Based on Genesis chapter 41 verses 1 to 43
Joseph – From Prison to Palace
One day, King Pharaoh had a troubling dream!
As Pharaoh slept he saw seven fat and healthy cows come up out of the river Nile. These cows were some of the finest he had even seen. But as he watched, seven more cows came up out of the river. These cows were thin and gaunt, the most ugly and starved cows in all Egypt. Then, the seven thin, ugly cows ate up the seven fat, healthy cows – and yet they remained as thin and ugly as they had been before!
At this point Pharaoh woke from his dream, but before long he fell asleep once more. And as he slept – again he started to dream. This time he saw seven heads of grain on one stalk. The grain was plump and healthy – but as he watched, out of the same stalk came seven withered and shrivelled heads of grain that ate up the seven plump and healthy heads of grain and yet remained as withered and shrivelled as they’d been before. (PAUSE)
The next morning Pharaoh called for all his wise men and magicians. ‘Come and tell me what this dream means,’ he told them. ‘Because I know that it is important.’ But none of his wise men or magicians could explain the dream to Pharaoh; they did not know what it meant. (P)
It was at this point that the royal cupbearer raised his shamed head to speak and told Pharaoh about me, Joseph. ‘Your majesty, today I have been reminded of my terrible failure,’ he said. ‘Two years ago, your majesty may remember that you became angry with the chief baker and myself and had us sent to prison. While we were there, we both had a dream that we knew had a meaning. There’s a young man named Joseph kept in the jail, and we both told him our dreams. This young man explained to us what our dreams meant. And just as he predicted, I was restored to my position as chief cupbearer, and the chief baker was executed.’
When Pharaoh heard this, he immediately sent for me. Guards raced to the jail to find me, they hurried me out of prison, gave me a quick shave, a change of clothes and before I knew what was happening I was standing before Pharaoh, the ruler of all Egypt! (PAUSE)
Looking me over he said, ‘Last night I had a dream and none of these men can explain its meaning to me. I have been told you can explain dreams, that is why I have sent for you.’
‘It is beyond my power to explain dreams your majesty,’ I answered him. ‘But God will tell you what you need to know.’
Then Pharaoh told me of his dream about the seven fat cows and the seven thin ones, about the seven plump heads of grain and the seven shrivelled heads of grain. – The Lord was good to me and helped me understand what the dreams meant.
‘Both of these dreams mean the same thing,’ I started. ‘The seven fat cows and the seven plump heads of grain both mean seven years of wonderful harvests, bumper crops and prosperity. But the seven thin cows and the seven withered heads of grain mean seven years of famine!’
‘God has shown you what He is about to do. For the next seven years there will be wonderful harvests throughout the land of Egypt – a time of great prosperity. But once those seven years are over, there will come seven years of terrible famine throughout the land. The famine will be so bad that it will not only wipe away all the prosperity of the good years, but will be so strong than even the memory of the good years will be forgotten.’
‘And the reason you have been shown this dream twice is to confirm that the matter has been decided by God and He will make these events happen soon.’
As well as being able to understand the dreams, and explain to Pharaoh all they meant, the Lord also helped me to know what should be done to save the people from the famine. So I continued speaking. ‘Your majesty, my suggestion is this. Put the wisest man in all Egypt in charge of a project that will be nationwide. Appoint officials across the land to collect one fifth of all the crops during the years of plenty. Have this extra food stored in royal grain houses so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. If you do not do this, then disaster will strike and all the people will die!’
Pharaoh and his officials, magicians and wise men welcomed my advice. And as they discussed who should be appointed to lead such a project, Pharaoh spoke up. ‘Who could do a better job than Joseph? He has shown himself to be a man filled with the Spirit of God.’ Then turning to me he said, ‘Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in all Egypt. I hereby appoint you to be in charge of this project. Only I, Pharaoh, will have a rank higher than yours.’
And that’s how I came to be in this place, with the power I have. Pharaoh put me in charge of the entire land of Egypt. He put his own signet ring on my finger as a sign of his authority and power. He dressed me in beautiful clothes and put the royal chain around me neck! He gave me a wife, and he gave me the chariot of the second-in-command of all Egypt so that wherever I go – people run before my chariot shouting, ‘kneel down’.
For the last seven years I have collected one fifth of the harvest from all the people, everywhere in the land. This food has been stored in royal storehouses ready for the time of famine that has now come. For just as I explained, this year, the eighth year, crops have failed all over the land and far beyond, for the famine has begun.
And that is my story, a story of how God used the anger and hatred of my brothers to bring me to Egypt. How he even let me be accused of trying to hurt Potiphar’s wife, and let me go to jail – because only then would I be ready to organise such a work as this, one that will save many lives.