Genesis 40:1–23: Do Not Interpretations Belong to God?

by Mar 1, 20210 comments

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Trials expose the the genuineness of our trust in the Lord. We cannot trust the Lord in theory only. Either we trust him, or we do not. Trials, then, test whether we trust him. More than testing, though, trials also build our trust in the Lord—especially when the trials stretch longer than we think we can bear them. When the Lord does not work as quickly as we wish he would, he does so at least partially to expand our trust in him, so that we patiently wait for him to accomplish his work in his way. As John Calvin writes about Joseph, “Thus, when [the Lord] might have delivered the holy man directly from prison, he chose to lead him around by circuitous paths, the better to prove his patience, and to manifest, by the mode of his deliverance, that he has wonderful methods of working, hidden from our view. He does this that we may learn not to measure, by our own sense, the salvation which he has promised us; but that we may suffer ourselves to be turned hither or thither by his hand, until he shall have performed his work.”[1] As we still wrestle with how to make sense of our own lives, this passage teaches us that interpretations belong to God.

[1] Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, 2:306.

Discussion Questions

1) How long has Joseph suffered? How many people have been involved in causing his suffering? How close have those relationships been? How strong are Joseph’s prospects for deliverance as this passage begins? How has Joseph’s faith survived this long? What strategies do you have to fight for faith when trials and suffering pile up in your own life? How can Joseph’s story teach us about the virtue of persevering through deep, extended, multifaceted suffering?

2) Where would the cupbearer and baker have sought out interpretations for their dreams if they were not in prison (v. 8)? What makes Joseph confident that God will use him to give interpretations for their dreams? Does God still communicate prophetic insight through dreams (cf. Heb. 1:1–2)? If not, then how does God give “interpretations” for the circumstances of the lives of his people? Where do you seek out interpretations for the circumstances of your life?

3) How does the word of the Lord test Joseph again (cf. Ps. 105:19) at the end of this chapter? How much longer does Joseph have to wait for God’s word to be fulfilled (cf. Gen. 41:1)? What promise has God given to Joseph (cf. Gen. 37:5–9)? What promises has God made to us? How long must we wait for God to fulfill the promises that he has made to us? How does God use our trials both to test our faith and to work toward the eventual fulfillment of those promises?

4) How does Joseph’s ongoing descent deeper and deeper into “the pit” (v. 15) foreshadow the pattern of Christ’s life (cf. Phil. 2:6–8)? What does Joseph’s being “numbered among the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12; cf. Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37), with the cupbearer and the baker, suggest? What does the phrase “on the third day” (v. 20), albeit subtly (cf. 1 Cor. 15:4)? In these elements, what does the pattern of Joseph’s life suggest about the life and ministry of God’s Messiah?