (because the Egyptians couldn’t stand shepherds). It was an ideal environment for the family to develop into a nation.”
Seeing that his grandson still looked uncertain, Grandpa tried again, “You see, Micah, sovereignty is the ability or power to do what you want to do even when others disagree with you. We say a king is sovereign because he can do whatever he wants. A president is not sovereign because he has to get approval from congress. Does that make sense?”
“So, does that mean my dad isn’t sovereign because he always has to ask mom?”
Grandpa laughed, “That’s exactly right. Now, what do you suppose a king might do if someone tries to stop him from doing what he wants to do?”
“Oh, probably throw him into the deepest, darkest dungeon.”
“Right,” agreed Grandpa. “He would probably use force to get what he wanted, see. Now, think with me for a minute, Micah. Did God use force to accomplish His purpose in the story of Joseph?”