The implications of Joseph’s 23 years before the fulfillment of God’s Promises
When we receive visions or words from the Lord about what He plans to do in and through our lives we typically want to jump right in and go. From experience, though, I find that most often He reveals His plans and then He takes us through a time of preparation. This time is often quite long and sometimes includes what we may think to be a fulfillment of the word but often isn’t the completed fulfillment.
Joseph was given two dreams in his youth when he was 17 years old (Genesis 37). These dreams seemed extremely haughty and Joseph appears very conceited when sharing them.
This is not uncommon for us today. When we are given a dream of huge things from God, we need to be careful in how we share that vision. Don’t deviate from the truth of what God is revealing, but be humble in the presentation.
What are the dreams that God has given you? Where are you at in the process of seeing those dreams come to fulfillment? What are you doing to be ready when the time comes?
The Great Delay
The dreams that Joseph had of his family bowing down to him didn’t come to fruition until over 20 years later. We are told in Genesis 41:46 that Joseph was 30 years old when he began to serve in Pharaoh’s court. Then it was another 7 years of prosperity in the land and several years of famine before his family came to Egypt for grain. So there was 13 years from the time of the dream to the rise in power and another 10 or so years before the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams.
You may be in those years since the dream was given waiting for the fulfillment. I want to encourage you to not give up. The Lord is faithful to bring to fruition what He has called you to (1 Thessalonians 5:24). If you have lost faith in the promise, I encourage you to reconsider. Our faith is founded upon an understanding of God’s promises as outlined in Scripture. Thus, He will remain faithful even when we fail (2 Timothy 2:13).
Going Down Before Going Up
So what did Joseph do in all those years? He spent a bunch of them in low places. Literally low places, in a pit and prison. These were the years that God used to prepare Joseph for the power that was to come to him.
There were times that I’m sure Joseph thought the end of his misery was at hand. He was promoted to the highest position in Potiphar’s house. Surely this was it, he was now a man with a purpose and power. We don’t know all the good, big ego things, that Joseph did in that time, but we do know that he was falsely accused of attempting to rape Potiphar’s wife and thrown in prison (Genesis 39:11-20).
It is very common to have someone accuse us of doing what they are guilty of when we don’t go along with their plans. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph multiple times. Joseph was faithful to his employer and did not concede to the affair. So, as a woman scorned, she accused him of what she was doing. False accusation which led to the dismissal from his position of purpose and power. It could have led to his execution but God was in control even if at the time Joseph probably didn’t feel such.
Our Response to the Circumstances
How do we respond when circumstances don’t line up with our expectation? I’ve seen many Christians throw a huge “God you don’t care about me; I am better than this; I don’t desire this; I’m not supposed to be here; how could You let this happen to me; You don’t love me” pity party, temper tantrum. I’ve had my share of those “parties”. We don’t know if Joseph had one or not but we do know that he didn’t stay there and neither should we.
Discipline is never pleasant. But it is vital for our growth.
The Lord loves us so much that He doesn’t leave us where we are at. He wants to grow us into mature children who are able to share in His holiness. He desires that we produce a harvest of righteousness. (See Hebrews 12:4-11).
Back in prison, Joseph quickly rose to the position of a trusted manager. He didn’t have freedom, he didn’t have power over his own life, he didn’t have much at all, but he did have a calling from God to manage others. So that is what he did, he became a faithful manager, in a prison, at a low point in his life. God used him where he was at to foster growth in preparation for the fulfillment of the divine dream from years prior.
Likewise, we are to do what we are gifted and called to do, even if it is at a place or level that isn’t where we believe we should be serving. Learn to be faithful in the little things and the low places.
God was working all the way through Joseph’s story. Before Joseph could be the manager of the entire country of Egypt, he needed to learn how to manage a household and then a prison. Skills that I’m sure he learned in those positions were invaluable and essential for the later position.
God had called Joseph to an incredibly large position but first He needed to prepare him. When we are first introduced to Joseph in Genesis 37 he is a young, know-it-all, pain-in-the-neck, arrogant, conceited, spoiled brat. God had a lot of work to do before Joseph would be ready to fulfill that calling. In those 13 years of pits, prisons and false starts, God was molding Joseph into a humble, educated, skilled manager with good character.
For me, the biggest lesson that God’s been working on in my life is humility. When I was young I tended to be a know-it-all, arrogant brat. I was successful in business and looked up to in that world. Then the Lord asked me to give up that identity for something else. It hasn’t been an easy process, humility never is obtained easily, but I know that in the end it is good.
At some point in his time of prison “ministry”, I’m sure Joseph thought he had his way out. He gave a great dream interpretation to the cupbearer of Pharaoh. Surely this was his ticket. The cupbearer would tell Pharaoh how great he was and that he was innocent and should be let out. But that didn’t happen. “Two full years later” (Genesis 41:1) the cupbearer remembered Joseph. Two years of amnesia? How on earth could someone not remember the man who told him he was going to get out of prison and go back to his trusted position serving Pharaoh? We aren’t told but I’m thinking that Joseph had a few negative thoughts towards that cupbearer in those two years. Probably even a few negative thoughts towards God. Possibly even feelings of abandonment.
A false summit is that place when you are going uphill that you think is the top of the climb. Only when you get there you find that there is more to go. When we are growing toward our dream we are likely to find a false summit or two, or five or twelve, along the way. Places where we are sure that we’ve finally made it through the tough stuff and can celebrate some victories. Where the process will become easier and “all be smooth sailing from here.”
Think about the last false summit you encountered. How did you respond? Do you wish you had responded that way?
When you reach a false summit, it’s okay to stop and take a breather for a few minutes. Just don’t stop too long. Don’t get discouraged with the climb, instead celebrate the victory of what has been accomplished. Look back and recount the progress made while praising and thanking the Lord for His faithfulness along the way.
Stepping Up Into the Calling
In time, and probably not when we planned or expect, the doors will open and we will be walking in the calling that was given all those years earlier. When that occurs we need to make the transition well.
Joseph had to shave and get cleaned up when he was called before Pharaoh. When we are called up, we need to be willing to clean up nicely. That may mean shaving and changing clothes as Joseph did, or it may mean changing things that we do. The important thing is that we are willing to “dress” the part that God is calling us into. We need to be willing to wear the mantle that God has designed for us.
God Cares About the Journey
The rest of Joseph’s story is the fulfillment of the dream that he had as a youth. One can read the entire story (Genesis 37 – 47) in less than an hour but it took Joseph decades to live it. We need to remember this when we are in the midst of our life story. So often we want to speed up to the fulfillment but God is more interested in the process. We want the purpose and power; He wants our devotion. He is more interested in our character than our position; our heart than our circumstances; and in our relationship with Him than anything else. Our journey with God is of utmost importance.
Wherever you are at on your journey from the dream to fulfillment, know that God is there walking with you. Don’t give up. Even on those hard days know that He is good. Don’t let circumstances dictate your outlook. As Paul encourages in Philippians 3:12-14, Press on toward the calling of the Lord all the way to the realization of the dream come true! And enjoy the journey with Him.
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