Genesis 43: 16-34When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you keep looking at one another? I have heard’, he said, ‘that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.’ So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan. Reflection I once read a book about Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights that showed me that the story that I had thought of as a high romance was profoundly formed by political events. It was a book shaped by the ‘great hunger’ of Ireland every bit as much as it was the story of a relationship between Kathy and Heathcliff. I realized how much my own reading of a story had been shaped by popular music and film (Kate Bush, but also Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier) as well as by my own longing for wild romance – and how I had managed to ignore the famine.
Some themes of the story of Joseph have also been marginalised from many of our popular readings. In Western culture particularly, the story of Joseph and his brothers is a family drama, or the story of the personal development of an individual. This seems to us the obvious and natural way to read this story. But it is also a story about politics and poverty, about slavery and oppression, about famine and economic migrants. There are others in the world who can help us read it that way. The story of Joseph is the story of how the people of Israel became slaves in Egypt and how the land of Egypt all came to be owned by Pharaoh alone. This is why Joseph remains an ambiguous character in Jewish tradition. He is not the star of a musical, but the one who helped Pharaoh enslave Israel and impoverish Egypt.
At this point of the story, there is a famine – and a famine is not just a plot device, but an experience and a political reality. It shouldn’t be ignored, just as the famines in the nineteenth century should never have been explained away or exploited, and just as the famines today should never be forgotten.
give me grace and imagination
to see the world through the eyes of the hungry.
give me strength and courage,
to hear the voices of the most vulnerable.
give me wisdom and insight,
no longer to look only with my own eyes,
but to have my vision changed
and my perspective shifted,
for the sake of all your people. Amen.
Genesis 43: 1-15Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten up the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little more food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food; but if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’” Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” Then Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the boy with me, and let us be on our way, so that we may live and not die—you and we and also our little ones. I myself will be surety for him; you can hold me accountable for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry them down as a present to the man—a little balm and a little honey, gum, resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the top of your sacks; perhaps it was an oversight. Take your brother also, and be on your way again to the man; may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, so that he may send back your other brother and Benjamin. As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” So the men took the present, and they took double the money with them, as well as Benjamin. Then they went on their way down to Egypt, and stood before Joseph.
We may find it difficult to understand how child refugees have been sent alone to ‘safety’ by their parents, or how children may be sold for exploitation by their own parents, who are glad that at least their new masters will feed them. This is not just a phenomenon of distant countries; the children exploited on the ‘county lines’ trafficking drugs to and from our cities in the UK are in some cases the victims of such terrible situations. If you volunteer in your local Food bank or debt counselling network you will have heard similar stories many times.
This ancient story is therefore frighteningly contemporary. The famine is so severe that Judah has no choice but to risk Benjamin’s life by sending him along with his older brothers to beg for more food from the capricious satrap who now rules Egypt. Judah’s words “As for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved” is one of the most heart-rending in scripture. It is even more heart-rending to realise that it is spoken every day around the world in 2018.
as I read this familiar story from scripture,
help me not to sentimentalise it
or turn it into a soap opera.
Rather, may my reading of it
be earthed in the experiences
of parents around the world
and parents in the next street
who do not know
where the next meal will come from
and have no choice
but to risk their children now
in the hope of food later.
And if this story still disturbs me,
send me to the food bank
with some tins and some time
and gear me up
for Christian Aid Week 2018.
Psalm 461 God is our refuge and our strength,
our ever-present aid;
2 And therefore, though the earth gives way,
we will not be afraid.
Though mountains fall into the sea,
3 though waters foam and roar,
We will not fear, though mountains quake
as waves engulf the shore.
4 A river flows, whose streams delight
the city of our God—
The holy place, in which the LORD
Most High has his abode.
5 God is within his holy place;
the city will not yield,
For God will come at break of day
to be her help and shield.
6 The nations are in disarray;
the kingdoms disappear. God speaks,
and at his mighty voice
the whole earth melts with fear.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us
to strengthen and sustain;
For Jacob’s God our strong defence
and fortress will remain.
8 Come, see the works the LORD has done—
the judgments he commands,
The desolations he has brought
to pass in many lands.
9 In every land throughout the earth
he makes all conflict cease;
He shatters bow and spear and shield,
and brings his reign of peace.
10 Be still, and know that I am God,
on earth exalted high;
And all the nations of the world
my name will glorify.
11 The LORD Almighty is with us
to strengthen and sustain;
For Jacob’s God our strong defence
and fortress will remain.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing v 1-6 of the Psalm to the tune Stroudwater here and v 10-11 to the tune St Paul here. Reflection ‘Be still and know that I am God.’
It can be a challenge to be still.
We live in a culture which bombards us with images and words 24/7 to such extremes that we are in danger of becoming unwitting voyeurs of other people’s misery and misfortune. Success is measured in growth and productivity and being busy; indeed, being overly or constantly busy is a badge of honour whether in employment, or retirement, or leisure time.
It can be a challenge to be still.
Even in moments when we rest our bodies our ‘monkey minds’ leap from one idea to the next, often stimulated by the constant presence of social media with its ‘like’ and ‘emoji’ commentary on life.
It can be a challenge to be still. And yet it can also be a liberation.
To sit and feel your heart beat and know the intimate connection with the God who loves you and whose covenant with you is written on your heart.
To rest and breathe with your whole being and know that with each breath the Spirit connects you to the whole of creation.
To stop and listen to the soundscape around you and know the joy of the birdsong, the creativity which led to the rumble of traffic, the happiness of laughter and song but also know the pain in a child’s cry, the trauma in each act of violence and the despair in each experience of loss and yet know that God is present in each and every situation.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still. Be freed and in the stillness know that God is our place of safety and our life-force each and every day.
PrayerHoly and Eternal God,
still my body, mind and spirit.
As I consciously come into your presence
empty me of all
that commands my attention
and liberate me
from the domineering busyness
of the world
so that I may love you
with all of my being
and praise your Holy name,
provider of refuge and source of strength.
Genesis 42: 26-38They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed. When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack. He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!” At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”
When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, “The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly to us, and charged us with spying on the land. But we said to him, ‘We are honest men, we are not spies. We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in the land of Canaan.’ Then the man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I shall know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me, take grain for the famine of your households, and go your way. Bring your youngest brother to me, and I shall know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will release your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’”
As they were emptying their sacks, there in each one’s sack was his bag of money. When they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. And their father Jacob said to them, “I am the one you have bereaved of children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and now you would take Benjamin. All this has happened to me!” Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I do not bring him back to you. Put him in my hands, and I will bring him back to you.” But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should come to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.” Reflection We may be familiar with people who feel persecuted in life or dream, only to discover that it is God who is actually wrestling to bless them.
In this story, Joseph’s brothers have carried the yoke of their sin against Joseph for very long. I was particularly struck by the fact that they were fearful after finding the coins in their bags. Why is it not seen as a favour or blessing? Could it be that they are haunted by shadows from their past? The fact that they were also given provisions for their journey shows that Joseph meant to bless them rather than trapping them.
More generally, I wonder whether a similar paranoia can occur in our dealings with God? Could God’s attempt to bless unrepentant sinners come across as persecution or traps? Unresolved conflicts in our lives could potentially have the same effect, pushing us even to wrestle with God and people who are just trying to bless us. This perhaps highlights the importance of repentance, so that one can better receive love. Can we genuinely give others the benefit of the doubt until we can give it to ourselves? Unconfessed sins have the potential to damage our self-esteem, making us believe that we are undeserving of any favour. They can also make us blind to God’s good plans. It is very sad that one can also drag innocent people (like poor, old Jacob) in that contagious paranoia, taking the shape of a vicious cycle.
Sadly we are surrounded by people who struggle to receive love and favours even from God, who is always much more gracious than we can fathom.
Give us the humility to confess our sins
to those we have wounded,
the audacity to believe that you can forgive what looks unforgivable,
and the blessed assurance
to accept that you always wish us well
Genesis 42: 18-25On the third day Joseph said to them, ‘Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.’ And they agreed to do so. They said to one another, ‘Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.’ Then Reuben answered them, ‘Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.’ They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes. Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them. Reflection Many of us make mountains out of molehills brooding over slights and insults. Not knowing the full story, we often read more into an event than was ever there: that friend didn’t wave back because of a secret hatred; your father-in-law is late because you’re not good enough for his family; your boss never invites you for coffee because you do a bad job.
Having suffered so badly, Joseph surely built up mental images of his brothers celebrating his absence and living far better lives than his own. His heart must have been hardened against them - until he heard them talking and was moved to tears by love. A love restored by hearing that Reuben had pleaded for him. A love restored by finding out that his brothers had not only been thinking about him, but felt guilt about their misdeeds. A love that knew these statements were true reflections of what was in his brothers’ hearts.
Most of us are never privy to what others think of us so we might never find out that we were not seen by a friend in the street who was worrying about a doctor’s appointment. We might never know that our father-in-law tends to be late because his arthritis is bad on a morning. We might never discover that our boss doesn’t need to invite us for coffee and “a chat” because she views us as reliable. When we feel neglected or insulted, we can choose how to react: assume the hurt was caused deliberately or assume it wasn’t. As followers of Christ, we are called to respond always through love and that means asking for clarification when we are confused by somebody’s actions and it means letting love break through any resentment we might feel.
as you have given all of us
the benefit of the doubt
on so many occasions,
we ask that you give us the grace
to do the same for others.
Allow resentment to be displaced
by love in our hearts. Amen.
Genesis 42: 6-17Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in prison for three days. Reflection Remember those first two dreams, way back at the beginning of Chapter 37? (17th April 2018). The dreams that got Joseph’s brothers so riled that they hated him even more? The one where Joseph’s sheaf of corn rises over his brothers’ sheaves and they bow down to it, followed quickly by the one where the sun, moon and eleven stars were all bowing down to Joseph? Yes, you remember them now, and so did Joseph as his brothers come to Egypt from their home in Canaan to buy food for their survival. They come in full submission, faces to the ground, bowing down before their unrecognised brother who, in a sheer reversal of roles, now holds all the aces. I’ll leave it to later writers to determine whether this ‘dream come true’ is the stuff of nightmares or is, in fact, a blessing in disguise.
What is striking is the suspicion that Joseph had of his brother’s motives. We might say he was just playing them along, accusing them of spying, making them wait and jump through various hoops before he would help. After all, they deserved nothing from him did they, after the way they had treated him?
I fear there is something in his attitude that lingers today when people who are hungry seek help, whether that be from international aid organisations or the local food bank. We like to be generous, provided it’s on our terms. We need to remain in control, lest those who are in need begin to take advantage. We want to make sure their needs are genuine so we set conditions and expect hoops to be jumped through. I’m sure Joseph didn’t intend his actions to be interpreted this way, but then neither do we!
We might dream of a time when all people who are hungry will be fed. Until that time the least we can do is treat those who come to us with dignity and respect rather than demean them further.
when we are confronted by hunger,
asked for our help,
and challenged to give,
may compassion fill our hearts,
and kindness be on our lips
that we might follow the example of Jesus
and go the extra mile.
So may the hungry may be satisfied
and our need of you increased.
In Jesus name, Amen
Genesis 42: 1-5When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you keep looking at one another? I have heard’, he said, ‘that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.’ So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan. Reflection Talk about having favourites!
We see within the first few verses of this chapter that Jacob is once again showing favouritism to one of his sons. Like Joseph, Benjamin is now the number 1 son, or so it would seem.
But before this the chapter begins with Jacob learning that there was grain in Egypt – He would have heard this from the passing Caravans. He asks his sons why they have not thought about going to Egypt to buy grain and is confused by his sons’ reactions, that they just keep looking at each other.
Is this the moment that the brothers have to face the reality of what they did – by having to go to the place they sold Joseph as a slave, not knowing the outcome of his fate? Are the brothers about to start their journey to repentance?
Jacob did not send Benjamin with his brothers – as the only son of Rachel, Jacob wanted to protect his son from harm. What harm? The harm that may happen on the journey or from his brothers? Did Jacob know or suspect all these years what they had done? Did Jacob not trust his other sons? But he sends his sons, not his servants, this job of buying grain to keep the family alive was too important a job, therefore he entrusted his sons with it. Does this happen in our daily lives when circumstances force us to confront past sins head on?
Do we favour one over the other? What do we base this favouritism on? Those that are the same as us, think the same, have the same religion? And if we do how then do we see the other – with doubt, misgivings, or distrust?
Are we sent by our Father to reconcile the hurt we may have been part of, to make peace with our histories, personal or otherwise?
as we start this day
let us not show favouritism
to anyone we meet,
but meet them in love and kindness.
Let us make amends for our past sins,
reconciling with those we may have hurt
with our words or actions,
allowing us to make peace
with our histories.
In your name we pray.
Genesis 41: 53-57The seven years of plenty that prevailed in the land of Egypt came to an end; and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in every country, but throughout the land of Egypt there was bread. 55 When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do.’ And since the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt. Moreover, all the world came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine became severe throughout the world Reflection Joseph sold the grain that was in the storehouses to the Egyptians, which doesn’t sound very charitable. Fortunately for them the storehouses were chock full of grain, but where had it come from? Well, it turns out that Joseph, wielding his power as Pharaoh’s right hand man, had appropriated it from those very same, now-starving, Egyptians in the first place (41:34).
Joseph took their grain and then, when they were in great need, he sold it back to them! We’re used to seeing Joseph as the victim of others but it appears that the dreamer has a steelier side. Along with Jesus, whilst we might appreciate the sleight of hand, as wily as that of any serpent, we might wonder what has happened to Joseph’s dove-like innocence.
Even the nicest of us, we are reminded, has a shadow side, but there are issues here beyond those of individual character. What do you do when you are in a position of responsibility and the demands are many but resources are few? Personally, I can afford to buy a hungry person a meal but I don’t have the money to feed a starving population.
Joseph had storehouses to build and a food supply system to maintain, and you don’t put all of that together without (someone else’s) money. Whether it should have been those who were starving who had to pay for it all – twice, once in kind and once in cash – is another matter.
In a world where millions starve today, and millions more go hungry, who do you think should have the authority to control food supplies? The government, the farmers, the consumers, the food sellers, or someone else? And whoever has that authority, how should they marry generosity and practicality for the benefit of all?
Give me a spirit of generosity
in responding to need
and the wisdom to respond effectively.
Genesis 41: 46 - 52
Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went through all the land of Egypt. During the seven plenteous years the earth produced abundantly. He gathered up all the food of the seven years when there was plenty in the land of Egypt, and stored up food in the cities; he stored up in every city the food from the fields around it. So Joseph stored up grain in such abundance—like the sand of the sea—that he stopped measuring it; it was beyond measure. Before the years of famine came, Joseph had two sons, whom Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, bore to him. Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh,‘For’, he said, ‘God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.’ The second he named Ephraim, ‘For God has made me fruitful in the land of my misfortunes.’ Reflection For those familiar with the musical it can be difficult to read the story of Joseph without the soundtrack playing in the background. And so as the story progresses and Joseph’s fortunes change the musical also changes gear with a fast pace narrative and upbeat tune to reflect positivity and efficiency. Positivity in the sense that a series of events has taken Joseph from a favoured position in his large family to a pit, slavery and prison, rising now to be Pharaoh’s “number two”. It also demonstrates the efficiency and skill of Joseph as he plans, organises and prepares to ensure Egypt takes full advantage of the present and gets ready for a period of anticipated famine. So we discover, as the events unfold, that Joseph can indeed accurately interpret dreams and that he is a very capable character. In the last section of today’s text we also discover Joseph’s commitment to God. Not only has he risen to hold a powerful position in Egypt, but he now also has a wife and two sons. Times are indeed good for Joseph and in the naming of his sons he has not forgotten God in all of the newly found busyness, responsibilities and joys of his life. Perhaps a reminder to us that God is ever present. We can easily make time to turn to God in times of despair, loss and suffering when the soundtrack to our life slows and becomes downbeat. Just as easily, do we also take time to turn to God in the times when all seems well and our soundtrack has a fast pace narrative with an upbeat tune?
PrayerEver present God,
Make me realise that you are always here.
In my despair and my joy.
In the quiet times and the busy times.
In times of sadness and sorrow.
In times of celebration and smiles.
When I am lonely.
When I am surrounded by family and friends.
For your constant patience and presence
I offer you my thanks today.
Psalm 451 A noble theme inspires my heart
with verses for the king;
My tongue’s a skilful writer’s pen,
composing lines to sing.
your lips are full of grace,
For God has blessed you evermore;
his light shines on your face.
and bind it on your thigh;
With glorious splendour clothe yourself
and with your majesty.
for meekness, truth and right;
Let your right hand display your deeds
of awesome power and might.
of those who hate the king;
And all the nations of the earth
into subjection bring.
will last throughout eternity;
Your kingdom’s sceptre will be one
of truth and equity.
your God has made you great,
Because you care for righteousness,
and wickedness you hate.
in fragrant robes you’re clad;
From palaces of ivory
stringed music makes you glad.
king’s daughters take their stand;
The royal bride in finest gold
appears at your right hand.
consider what I say;
You must forget your father’s house,
your people far away.
the king is held in thrall.
He is your lord; give him respect,
before him humbly fall.
to offer gifts to you;
And wealthy people will approach
your favour to pursue.
the princess waits within;
14 In richly ornamented clothes
she’s brought before the king.
Attendant maidens follow her
and so to you are led;
the palace courts they tread.
16 In places where your fathers stood
your sons will take their stand;
You’ll make them princes of the realm
to rule throughout the land.
through everlasting days;
Therefore the nations of the world
will ever sing your praise.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this, from verse 11, to the tune Stockport/Yorkshire here.
The noble hero rides out in victory, defender of meekness, truth and right. Clothed in glorious splendour he performs deeds of awesome power and might, far excelling the best of us.
This surely is like a movie that is going to have a happy ending; what baddie could stand against a hero God has blessed, upon whose face God shines light. A hero anointed with the oil of gladness. A hero who smells of myrrh, aloes and cassia, an aroma reminiscent of those sanctified in the Temple.
This is the sort of hero who saves the day, wielding his sword of truth and equity and rescuing those in peril. The sort of hero every child wants to become. The sort of hero perhaps we who strive to walk the way should still wish to become. We, after all, are called by Christ to be people of meekness, truth and right.
Discipleship calls us to a meekness of lifestyle, trusting in, committing to, and quietly waiting for God. Meekness helps a hero to refrain from anger and defensiveness, absorb difficulty and criticism without lashing back.
Discipleship calls us to a lifestyle of radical truth, of showing our weaknesses and struggles. A lifestyle of truth sometimes means the hero must make a stand, not just on big issues but on small day to day ones.
Discipleships call us to a lifestyle that seeks right and justice for all. A hero must fight for a world that offers justice for all people, for fair systems that reflect God’s love. Whatever age we are, we can still grow up to be the hero. We can star in the movie, as a defender of meekness, truth and right; a hero who performs small but awesome deeds power and might as we walk the way.
PrayerLord of action,
You call us to be people
of meekness, truth and right.
You call us to live and speak
truthfully, humbly, and meekly.
You call us to seek justice in all things,
in all places and for all people.
when we wait for someone else
to do something,
for a hero to save the day.
Encourage us to make a start,
to make a commitment.
Let your noble theme inspire our hearts.
Inspire us to speak out now.
Inspire us to act now.
Inspire us to seek transformation now.
Genesis 41: 37-45The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-paneah; and he gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, as his wife. Thus Joseph gained authority over the land of Egypt. Reflection They say that a week is a long time in politics and we see the evidence of this in our own political scene. But we observe nothing by comparison with Joseph’s rise to power. There is no indication of the timescale in the narrative but we can reasonably infer that when Joseph got up that morning he was a prisoner, held in the dungeons and by the time he went to bed that night he was second only to Pharaoh in the whole land. It appears that Pharaoh did not see the decision to elevate Joseph to his new status as one which required much thought, a simple question of his servants and the decision was made – a recognition of the place of God in the life of this former prisoner. Joseph, of course, was now in the place where his boyhood dreams had predicted and in this final scene Pharaoh gives recognition to this place through the royal proclamation, the insignia of office, the public acclamation and the provision of a wife.
Thirteen years lie between Joseph’s first dream and his entering the service of Pharaoh, King of Egypt. They were not easy years and Joseph could have been forgiven for feeling that maybe he had misunderstood God’s intention. But we know that Joseph continued through those years to have faith in God and in his guidance as he interpreted the dreams of others – an example of patience for each of us and a reminder that God is in charge.
forgive our impatience,
help us to learn from Joseph
the faith to wait for your time
the wisdom to respond to your signs
and the readiness to follow your call
Genesis 41: 14-36Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon. When he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favourable answer.’ Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile; and seven cows, fat and sleek, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows came up after them, poor, very ugly, and thin. Never had I seen such ugly ones in all the land of Egypt. The thin and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had done so, for they were still as ugly as before. Then I awoke. I fell asleep a second time and I saw in my dream seven ears of grain, full and good, growing on one stalk, and seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouting after them; and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. But when I told it to the magicians, there was no one who could explain it to me.’
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land. The plenty will no longer be known in the land because of the famine that will follow, for it will be very grievous. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a man who is discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.’
The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’ And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’ Removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; he arrayed him in garments of fine linen, and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in the chariot of his second-in-command; and they cried out in front of him, ‘Bow the knee!’ Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.’ Reflection We humans spend a third of our life asleep; and while we sleep, we dream; but we usually forget last night’s dreams as the day progresses. The psychologist Sigmund Freud described dreams as a way to look into our soul to unlock our unconscious mind. Sometimes, our dreams stay with us and will occupy our thoughts, even trouble us, as happened to Pharaoh.
The Joseph in Genesis in his younger life had dreams that stayed with him (the sheaves; the sun-moon-stars), and in today’s passage, these dreams are realised when he is appointed second only to Pharaoh. Joseph had to wait half a lifetime for his dreams to come true! One lesson from reading the accounts of the Old Testament patriarchs is patience, where God’s long-term plan for their lives was measured in decades.
I am always struck by Pharaoh’s reception of Joseph. Pharaoh was a man who had spent his life being told that he was a ‘god’, the earthly embodiment of Ra. Then in comes Joseph, a Hebrew slave who speaks of ‘Elohim’ (God). While the text is silent on how this was received by the royal court, Pharaoh accepts Joseph’s interpretation. Consider how much Pharaoh was changed in his encounter with God!
Dreams were important for Joseph and Pharaoh, and for others in Bible – Jacob, Samuel, Daniel, Mary’s Joseph, Cornelius, Peter etc. - where their dreams (and visions) gave them the push they needed to go God’s way. Pharaoh risked all when he trusted in God.
At Pentecost, Peter quoted Joel: “Your young men will see visions; your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17) One way I understand this is a challenge for us not to limit God by our rational (waking) minds, but to be ready to say yes to God’s radical call, just as our dreams are unconstrained.
We give You thanks for the many
and varied ways You speak to us.
When we walk in Your creation,
open our eyes to see You.
When we meet with others,
help us to hear You in their words.
When we read Your word,
at the prompting of Your Holy Spirit.
When we lie down and sleep,
may our dreams inspire us by Your majesty unbounded.
Genesis 41: 1-13After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass. Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke. Then he fell asleep and dreamed a second time; seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. Then seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them. The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Pharaoh awoke, and it was a dream. In the morning his spirit was troubled; so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my faults today. Once Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard. We dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own meaning. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each according to his dream. As he interpreted to us, so it turned out; I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.’ Reflection
“….such stuff as dreams are made on…”
I have spent very little time in my life thinking about dreams. I know, within myself, that I do have dreams and just, very occasionally, I remember them. However the matter of dreams and their interpretation has been recorded through millennia – records exist from at least 2000 years before Jesus’ feet first touched the Egyptian earth. Dream work can be traced through history and faith groups from that time on. Joseph’s time frame was somewhere between 1000 and 1500 years before the birth of Jesus.
Those who interpreted dreams (the magicians and wise men above) were highly respected and probably should be thought of as the forerunners to medics; to consult such a magician as commonplace perhaps as, if not a 21st century trip to the doctor, a pre NHS consultation. In other words not so common amongst the poor.
I have a cousin in Canada and her wife goes religiously to her weekly dream group where members share their dreams and in a safe environment explore what they might mean. Nowadays this area of analysis is understood to belong to the psychotherapist.
And so I pondered where did Joseph’s expertise and apparent comfort around dream work come from? He did not have the luxury of being able to look up on the internet the accepted meaning attributed to dreams about cattle, cows or corn and clearly there is no suggestion in his story that he travelled to study before being trafficked to Egypt. I like to think that perhaps this was just knowledge that he picked up as he was growing up. Like many things knowledge and experience is freely available but temperament and openness to an experience or the insights another passes on birthing in turn a new expert.
PrayerLoving and steadfast God,
we find you in all places and all times.
Help us to be open to the
thoughts and ideas and experiences
that we will meet today,
those in our comfort zone
and those which stretch us
beyond the point
that we ever thought possible.
Help us to feel your hand in ours
as we walk forward on our journey of faith. Amen
Media Interest in the Devotions
a couple of months ago many of you shared how the Devotions were making a difference in your life - your words were very moving indeed.
One of our subscribers works for a media company and there is a possibility that there might be a piece put together for National TV on the Devotions looking, in particular at the difference they make. The company are still in the very early stages of exploring this but if it goes ahead would like to interview someone about that difference. Many of you shared how you used them whilst commuting or at work to give a sense of peace in the midst of a busy day, some told me that you read them to ill spouses, another told me you use them to encourage people who are in desperate circumstances.
I wonder if any of you would feel able to share how you use them in such life changing ways on TV. If so please get in touch and we can continue the conversation.
with every good wish
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Genesis 40: 20-23On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants, and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his cupbearing, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand; but the chief baker he hanged, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Reflection We don’t know what crimes, perceived or actual, had led to the cupbearer and baker being imprisoned. It may have just been at the whim of the all-powerful Pharaoh. One night in prison they both have dreams, and when Joseph visits them in the morning he can see that they are troubled. They tell Joseph their dreams, he interprets them, and in three days they have proved true. Both are ‘lifted up’, but one is restored to their position and the other is hanged.
Joseph specifically asked for the chief cupbearer to remember him, and make his case to Pharaoh, if the dream proved true, but the restored official forgets and Joseph is left to languish in prison for two more years.
Such ingratitude from the cupbearer! He is restored to all of his previous duties and privileges, but doesn’t speak a word for the man who relieved his troubles whilst in prison. Perhaps he was too excited, or all too aware that the whims of Pharaoh could have had him hanging by the neck rather than the baker.
The circle of favours and obligations, of scratching backs, is how things get done. I help you, so in turn you help me. Sometimes it can be incredibly transactional, but often it is just how we naturally engage with each other. Showing gratitude is a way in which we build relationships, we build trust, and create community.
who remembers all,
we give thanks that no-one is ever forgotten by you.
Within your heart every sparrow that falls
is held in Love’s embrace,
every hair on every head is known
in Knowledge’s library.
help us to always be grateful,
even when that requires great strength,
peace or hope.
For the beauty, complexity,
and harshness of life we will give thanks.
We give thanks that we can be awestruck
by Creation around us,
dumbfounded by its intricacy,
and overwhelmed by its ambiguousness.
We give thanks for the blessing of life,
both what we see as good and bad,
and everything in-between. Amen
Genesis 40: 1-19Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker offended their lord the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he waited on them; and they continued for some time in custody. One night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers, who were with him in custody in his master’s house, ‘Why are your faces downcast today?’ They said to him, ‘We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.’ And Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.’
So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, ‘In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms came out and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.’ Then Joseph said to him, ‘This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. But remember me when it is well with you; please do me the kindness to make mention of me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this place. For in fact I was stolen out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.’
When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favourable, he said to Joseph, ‘I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.’ And Joseph answered, ‘This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a pole; and the birds will eat the flesh from you.’ Reflection The story of Joseph begins with two dreams that offend his family. Today we get two more dreams, this time they are not dreamt by Joseph but by other characters in the story.
Two senior officers from Pharaoh's court, the cupbearer and the baker, had upset their king and they have been imprisoned in the house of Potiphar, the captain of the guard. We are not told what they had done to make Pharaoh angry or whether their imprisonment was justified. Maybe the result of something trivial, maybe something far more serious. The Talmud suggests that at a party given by Pharaoh 'the princes discovered stone grits in their bread, and one of them discovered a fly in his wine'. Maybe like many through the centuries up to our own day they were just victims of the unjust sensitivities of power.
Joseph undergoes a temporary change in fortune as he is transferred from his own prison cell to wait upon these two men.
One night the two men both have a dream. It is well known that in ancient Egypt dreams were important and the two officers want an expert who will decipher the meaning of their dreams. Joseph sees their distress and asks the two men to tell him their dreams. He makes the point that is at the heart of today's reading: "Do not interpretations belong to God". Joseph is no professional interpreter of dreams, their meaning is given to him by God. Both Joseph and later Daniel rise to positions of authority in foreign courts through their interpretation of dreams and both make the same point that it is God who interprets dreams (see also Daniel 2:27-28).
Joseph goes on to explain the dreams. He pleads to the cupbearer to remember him when it is well with him. Joseph expresses frustration at his circumstances: "I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon". Another victim of injustice, perhaps?
things don't always happen
in ways we want,
neither do things
always meet our expectation.
Help us to be patient
and put our trust in you.
Genesis 39: 19-23When his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, saying, “This is the way your servant treated me,” he became enraged. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined; he remained there in prison.
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favour in the sight of the chief jailer. The chief jailer committed to Joseph’s care all the prisoners who were in the prison, and whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper. Reflection Bad things happen to good people, bad people, and all the people in between. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean to say we won’t go through horrendous times when it seems everything and everyone is against us. Here, Joseph is blamed for something he didn’t do at all. As a result, he is imprisoned and it must seem as if everything is all over for him and that even God has deserted him. Injustices can be very difficult to bear!
However, God is with Joseph always, and brings good things out of his bad circumstances. Joseph has the chance to improve his skills in both project and people management in a way he never expected – and this experience will prove very useful to him in the times ahead. God always has a plan and uses everything to bring that plan to fruition for Joseph and for all of us, no matter what is happening in our lives.
thank You that You are always with us,
no matter how awful
our circumstances might be.
Help us to trust that You
will bring good out of evil,
and use us for Your glory. Amen.
Psalm 441 O God, we with our ears have heard—
our fathers told us so—
What you accomplished in their days,
in days of long ago.
2 Your hand drove nations out,
and placed our fathers there instead;
You crushed the peoples,
but you caused our tribes to grow and spread.
3 It was not by their sword or arm
that they possessed the land,
But by your love and favour shown,
and by your mighty hand.
4 You are my King and God;
ordain for Jacob victories.
5 Through you we trample down
our foes and rout our enemies.
6 My sword does not bring victory,
nor do I trust my bow.
7 You put our enemies to shame
and overcome our foe.
8 In God alone we make our boast,
rejoicing all day long,
And to your name for evermore
we’ll offer praise in song.
9 But now you have rejected us
and brought us very low,
And when our armies march to war,
with them you do not go.
10 Our hateful foe has plundered us;
you made us flee, O God.
11 You let us be devoured like sheep
and scattered us abroad.
12 You cheaply sold your people off;
the sale produced no gain.
13 Our neighbours look on us with scorn
and treat us with disdain.
14 You make us a reproach
and shame before the nations’ face;
The peoples shake their heads at us
and mock at our disgrace.
15 Disgrace I suffer all day long
and I am filled with shame
16 Because of mocking taunts
and scorn from those who hate my name.
17 All this has happened to us,
though we’d not forgotten you.
We had not spurned your covenant;
to it we had been true.
18 Our hearts did not turn back;
our feet from your path did not stray. 1
9 You crushed and left us in the dark
where jackals hunt their prey.
20 If we forgot God’s name,
or to false gods had stretched our hands,
21 Would God not know,
for he our hearts and secrets understands?
22 And yet it is for your own sake
we face death all the day;
We’re reckoned like the sheep
that are for slaughter led away.
23 Awake, O Lord! Arise from sleep!
Do not reject your folk.
24 Why hide your face
and quite forget our pain and cruel yoke?
25 For we’ve been humbled to the dust,
laid prostrate on the ground.
26 Rise, help, redeem,
because within your cov’nant love we’re found.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Old 44th here. Reflection This Psalm is written in response to some event which has gone badly wrong and, in verses 9-16, the writer pours out his heart about the defeat, and the ensuing abuse, plundering, mocking, shame poured on their heads by the victors. But the psalm begins with a remembering of the stories of the nation’s history and God's part in those events and it puts me in mind of a poem by Steve Turner which goes:
"History repeats itself.
It was important for the nation to tell and re-tell those stories in the meeting places, at the family meal-table, to keep them in the nation's consciousness, to later write them down for all to read, so that they would know that regardless of the current situation, whether one of victory or defeat, that they are God's people and God's hand is always ready to respond to our faith in him.
So the flow of the Psalm might be something like this: We worship you God because you have already done this, this and this but we now find ourselves in this dire situation and its not as a result of our lack of faith or our sin, please help us!
I wonder how many times we cut straight to "please help us!"
Do we actively watch out for signs of God's activity in our world - at any level? And if so, do we share it with others, blog it, tweet it, sing it, pray it?
Do we take time to tell God how we feel about the current situation, good or bad, we find ourselves, or someone else, in?
Do we review our lives and our behaviour and, if so, do we invite God to review it with us and seek his forgiveness or guidance as necessary?
Our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home.
Genesis 39: 6a-18Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, ‘Lie with me’. But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has be kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, she caught hold of his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me!’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. When she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled outside, she called out to the members of her household and said to them, ‘See, my husband has brought among us a Hebrew to insult us! He came in to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice; and when he heard me raise my voice and cry out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.’ Then she kept his garment by her until his master came home, and she told him the same story, saying, ‘The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled outside’ Reflection Oh, what a tangled web we weave… Actually, this web wasn’t as tangled as it could have been. Potiphar’s wife fancied Joseph. Potiphar, himself, seems to have been so occupied with affairs of state that he neglected those closest to him, or those who should have been closest to him. Still happens.
“Heav'n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn'd, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn'd”, the men among us say smugly. No doubt, female readers of this reflection will have their own (sardonic?) ideas on this particular couplet, and no doubt also their own formative experiences.
Power and sex are powerful forces, as we have seen in recent years, and powerful means of exploitation. In this instance, both were in the hands of one person, who was unscrupulous about their use in achieving her ends. Joseph’s was the stance of integrity, but an integrity that did not carry the presumption of innocence. He was clay in her hands.
Things did not go as badly for Joseph as they might have done. He came through and prospered, ending up in a very high position indeed, under Pharaoh.
But do we sometimes pay too high a price for our worldly success? Are those closest to us paying too high an emotional price? What effect do our ambitions, wishes, aspirations have on them and their lives?
And does our own personal integrity bear as close a scrutiny as Joseph’s does, at least in this instance?
Personal integrity and a properly grounded and inspired (yes, those attributes can exist simultaneously) sense of priorities have to play their part in our faith journeys. And at the time of writing of this reflection, maybe it’s not too late to include them specifically as latecomers to my own resolutions for 2018!
PrayerO loving yet all-seeing Father,
Grant us the power and privilege
Too see ourselves as others do,
To hear ourselves as others do,
And to imagine ourselves into the perspectives of others on us.
And grant us the resolution
To make such necessary changes in ourselves
As will commend ourselves to others,
As people who may be trusted without reserve,
Not to exploit or betray, or use those we meet for our own ends,
But rather to live for those others, close to us and further away,
And make a good witness to the Gospel of your Son.
Genesis 39: 1-6Now Joseph was taken down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man; he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands. So Joseph found favour in his sight and attended him; he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate. Reflection The closest I have come to staying in the house of the Captain of the Royal Guard was staying at the bottom end of Windsor Castle, across the courtyard from the homes of the Military Knights of Windsor and with Guardsmen on sentry duty marching to and fro. I was there with Philip, the youngest Admiral in the Royal Navy. Educated at Mansfield College, his background was more orthodox than Joseph’s. We were both part of a group who were deemed “successful” and invited to consider the challenges of assuming national leadership.
From a pacifist family, I start with no particular enthusiasm for Admirals. Philip was nonetheless striking not for his knowledge of naval weaponry, although he was an expert, but for the way the human dimension of every situation was what caught his attention first. He lived out his words by finding ways of relating warmly to every one of our diverse group. If we have to have a Navy, let people like him lead it. I was not surprised to read recently that he is now Sir Philip KCB and First Sea Lord.
I wonder what is was about the youthful Joseph that so impressed Potiphar. Clearly he could do his job, but maybe he did it with unusual humanity. The way he later treated his family in Egypt suggests he had learnt something from his earlier selfish arrogance. In every context, we need leaders who do more than just the job.
And Joseph was actually No.2. It was still Potiphar’s household. A former President of the Methodist Conference, Leslie Griffiths, likes to say “It is always the No.2s who do the work.” Not quite true, but often those just behind the prominent leader carry as large a workload for less visible reward. Those with fast-moving careers often see their debt to the calm, competent No.2s who have supported them at each stage.
I pray for those who are called to lead
and for those who stand
just behind them.
I pray especially for such people
that I will meet today at work
or this weekend at church.
When I am leading,
help me to notice those on whom I rely.
When I am in support,
make me generous and gracious
even when my efforts are taken for granted.
Whatever my role,
give me the insight and energy
to include the human dimension.
Let me see each individual
as made in your image.