This Advent week is focused on hope. We’ve looked at how God always give us something to hope in and how his faithfulness, despite the sins we commit, is something we can hope in. Today we are going to look at Joseph and how we can have hope despite our circumstances. Joseph had a promise, just like Abraham, but he did nothing wrong. His life is full of craziness that just begs to give up hope. Yet, he kept it. He had an optimistic attitude of mind based on expectations for the future.
Three generations have passed since Abraham and God’s people have yet to receive the Promised Land. Abraham had Isaac, who had Jacob (later called Israel), who had Joseph. Joseph was one of 12 kids and he was his father’s favorite. So much so that he gave Joseph a coat of many colors. In this time, a coat of varying colors would have been very expensive. This favoritism led to much strife in the family. However, it is in the midst of this strife that Joseph receives a promise from God through a series of dreams. In these dreams, his brothers are bowing down to him. You can guess how that went over!
They conspired to kill Joseph. However, Reuben begged for his life to be spared and Judah came up with a plan to sell Joseph into slavery. So Joseph’s brother’s sold him into slavery to the Ishmaelites who ended up selling him in Egypt to a man named Potiphar, the captain of the guard to the Pharoah. How did they get away with it? Simple. They took his precious, many-colored cloak, shredded it and covered it with animal blood. Then they told their father he was killed by a wild animal.
So Joseph ends up in Egypt, a slave of the captain of the guard to Pharoah. He prospers and Potiphar gives Joseph full command of everything in the household. Then Potiphar’s wifetook a liking to Joseph and asked him to come to bed with her. He repeatedly refused. She persisted so much that Joseph had to run from her, leaving his cloak. She used his cloak to concoct a lie to her husband, saying Joseph tried to rape her. Potiphar sent Joseph to prison.
Now while Joseph was in prison, the chief cupbearer and chief baker were put in prison. They each had a dream that Joseph interpreted to them. The chief cupbearer was going to be restored and the chief baker was going to die.
“This is what it means,” Joseph said to him. “The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.”
When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, “I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”
“This is what it means,” Joseph said. “The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”
Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand— but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.
The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.
Genesis 40:12-23 NIV
We can see from the text that Joseph still had hope. Just by the shear act of asking to be remembered, we can see that he fully expects to get out of this jail. After all, how can his dreams come true if he is in jail? Note that Joseph isn’t bitter, focusing on the here and now. He is focused on the promise that God gave him. He stayed focused on this hope despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, despite being falsely accused and imprisoned, and despite being forgotten by those he helped.
Two years later, God started to fulfill his promise to Joseph. It was Pharaoh’s turn to have a dream.
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
“In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.
“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”
Genesis 41:1-36 NIV
The Pharaoh was so impressed that he made Joseph second in command. Joseph implemented plans and saved Egypt from famine. In fact, people from other countries were coming to Egypt to get food.
Now re-enters Joseph’s family, in search for food. In Genesis 42-48, through a series of events and manipulation by Joseph, the family is reunited and prospers in Egypt. This is the start of God’s people in Egypt, which would lead to Moses delivering them, which would lead to Joshua taking them to the Promised Land. All that Joseph went through was for a purpose.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
Genesis 45:4-11 NIV
Joseph had lived away from his family for 22 years. His brothers had conspired to kill him, instead he was sold into slavery, he was falsely accused which resulted in false imprisonment, and he was forgotten. Only 9 of those 22 years were with the Pharaoh. That means 13 years were spent in slavery or jail. But not once did he lose hope.
Hope is defined as an optimistic attitude of mind based on expectation or desire. It is different than faith. Faith is in the here and now, but hope is in the future. Joseph kept his mind optimistic, he worked hard, God blessed him with prosperity in the situation he was in. Joseph always had hope. He had hope that God will fulfill his promise that Joseph received in his dreams. So no matter what Joseph faced, he kept his hope.
Because Joseph kept his hope, he was able to save his family (not to mention a TON of other people) from dying in the famine. He didn’t know it, but saving his family was the start of the fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham.
So how does this apply to us today? We can see, through Joseph, that it is possible to keep our hope, even when circumstances are bad. Abraham and Sarah, as well as Adam and Eve, caused their problems. They had sin issues that could’ve caused them to lose hope. But Joseph? His circumstances were caused by others. But he didn’t let that change his hope and expectation. He didn’t allow his circumstances to change what he put his hope in. This allowed him to continue to endure despite the difficulty.
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31 NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:24-25 NIV
But how do we obtain this hope? How do we keep hope in us when everything around us seems so desolate and dark? When we are feeling oppressed by the weight of our suffering, how do we keep this hope?
And again, Isaiah says,
“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
in him the Gentiles will hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:12-13 NIV
The Root of Jesse is Jesus! Jesus is the one who gives us hope, through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit amplifies the hope within us when we trust God. So what does Jesus give us to hope in?
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28 NIV
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 NIV
We know that Jesus defeated death for us. He promises to work all things, even the bad things, to our good, just like he did with Joseph. He promised that he was going away to prepare a place for us. And that place, it is something awesome!
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Revelation 21:1-5 NIV
You see? We have a beautiful city awaiting us, as believers. NO MORE PAIN AND SORROW. That is what we have to look forward to. That is what our hope is. We look forward to a future that has no pain and no tears. We look forward to a citymade out of precious stones and gold. We look forward to righteous judgment, mercy, love, and purity. This is what we were promised. That is our hope.
Thank you for dying for my sins. Thank you for conquering death and offering me salvation. Thank you for preparing such a wondrous place for me to dwell in with you. I am unworthy Lord. Only through your mercy and forgiveness could I get these things.
Thank you for showing me, through Joseph, that you work all things to the good of those who believe in you. Joseph never lost hope, and he had plenty of earthly reasons to do so. Help me to live like Joseph did. Help me to keep hope in your promises to me, even when my circumstances make me feel hopeless. Give me a hope that emanates into the lives of others and points them to you.
In Jesus’ Name,
- Have circumstances in your life been hard?
- How have they affected you?
- Do you start to lose hope when things go from bad to worse?
- Take some time to write down the promises Jesus has given us. Reflect on these, noting what they mean to you.
- Spend time praying about the circumstances you are in. Ask the Holy Spirit to ignite hope within you.