Three Prisoners (Part One)

Genesis 40:1-23

By God’s appointment, the lives of people become intertwined. From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live (Acts 17:26 CSB). We receive a family by birth, neighbors by residence, schoolmates by education, fellow workers by occupation, and friends by common interests. The lives of each affect the others, often in surprising ways. Certain other people, whom we might not meet under normal circumstances, can suddenly enter our lives. It might be a car accident, a tragedy in the community, a stay in the hospital, even getting stuck in a ditch on a snowy night.

God’s purpose is always at work. He will work out all things in conformity with the counsel of his own will. In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11 CSB; cf. Romans 11:36). His purpose is not often visible to our observation. There are times he forever changes the direction of our lives by someone we meet. Such a time now comes to Joseph. However, do not think that he could read the rest of his life’s story in his meeting with two new prisoners.

The Lord opened a new chapter in Joseph’s life (40:1-4). The immediate occasion was the anger of a king. Involvement in politics exposes oneself to dangers. A king’s fury is a messenger of death, but a wise person appeases it (Proverbs 16:14 CSB). In our current situation, we observe hatred on all sides politically. It is more than kings that have fury. Pray and act for peace.

The exact nature of their offense, real or imagined, did not matter. They served an absolute monarch whose slightest whims were law. There was no opposition party, no appeal beyond the decisions of Pharaoh. If they displeased him in the slightest, his wrath could demand their demise. Yet in this dire situation, the living God was in control of the king. The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1 ESV). God directed that they be assigned to Joseph’s care.

These two new prisoners had connections with royalty. “Again we perceive how the Lord was favoring Joseph by opening the way for him to reach positions of great responsibility in the structure of the government of Egypt” (Aalders).

For a while nothing happened. Life on this planet is not a series of exciting events. All three prisoners experienced for a while the gloom and despair of prison existence. The dull days of our lives ought to be used in preparation for the days of great significance. The time to grow as a Christian is the present. The hour of crisis is a poor time to learn. We need to recognize that the people that the Lord has placed in our lives are there for a reason, for mutual benefit. Perhaps they will expose weaknesses in your spiritual character that require change. Or they might be near, because the Lord wants you to point them toward Christ and salvation. In every case, the people nearby are your neighbors, and so you are to love them. Love them joyfully today!

Grace and peace, David