14 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. 15 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.” 16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” 17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 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. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 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. 22 “In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 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.” 25 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. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 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. 28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 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. 33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 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. 36 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.” 37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God[a]?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
From a young age, Joseph knew he was destined for greatness and yet he consistently drew reproach and ill will from people around him. Joseph’s life resembled a rollercoaster: he would seem to be on an upward trajectory of increasing responsibility, greatness and importance, only to then tumble downwards into a pit of punishment, loneliness and reproach. These downward crashes were almost entirely not his fault; yet through each unjust and evil circumstance, he knows God as still present with him, and he begins to rebuild his life.
We pick up Joseph’s story at the very moment he is brought forth from prison. He had rebuilt his life even behind cell doors; he had grown in responsibility and honour within these awful confines. In this moment of greatness before Pharaoh, Joseph not only delivers with excellence but gives all the glory to God. This performance was not the culmination of a steady ascent to power. This performance came off the back of long marches through dark valleys, free falls of cliff’s edges and arduous climbs up mountain faces. Through it all, Joseph knew God was his only constant. Now in this moment of greatness, all the glory goes to God.
Joseph was ready to take on great power and not to be corrupted by it. God had refined and prepared him.
Great and mighty God, only you see what is around the corner, only you know what I need to be prepared for it, to bring you glory. Teach me to live with eyes on you in the present, while you keep your eyes on what is up ahead.
Written by Andrew Mellor