Monday, June 5 Genesis 37:2-36
“When Joseph was seventeen years old . . .”
With Genesis 37 we begin the Joseph story, which takes us through to the end of Genesis. God is determined to fulfill the covenant blessings of the promises he has made to Abraham and his descendants, despite the character flaws of his chosen family and despite obstacles that occur along the way. He is even able to bring good out of evil. These are the emphases that rise to the surface in the Joseph story.
When the story begins, Jacob and his family have been back in the land of Canaan for about a decade. The favoritism that Jacob felt for Rachel (as compared with his other three wives) has apparently transferred to her older son, Joseph, for Jacob bestows special status on Joseph. Jacob sends Joseph to see how his brothers and the flocks are doing. Joseph’s brothers see him coming and begin to formulate a plan to kill him. They decide not to do it themselves but to starve him to death at the bottom of a cistern. Seeing a caravan of slave traders, they instead pull him out and sell him into slavery.
Humanly speaking there are times when all seems lost. But you are God! Amen.
Tuesday, June 6 Genesis 39:1-23
“The Lord was with Joseph”
Potiphar sees that the Lord’s favor is with Joseph and trusts him with responsibility. As a result, the blessing side of the covenant continues to be realized on a small scale as Potiphar and his house are blessed through Joseph. The details of the account of the seduction of Joseph are given in such a way as to confirm Joseph’s unquestionable innocence. He does not lead Potiphar’s wife on, but she spitefully accuses him and lies to back up her accusation. She further identifies him as a Hebrew brought to “make sport” of her.
This statement represents an accusation against her husband, which puts him on the defensive by attributing to him devious motives. Potiphar responds by “burning with anger.” Given his wife’s slander of his motives, the proven trustworthiness of Joseph, and the fact that he is going to lose the services of a competent slave, his anger arguable burns at his wife, not at Joseph. This is further suggested by the fact that Joseph is put in the king’s prison rather than being executed on the spot.
When I am wrongfully accused, you are with me Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, June 7 Genesis 40:1-23
“Interpreting dreams is God’s business”
The officers whom Joseph encounters in prison are high-ranking members of the court. They are responsible for safe-guarding two of the ways that a potential assassin could strike the king, so they had to be extremely trustworthy individuals of unquestionable loyalty to the king. We are given no hint why they are in prison. Whether these officials are suspected of involvement in a conspiracy or just guilty of displeasing the king in the disposition of their duties is impossible to tell. Perhaps Pharaoh got sick from a meal and they have come under suspicion. Under house arrest, they are awaiting the investigation of charges against them.
With God’s guidance, Joseph is able to interpret their dreams. For the cupbearer, the king will lift up his head (i.e., give favor and forgiveness) and restore him. For the baker, the king will execute him by lifting off his head. Pharaoh’s birthday brings about exactly the result that Joseph’s interpretation has indicated. The cupbearer’s good fortune, however, goes for naught as in his joy at being restored, he forgets (for the time being) his debt to Joseph.
Even in our darkest times, Lord, you are with us and at work through us. Amen.
Thursday, June 8 Genesis 41:1-40
“God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease”
Joseph is presented as a wise man whose skills exceed those of his contemporaries. His wisdom is demonstrated in his interpretation of dreams, his eloquent speech, and his insightful plan to deal with crisis. These were all valued skills in Egypt. When he is finally brought before Pharaoh, he is careful to deny that he is a trained expert in dream interpretation. Whatever ability he has to interpret dreams, he insists, comes from God.
As Joseph presents the interpretation, he treats the dream as a message from God. He does not specifically identify the God of his Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) as the deity who has sent the message, leaving Pharaoh to draw his own conclusions about which deity is responsible. Certainly any deity who could bring about such a severe famine on Egypt must be a powerful one, for the gods connected to the Nile which provided the needed water for the crops were considered to be strong gods. Pharaoh’s assessment of Joseph is that he is one who possesses the “spirit of God,” acknowledging that deity is indeed the source of Joseph’s wisdom.
You give abilities to us, Lord, that we may use them in your service. Amen.
Friday, June 9 Genesis 41:41-57
“I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt”
The text goes into significant detail concerning the elevation of Joseph to high office. The first step for Pharaoh is to give Joseph his signet ring. This ring was necessary for Joseph to do business in Pharaoh’s name since it was used to seal official documents. The linen robes and the gold chain signify his rank, status, and office. Chariots were the limousines of the day, so it is arranged that Joseph will ride in style. The men going before him clearing the way are the equivalent of the Secret Service protection that is offered to important dignitaries and officers in the United States.
The last section of Genesis 41 confirms that everything works out exactly as Joseph has said and that his policies are successful in dealing with the crisis. We discover that the famine not only affects Egypt but all the countries around as well. Thus the covenant blessing echoes through the passage with the nations of the earth being blessed by Abraham’s family, now represented in Joseph, ruler of Egypt.
You use us and the blessings you bestow on us, Lord, to be a blessing to others. Amen.
Saturday, June 10 Genesis 49:29 – 50:21
“Am I in the place of God?”
Joseph’s father, Jacob, and his eleven brothers and their families have come to Egypt, thereby saving them from the famine in their home territory of Canaan. Now Jacob has died, and the brothers are concerned that Joseph will revenge himself upon them for having sold him into slavery. But, Joseph says to them, “Am I in the place of God?” Joseph not only has a firm picture of who God is, but he has the equally important understanding of what he himself is not.
Joseph then claims: “God intended it for good.” This in a nutshell is not only the lesson of the Joseph story, but the key to the entire book of Genesis as well. Genesis begins with God blessing the earth. Soon, however, humans rebel against God and sin is introduced. From that point forward both blessing and sin continue. Why did God create a world that he knew would go awry? Why did God not eliminate sin as soon as it started? Why is there evil and suffering? Whatever we intend for evil, God intends for good. Evil will not triumph. Blessing will prevail. God’s revelation of his mastery and control of his creation is the message of Genesis.
You are amazing, God, and I praise you for bringing good from evil. Amen.