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And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:37-43)
Words that Were Hard to Accept
Genesis chapter 41 talks about Joseph becoming the governor of Egypt. Joseph had dreamt about that when he was young. His brothers hated him for it and sold him into slavery. He was serving as a slave in the house of Potiphar, a captain of the guard in Egypt, when he was wrongly accused of a crime, intentionally, by Potiphar’s wife and was sent to prison. While in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of the chief butler and the chief baker, who by chance were also imprisoned. Joseph’s interpretation of the chief butler’s dream was that he would be released from prison, which indeed he was.
Afterward, the Pharaoh had a dream, but there was no one who could interpret it. Pharaoh was greatly stressed, but then from his chief butler he heard about Joseph. He called for Joseph and recounted to him his dream. Joseph interpreted the dream.
“The seven fat-fleshed cows are seven years of prosperity, and the seven rank and good ears of corn also represent seven years of prosperity. The seven ill-favored and lean-fleshed cows and the seven withered and scorched ears of corn represent seven years of famine that will come about after the seven years of prosperity. There will be seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine all over this land of Egypt.”
After interpreting Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph said, “Unless you gather and store food during the seven plenteous years, this land will perish.”
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “God has shown you all of this. There is none as discreet and wise as you. You shall be over my house and according to your word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than you.”
Pharaoh had done the tremendous act of establishing Joseph as the ruler of Egypt.
While reading the Bible, there are many aspects of the Word of God that are difficult to accept into our heart. This is because the Words of God in the Scriptures are so far beyond our rationale. There are so many things in the Bible that cannot be understood through our experience or knowledge. We are carefree in our reading of the Bible, but for the people who actually lived the experiences we read about in the Bible, it was very difficult for them to accept everything on faith. We can see, however, amazing works arose when people accepted them on faith.
One example of the power of faith was when Jesus changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. It was clearly water that the servants had poured into the water pots, but Jesus told them to draw out the water and take it to the governor of the feast. What were the servants to do? If they did not have faith to believe in the Lord, they could never have drawn out the water and taken it to the governor of the feast. This is also true when Jesus said, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk,” to the man with an infirmity for 38 years. Reasonably thinking, he might have thought, “Because of my disease, I have not been able to move for 38 years. How could I possibly get up now and walk?” It would be absolutely unacceptable. Nevertheless, by boldly believing in the Word, these people were able to experience the power of the Lord.
Calling out to Lazarus, who was dead, rotting and stinking in his tomb, shouting, “Lazarus, come forth,” was not something that just anyone might do. It was something that only God could say. Because the Word of God has power, God was exceedingly able to achieve what He said. That is the difference between the Word of God and the word of man. It is God who accomplishes that which is impossible to man.
A Single Word from the King
Joseph was wrongly accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife, was arrested, and imprisoned. Moreover, he was not an Egyptian, but an Israelite. Today, it is difficult to grasp the fact that he was made governor merely because he interpreted a dream after Pharaoh summoned him from his cell. Thus, if Joseph had only considered the circumstances, he could not possibly have believed what he was hearing.
“No, that’s impossible. How could Pharaoh make me the governor of Egypt? Me, a convict in his prison. He must be kidding. I will have to return to my cell.”
However, the words of Pharaoh were the words of the king. Thus, when the words, “You shall rule over my house. Only in the throne will I be greater than you,” left the Pharaoh’s lips, no one could say, “King, that cannot be. This person committed such and such a crime, and he’s a foreigner, to boot. You cannot do this without looking into it further.” There was no one, servant or officer, who could say such a thing. In the words of Pharaoh, there was power enough to make Joseph, who had been languishing pitifully in a filthy prison cell, into governor.
When Joseph heard Pharaoh’s words, how could he believe them? Only by realizing that Pharaoh, the king, reigned over all of Egypt, could Joseph believe those words.
Without question, Joseph was a sinner. Although he did not commit the crime of which he was accused, he was a sinner nevertheless and was in prison. A single word from the king, however, regardless of what crime Joseph might have committed and whether he was in prison or not, changed everything. He was moved from the position of a sinner to the position of a ruler. The words of Pharaoh lacked nothing in giving Joseph authority and making him holy. Joseph now wore the clothes of a governor instead of the rags of a convict. He wore a gold chain around his neck instead of iron chains that bound his arms. Instead of being locked behind bars, he rode in Pharaoh’s second chariot. Instead of being scorned and despised as a prisoner, people bowed before him. That one word from Pharaoh made Joseph stand competent and able, as a ruler to govern the land of Egypt.
In John chapter 8, there is the story of the woman taken in adultery. This woman was taken in the very act and was dragged before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. They said to Jesus, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” Jesus then wrote on the ground with His finger and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Many people had brought stones to throw at the woman, but the words of Jesus broke the will in their hearts to strike her. It was they, not she, who were put to shame. Surely this woman had been taken in the act of adultery, but He made the others leave. Afterwards, one word from the Lord rang through the woman’s ears.
“Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?”
“No man, Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more.”
This woman’s heart had been filled with shame, the guilt of sin, and the terror of death. The Lord renewed and changed her heart, filling it with joy and thankfulness. In addition, He covered her heart with the Lord’s love and had her return home.
From Which Perspective Do You See Yourself?
Today many people walk around carrying the Bible, the 66 books of the Old and the New Testament, in their hand. However, they have a tendency to accept and understand God’s Word according to their circumstances. It means they are looking at the Bible from their own perspective.
From time to time, I speak about this. In the movie, Ben Hur, Arius the Roman consul falls into the sea as he fights some pirates. Ben Hur jumps into the sea to save him and lays him out on a large piece of wooden debris. Consul Arius sees the magnificent ship he commanded sinking in flames as he lay on the flotsam. He tries to commit suicide, assuming that the pirates have defeated him. Ben Hur, however, keeps Arius from killing himself. Later, a fleet approaches. It turns out to be Roman. When Arius boards the Roman ship, his men say, “You have won a great victory in this battle.” Then there is a scene in which Arius becomes emotional, rejoices, looks to Ben Hur and says, “Your God, for you, has given us this victory.”
He was the same consul, but how he felt in his heart differed depending on which perspective he was looking from. When he had taken his great fleet of ships and had gone into battle, and then when he lay on the flotsam, watching his ship sink beneath the waves, he could only wait for death, saying, “We have been defeated by the pirates. We are doomed.” Nevertheless, when he was aboard the ship from the Roman fleet and heard the news of victory, he rejoiced in his heart.
Likewise, the point of view from which we see ourselves is very important. We are weak, deficient, and sinful. If you realize this and see yourself from this position, you also realize that there is no hope for you. There is only despair. One day, I read Romans chapter 3. Verse 23 says, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. How true that is. I, no less than you, have committed sin. We are all sinners. It was not a burden to my heart accepting these words because they matched my experience and circumstances.
Reading on, however, verse 24 says, Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. This too, is the Word of God, but it did not conform to my experience and circumstances. The Bible is telling us that we have been justified freely through God’s grace.
If people are justified by doing righteous deeds, it is acceptable because it would be expected and reasonable. Because man is tied to sin and the flesh, man commits sin every day. It is impossible to create the circumstance or environment in which a person would be able to gain righteousness on his or her own. We commit evil acts far more frequently than we perform righteous deeds. We are dirty and we live in sin because under the flesh we are all human. There is no one on earth who can say, “I am wholly righteous,” by leading himself to a position to not sin and do righteous deeds. However, people often struggle and labor to perform righteous acts, to drag themselves into a position of righteousness, at the expense of believing in God.
That is impossible. If we could be justified through our effort, why should Jesus have been crucified? Among us there are those who appear to have done many righteous deeds, others who appear to be wicked, and others who appear to be good. Ultimately, however, in the eyes of God, we are all evil. Held up against God’s standard, everything we do comes across as being evil. God knew that it would be impossible for us to be justified through our own righteous deeds. Thus, He graciously provided for us to gain righteousness through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Everything necessary for us to be justified was done by Jesus, and cannot be the work of our hand. We have become justified freely.
What did Joseph do to become governor of Egypt? What could Joseph have done to become the governor of Egypt? It would have been impossible for Joseph to bring about his release from prison, study to become a public official, and strive to finally be promoted to become governor. How would that have been possible? But one day, a single word from Pharaoh made Joseph the ruler. Just as one word from Pharaoh transformed a hopeless sinner into a mighty ruler, God constantly wants to achieve such accomplishments in our lives.
Surely we are sinners, but it is not by our effort, labor, trying to avoid sin, or living a pure life that we become righteous. Only Pharaoh could have taken Joseph, a sinner and a prisoner, and made him the ruler of Egypt. Likewise, only God can move us to that holy and righteous position, no matter what filthy, low position we may be in. In the Bible, it says, “It is not by us doing something, but by the grace freely given to us from God that we are justified.”
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.”
The words, “You shall be the ruler of Egypt,” had the power to erase Joseph’s past as a sinner, a prisoner, and all else that might have kept him down. It erased Joseph’s circumstances, environment, and situation up to that point, and made him governor.
Because Egypt was Pharaoh’s kingdom, Pharaoh’s words had power in the land. No theory or thought has the power to resist or refuse before the Word of God, which created the universe. Regardless of what harsh law or well-founded theory there might be and no matter how definite something might be, everything becomes powerless and changed before the Word of God. The moonlight in the night, no matter how bright, disappears when the sun rises. Likewise, the experiences, ideologies, and thoughts of man all change, crumble, and fall apart before the Word of God.
It is true that the woman taken in adultery was caught in the very act. Nevertheless, when the Lord said, “Neither do I condemn thee,” there was no one who could condemn her. There was no theory, truth, or law that could stand up against the Word of the Lord and condemn this woman because it was the Lord who said that she is not condemned. Although Lazarus was in the tomb, rotting and stinking, he came out when the Lord called, “Lazarus, come forth.” No law or truth of the world could go against the Word of the Lord and keep Lazarus locked inside the tomb. The Word entered the tomb, took hold of Lazarus, raised him and brought him out. That is the power in the Word of God.
Yes, we sin, and yes, we are evil, but if God says that we are righteous, no longer are we sinners. If I have a crippling disease, and if the Lord bids me to walk, I am no longer diseased. If a person has leprosy, with puss flowing over his body, with stumps for arms and a loathsome appearance, if the Lord says, “Show thyself to the priest,” then that person is clean.
The problem is that we do not believe the power in the Word of God. We try to make His Word fit our circumstances and environment. When the Lord said to the man with an infirmity for 38 years, “Take up thy bed and walk,” he could have gotten up and walked, or he could have said, “No, not me. I’ve tried many, many times. I’ve had this disease so long that I cannot get up, take up the bed and walk.” If the man with an infirmity for 38 years had said this, he would have had to continue to lie on his bed for the rest of his life.
Although we may be wicked and foul and sin incessantly, the Word of God says that we have been justified. Our salvation is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He accomplished the entire work of making us clean. That is why we must not look to our circumstances or situation, but believe the Word of God. Just like Joseph did. If we look at our circumstances or our situation, we would say, “How could I dare say that I am righteous?” But in saying, “God has made me righteous. I have been sanctified. My sins are all washed away. God has called me righteous. Jesus on the cross finished the work of forgiving my sins. I am no longer a sinner!” with faith to believe in the Word of God, which has more power than Pharaoh, we will know what true faith is.
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
With this one word from the Pharaoh, who would dare say, “Not so, your majesty. Joseph must remain in prison.” Likewise, if the Lord says that we have been justified, there is no one who can condemn us. It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? (Rom. 8:33, 34) I am deceived by Satan and am unable to receive these words by faith. Because I am unable to accept these words, I remain within myself and labor to be freed from sin. There are so many people who are like this.
Today, we must believe the promise of God, throwing our own thoughts away. If the Lord says that we are righteous, we must believe that we are righteous. If the Lord says that He sanctified us, believe that we are sanctified. And if He says that He does not condemn us, then believe that we are not condemned. We must not add our own thoughts to this or make judgments of our own.