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Genesis 41 – How long must I wait?

How long must I wait? This may have been what Joseph was saying to himself and to God as he waited inside his prison cell. His life had been filled with a lot of difficulties. From the beginning, his dreams and faithful reporting had engendered the hatred of his brothers. But now he was in prison and it seemed that he was being punished for things that he had not done.

In our lesson today, we will see how Joseph’s faithfulness while waiting led to God using him in a surprisingly good way. If we, like Joseph, can learn to wait on God’s timing, we will find that God’s plan is worth waiting for.

  1. Joseph waited for the right time.

    He had asked the butler to remember him (Gen. 40:14-15).

    After Joseph rightly interpreted the butler’s dream, he pleaded with the butler to speak to Pharaoh about him. He wanted out of prison and did not deserve to be there in the first place.

    He was forgotten for two years (Gen. 40:23).

    The sad statement at the end of the chapter is that the butler did not remember Joseph. Perhaps his sudden rise out of prison caused him to be extra careful around Pharaoh. Having been sent to prison once before, he didn’t want to say the wrong thing and be sent back. Whatever the case, the butler forgot all of his troubles and Joseph along with them.

    Application: Sometimes we are asked to wait. This may be especially hard when it doesn’t seem fair. For Joseph, it wasn’t fair, but it was God’s perfect plan. When we learn to wait upon the Lord, it will renew our strength and help us to endure what we could not otherwise.
  2. Joseph was called up at the right time.

    He was remembered by the butler (Gen. 41:9-13).

    After nobody could interpret Pharaoh’s dream, the butler’s memory suddenly came back to him. He told Pharaoh about Joseph’s successful interpretation of his and the baker’s dreams.

    He was called up by Pharaoh (Gen. 41:14).

    The butler’s story was enough to convince Pharaoh to have Joseph brought out of prison as quickly as possible. He shaved, put on clean clothes, and came into Pharaoh’s throne room.

    He was used by God to interpret the dream (Gen. 41:16, 25-32).

    Pharaoh quickly told Joseph what he had heard about him. Joseph made sure to give God the credit for any interpretations. But after hearing the dreams, Joseph gave Pharaoh the meaning. Seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine. God was letting Pharaoh know so that he could be prepared.

    He offered good advice to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:33-36).

    Without being asked, Joseph gave Pharaoh some advice that would help him be prepared for the coming famine. He advised him to put a discerning man in charge of the land, so that grain could be stored up for the future. This was very good advice which Pharaoh later considered.

    Application: Our perspective about the best timing is often different than what God has planned. If the butler had remembered Joseph and he had been freed from prison at any time before the two years were up, would he have been available for helping Pharaoh? “Wait, I say, wait upon the Lord.”
  3. Joseph was promoted at the right time.

    He was recognized as a godly and wise person (Gen. 41:38-41).

    Joseph didn’t realize that he was candidating for the job. However, Pharaoh and his servants were watching and recognized his character. He was a man of God and even the unbelieving Egyptians could see that. He was also a wise person as his advice to them had shown. Because of this, he was given the job of overseeing the whole land of Egypt.

    Application: Where did this character come from? If you look back at Joseph’s history, his father had put him in charge of looking over his brothers. Potiphar had put him in charge of his whole house. The jailer had put him in charge of the prison. Don’t let hard times keep you down. Keep being faithful wherever you are.

    He was honored by Pharaoh (Gen. 41:42-45).

    Joseph must have been very surprised. Just a few minutes ago, he had been waiting in prison and now he was second in command behind Pharaoh. Besides the position, Joseph was honored with the king’s signet ring, fine linen clothes, a gold chain, and the second best chariot in the land. When he drove the chariot, people were told to bow before him!

    He was blessed with a wife and two sons (Gen. 41:45, 50-52).

    But there was more. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife from one of the most prestigious families in Egypt. I have read that the priestly families were the highest in society. While we would not condone marrying someone outside of the faith today, Joseph didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter. I imagine that Joseph did everything he could to lead her to faith in the one, true God. He was later blessed with two sons as well. Each of them caused him to think of God. God’s blessings made him forget his former trials and he was thankful for all that God had provided.

    Application: Who would have expected all of this? Joseph was the vice-Pharaoh, wealthy, respected, and married with children. But all of this came about in God’s perfect timing.
  4. Joseph was wise at the right time.

    He was only 30 years old (Gen. 41:46a).

    Joseph was only 30 when put in charge of the country. This would not be a good idea for most people. But Joseph was strong in character. He had grown immensely in those 13 years away from home.

    He was trustworthy (Gen. 41:46b).

    When Joseph left Pharaoh’s throne room, what did he do? He immediately traveled throughout the land of Egypt. What was he doing? He was taking his job seriously. He was to manage the land and so he traveled through it looking at what he would be working with. Pharaoh could trust him because he was faithful.

    He gathered grain (Gen. 41:47-49).

    To prepare for the coming famine, he gathered large amounts of grain. He did this in every city. He must have seemed like a hoarder to the Egyptians. Why is he storing away so much grain? We have more than enough right now! But they didn’t know what was ahead.

    He was prepared for the famine (Gen. 41:53-57).

    When the plentiful years were ended, the famine came. Egypt had bread for a while, but when it ran out, the people came to Pharaoh for help. Pharaoh sent them to Joseph who sold from the abundance of grain he had saved. People from other lands came to Egypt for food as well. Now nobody was questioning Joseph’s actions.

    Application: Sometimes wise people don’t seem wise. They do things that don’t seem necessary. They prepare, save, and organize. When those things are necessary, the wise man seems to be foolish. But when trouble comes, he is ready and the others are not. Be a wise person. Follow wise advice. You won’t regret it.


Joseph had a rough beginning, but everything worked out in the end. He had to endure being hated by his brothers, being sold into slavery, being falsely accused of sexual assault, being kept in prison, and being forgotten by those he helped. But during that time, Joseph remained faithful to the Lord, made himself useful wherever he went, and was eventually rewarded by God.

Joseph later noted that it was God’s plan for him to go through those troubles to “save much people alive.” It must have been difficult, but thankfully Joseph waited on the Lord and reaped the benefits in God’s perfect timing. We often want to rush ahead of God’s timing instead of waiting. But that often leads us out of God’s plan and into worse trouble. Be a wise person. Trust the Lord and wait on His perfect timing.