pointing to compass and map January 28 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Genesis 40, 41

God’s Providential Care

What do we do when we are in trouble and it seems like God is not doing anything about it? Panic? Get bitter? Make our own play? In the Biblical account of Joseph’s life, Joseph had been a slave or imprisoned since his brothers sold him to Ishmaelite merchants when he was seventeen years old. In Genesis 40 Joseph is now twenty-eight years old. Didn’t God care? Yes. God was providentially working behind the scenes. Like a person using a compass, he directs the course of our lives for his glory and our benefit.

How did God work for his glory on Joseph’s behalf? “It just so happened” that the Pharaoh of Egypt was angry with his baker and cupbearer and had them assigned to the same ward where Joseph supervised prisoners (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p. 90 says that this Pharaoh was probably Sesostris II, who reigned from 1897-1879 B.C.). One night the Baker and the Cupbearer each had dreams that Joseph, with the help of God, interpreted. Both dreams came true just like Joseph prophesied. Unfortunately, however, when the cupbearer was restored to his former position to Pharaoh, Joseph was forgotten. Two more years elapsed. Joseph could have given up, but he continued serving in the prison to the glory of God. If God wanted us to do that, could we? We need to be faithful stewards wherever he has placed us.

Then, one night Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams that needed to be interpreted. God's providential care was demonstrated in giving Pharaoh these dreams and Joseph to interpret them. When the cupbearer told Pharaoh that Joseph interpreted dreams accurately for him and the baker during their imprisonment, Joseph was summoned from the prison. He shaved, cleaned up, and was freshly clothed. He appeared before Pharaoh, and Pharaoh said to Joseph,

“I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”(Genesis 41:15-16, NIV).

Notice Joseph did not seek glory for himself; he gave God glory for everything.

As we read in the Bible Pharaoh had two dreams.

"In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up-- scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

"In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted-- withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. (Genesis 41:17-24, NIV)

Why did God give the dreams to Pharaoh? He did this to show him that Joseph’s God is Sovereign and gracious. He did this to prepare people for a catastrophe and thus save all of Egypt and the entire known world, including his own people. The dreams Pharaoh had were interpreted by Joseph. There would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of severe drought and blight. Because Joseph had the wisdom to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he appointed Joseph to be second in the kingdom to prepare for the coming years of bounty and want. His plan of saving back 20% of the grain to feed people in the lean years provides a good financial principle we might follow today. God can use our gifts and abilities in dramatic ways to help people if we will give him the glory.

During the years of plenty, Joseph had two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh means “forget” because God made him forget all his troubles and the troubles with Joseph's brothers. Ephraim means “fruitful” because God made Joseph fruitful in the land of his suffering (Genesis 41:50-52). God was gracious in Joseph’s trials, and God is gracious in our trials. What trials have you gone through with God? How has God been gracious to you? By naming his sons “forget” and “fruitful” Joseph was sharing the grace of God with his sons. Make sure you share God’s grace with the next generation so that their faith may grow.

Lessons to live by:

  • God directs the course of our lives for his glory and our benefit.
  • We need to be faithful stewards wherever he has placed us.
  • God can use our gifts and abilities in dramatic ways to help people if we will give him the glory.
  • Have you received the grace of God found in Christ Jesus? He can give you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...)
  • Share God’s grace with the next generation.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Proverbs 20:24 “A man's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (NIV)

praying girl Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to

Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson

Back to top of page
Return to Chronological Bible Studies main page
Go to Scriptures main page
Go to Topics main page
Go to Home page

Contact Us