JOSEPH AND THE TEST OF PROSPERITY
Some people do better in trials than they do in prosperity. Joseph, for 13 years, has known only tribulation, rejection, and slavery. Now at thirty years old (see v. 46) Joseph enters into the realization of part of his dream. How will he respond to this abundance? Will he forget the Lord? Uzziah the king of Judah was prospered by the Lord and became proud. Would Joseph fall prey to the sin of pride? Our passage shows four areas in which God prospered his servant. The last area is the most revealing and important, as it shows Joseph’s heart in this place of blessing.
I. HIS PROSPERITY WITH POWER V.41-44; 55
Joseph has been under the power of others for his whole life. He was under his father’s authority for seventeen years. Then in one day his brothers held power over his future. For a time Joseph lived under the rule of Potiphar and even under the power of his wife. Finally, he is placed under the power of the prison captain. In this prison he experiences being under the power of a forgetful butler.
Now Pharaoh places Joseph in a position of power. One of two things can happen with power. Either you can use it to control and harm others or to feed your ego. Joseph did neither. He could have put Potiphar and his wife in prison. His experience under authority could have prompted him to be a cruel leader. Verse 55 tells us that Pharaoh sent all the people to Joseph during the famine. Joseph, in turn, ministered to the people by giving them grain. Joseph used power as a way to minister to others, not control others. Perhaps the most graphic display of how Joseph could have misused power would be later with his brothers. In this position Joseph might be tempted to use his power to bring revenge on his brothers. Yet he refused to abuse his position.
God has entrusted each of us men with power in our homes. How are we using that power? Are we serving others or attempting to control them with anger, shame, or threats? Do we use our positions in our jobs to boost our egos and control others, or do we serve others?
II. HIS PROSPERITY WITH PEOPLE v. 45; 50-52
Rejection has marked Joseph’s life for 13 years. Eventually, many in Joseph’s shoes would have set up all kinds of defense mechanisms to protect themselves from any more rejection. Either we withdraw from people or we become aggressive, hurting them before we get hurt. Prosperity with a personal relationship now comes to Joseph. He now has a wife, one appointed by Pharaoh. After seven years of marriage, his bride gives him two sons. Joseph goes from having no family for 13 years to now being a husband and a father.
From all indications Joseph did not mistreat anyone in his family. The statements he makes in verses 50-52 reveal Joseph’s response to the prosperity of a family. He is grateful to God and sees this as God’s blessing.
III. HIS PROSPERITY WITH PRODUCTION v. 47-49; 54-57
Joseph had learned to be faithful with every responsibility placed in his hands. Some who end up with a position of authority become lax and lazy. However, God had used all the places Joseph had been to train him in faithfulness. So, Joseph extracts 20% of all the grain harvested during the years of plenty and stores it in every city of Egypt. Once the famine comes to the all the earth there was bread in Egypt (v. 54). Joseph sold grain to the people of Egypt during the famine (v. 56). Egypt’s prosperity became known to all the world and all came to Joseph in order to buy grain. Thus, Joseph not only managed the years of plenty to save for the famine, but also made money for Egypt during the years of want.
Here we have another area in which Joseph could have failed in regard to this blessing. He could have taken credit for all the economic success. He could have become like Nebuchadnezzar, acting as though he was the source and goal of all that had been accomplished. This success could have resulted in Joseph loving wealth and prosperity. His security could have shifted from the Lord to things, circumstances, or money.
IV. HIS PROSPERITY IN PIETY v. 50-52
The most important way Joseph prospered is in the area of personal piety. All of the tangible blessings he has received do not undermine his relationship with the Lord. When Joseph was being mistreated he did not become bitter and forsake the Lord. Now when he is prospering Joseph does not become proud and self-sufficient, forgetting the Lord. The names given to the two sons born to Joseph after the years of blessing reveal the heart he had for the Lord.
A. The Lord Has Made Me Forget My Affliction v. 51
When the first son was born to Joseph he gave the child the name “Manasseh.” This name means literally, “one who causes to forget.” Joseph emphasizes that it was the Lord who had made him forget all his troubles and his father’s household. Here was a man acknowledging that God had prospered him in such a way that it is as if all the troubles never happened. Though he is not saying it yet, this statement affirms that God had brought about prosperity out of affliction, thus the affliction seems rather insignificant. This is the first indication that Joseph had forgiven all of those who harmed him. This statement seems to reveal that he was able to let go of the past.
B. The Lord Has Made Me Fruitful in My Affliction v. 52
Next Joseph has a son whom he names “Ephraim” meaning “fruitful.” Joseph explains that, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” There is one thing to forget the past and quite another to be fruitful in a difficult place. Joseph shares his belief that God was responsible for all that had happened and used it for good. Fruit came out of a personal and national famine. What Joseph is affirming is that fruit can be borne in any circumstance, regardless of how difficult. So, Joseph had prospered in his relationship with the Lord even with all the blessings of power, people, and production. Fruit was being experienced even in the material and temporal blessings.
Has God prospered you? What is your response to the goodness and kindness of God? Has God ‘s prosperity brought about a surrendered heart of faith, or have you become consumed with material blessings?