Joseph gives glory to God. "Then it came to pass..." (Genesis 41:1). That is, God's miraculous deliverance out of prison finally came to pass for Joseph, but only "at the end of two full years." His long term of slavery and imprisonment has ended with a long, brutal extension of "two full years." Having been thrown into a well, sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused by his master's wife, sentenced to imprisonment in the royal dungeon, and, most recently, forgotten by the king's chief butler (who had promised to remember Joseph's kindness towards him and to make favorable mention of him before the king), Joseph is finally about to experience liberation and vindication. The Lord God has intervened. He has given Pharaoh, king of Egypt, a cryptic dream that only Joseph can interpret.
The great temptation is for Joseph, now shaved and dressed in fine clothing (v. 14), to make his self-glorifying boasts before Pharaoh. He might wax eloquent before the king, demonstrating his learning and advertising himself as a potential and very valuable asset to his administration. As a good "networker," Joseph might win his way out of prison by selling Pharaoh on his past accomplishments in both the economic management of Potiphar's house (39:2-6) and the trustworthy management of the royal prison system (39:21-23). In short, now is the opportune time for Joseph, who has the fortune to make an appearance before the king of Egypt, to slip him his resume.
The worst thing that Joseph could do at this moment--all of worldly wisdom would say--would be to offend the king. According to the world's logic, this is not the time for controversial issues. Joseph must be shrewd. He must play his cards right. As every good politician knows--the world would say--this is the time for flattery, not religious doctrine. The world's successful men would all counsel Joseph to keep his faith, a faith that condemns Pharaoh's own religious beliefs, tucked away in shrewd, privatized fashion. There are safe times and places for evangelism. Now is not one of them.
But Joseph's wisdom is not the world's wisdom. He fears God, not man. His hope does not rest upon the prospect of liberation from his imprisonment. He is not living for temporal powers and pleasures. He has died to self. He now lives for righteousness, alone. Therefore, Joseph speaks for the glory of God. He risks his own freedom and well being, for the glory of God.
"And Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.'
"So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.' " (41:15-16)
Here is no self-glorifying boasting. Here is no resume sharing. Rather, Joseph gives glory to God. He risks his life before the powerful, pagan king in order to bear witness to the one and only God. He would rather give glory to God and lose his freedom (or his life!) than boast in himself and deny his God before such a throne of worldly pomp and might.
How, then, do we answer the flattery of men of influence and power? How do we respond when our public confession of Christ threatens to take away our freedom, or our opportunities for advancement?
May the Father of our Lord Jesus give us the courage to rebuke the flattery of kings. May we remember Joseph whenever our adherence to the Gospel is put to the test. When Pharaoh summons us and tempts us to seek the favor of worldly power, rather than the favor of Heaven, may we boldly give glory to God.
Copyright Timothy L. Fan 2012. All Rights Reserved.