Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. When 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 interpretation. 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 man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And 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 in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.” – Genesis 41:9-24 ESV
Two years have passed. During that time, Joseph has remained in prison, waiting and most likely wondering when his God was going to do something about his circumstances. But what may have appeared to Joseph to be a delay was the perfect unfolding of God’s divine plan. God had not been up in heaven coming up with a plan. He was not desperately and hurriedly trying to figure out what to do about Joseph’s circumstances. His plan had been in place for a long time – even before Joseph was born. The seeming delay in God’s plan was nothing of the sort. It is reminiscent of what Paul says in his letter to the Galatians when talking about Jesus incarnation.
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5 ESV
At just the right moment, when the timing was perfectly right, God sent His Son. All the conditions were right. He didn’t act too soon and He was not too late. That is the idea we have in the story of Joseph. Two years may have seemed like a long time to Joseph, but for God it was nothing. To Him “a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours” (Psalm 90:4 NLT).
When the time was right, God acted, Pharaoh had his dreams, and the cupbearer remembered Joseph. The Pharaoh, disturbed by the nature of his two dreams, demanded that his magicians tell him their meaning. When they were unable to do so, the cupbearer told Pharaoh about his own encounter with Joseph in the prison. He recalled how Joseph had accurately interpreted his dream and that of the former chief baker. So Pharaoh sent for Joseph. After two long years, this moment had to have come as a shock to Joseph. One minute he is in prison, the next he is standing before the most powerful man in Egypt.
Joseph’s long-awaited moment had finally arrive. He was going to get an audience with the Pharaoh. Not only that, he was going to get to use his God-given ability to interpret dreams in order to do for Pharaoh what no other man could do. But rather than gloating over his good fortune or seeing this as his opportunity to boost his resume, Joseph wisely and humbly gives credit to God. When Pharaoh asks Joseph to tell him the meaning of his dreams, Joseph replies: “It is beyond my power to do this. But God can tell you what it means and set you at ease” (Genesis 41:16 NLT). It would have been easy for Joseph to take the credit. He could have just interpreted the dreams and allowed Pharaoh to think he was something special. But Joseph knew that any ability he possessed had been given to him by God. And he recognized that this was no coincidence. His entire life had seemed to be built around dreams. He had had two of his own and his sharing of them with his family had led his brothers to sell him into slavery. While in prison, he had interpreted the two dreams of the cupbearer and the baker and that had led to this moment in time. And now he was being given the two dreams of Pharaoh to interpret. This could not be a case of coincidence. God was at work and Joseph knew it. All six dreams had been God’s doing. And their meanings and interpretations were the work of God.
While God is not limited by time, He uses it. While He exists outside the bounds of time, He chooses to work within it. Every event in Joseph’s life, from his birth to his betrayal, his imprisonment to his divine appointment with Pharaoh, had been the work of God. Nothing had happened outside of God’s plan.
The psalmist reminds us, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act” (Psalm 37:7a NLT). We are creatures who are bound by time. We are obsessed with time. Every day we are reminded of times constant passing. The sun rises and sets. The arms on the clock move around and around in a ceaseless cycle. We run out of time. We long for more time. We bill our time. We enjoy the good times and dread the bad ones. We spend time as well as waste it. We give our time and have it taken from us. But God would have us trust Him with it. Like everything else in life, our time is a gift from God. We can’t make more of it. We are each given just so much of it. And God uses time to accomplish His will in our lives. Joseph’s two years in prison were not wasted. Neither were the years that Paul spent in prison. Jesus’ three years of ministry on this earth were just as important as the hours He spent hanging on the cross. Each moment God gives us is precious and a part of His divine plan for our lives. We must see them and seize them as opportunities to watch Him work. In the fullness of time, He will do what He has planned to do. In the meantime, we may have to wait, but our time will not be wasted.