Joseph: Freedom

Freedom Sermon Notes


Genesis 41

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Sunday, November 27th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis 

Key Goals: (Know) Glimpse the sovereignty of God. (Feel) Feel content that God is in control. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last chapters of the book of Genesis, with the theme of living differently. We have had the opportunity to choose to challenge ourselves, and this morning we have new and unique opportunities. Joseph’s story dwarfs any other event or person in the entire book of Genesis. There are clearly things in this man’s life that God wants us to know. Over the last several weeks, we have painfully walked with Joseph through his roller coaster life: his father’s favorite son, betrayed by10 half-brothers, sold into slavery. But because the LORD was with him, he became the ruler of the entire house—until he was unfairly accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. That is where we left Joseph, in prison faithfully serving and again making himself useful, but forgotten by the cupbearer. Two years go by and Pharaoh has a troubling dream, in which he was standing by the Nile. Genesis 41:2[1].

2 and behold, there came up out of the Nile seven cows, attractive and plump, and they fed in the reed grass. 3 And behold, 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. 4 And the ugly, thin cows ate up the seven attractive, plump cows. And Pharaoh awoke. 5 And he fell asleep and dreamed a second time. And behold, seven ears of grain, plump and good, were growing on one stalk. 6 And behold, after them sprouted seven ears, thin and blighted by the east wind. 7 And the thin ears swallowed up the seven plump, full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream.


Usually when something like this happened, Pharaoh’s wise men would suggest what a dream meant. In ancient Egypt, dreams were important. Egyptian archeologists have found a book from Joseph’s time period called “The Dream Book.”[2] In it, 108 dreams are listed with their meanings; it also interpreted 72 actions that might happen in a dream and whether they were good or bad. Nothing in Pharaoh’s dream showed up in any of the books, and Pharaoh’s wise men were stumped. That is when the cupbearer remembered how Joseph had interpreted the dream he had while in prison with the baker. So he spoke to Pharaoh.

12 “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. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.”


So Joseph is shaved, cleaned up, and brought before Pharaoh. Standing in front of the most powerful man in the world at the time, Joseph is asked if he can interpret dreams, to which he answers, “No!” Verse 16: “It is not in me;” Joseph says, “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”


Application: This answer is one of the reasons Joseph’s life is worth studying. The humility here is convicting. Joseph knew God had revealed dreams to him, and he could have very easily answered this question, “Yes! And if you let me out of prison, I’ll interpret yours too.” A self-filled Joseph would have used this as an opportunity to shine and make a deal—but instead he gives God the glory and exalts God in Pharaoh’s eyes, even to the point of downplaying his role. It is like Joseph knew what Jesus would say 1500 years later in Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “ Then Joseph said to Pharaoh,

25 “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. 28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, 30 but 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, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.


God showed Pharaoh what he was going to do: God “fixed” the thing, God will shortly bring it about. Over and over Joseph communicates God’s plan and power to accomplish it. I’m not sure we appreciate the fearlessness here. Joseph was brave almost to the point of foolishness. As supreme ruler of the people, the pharaoh was considered a god on earth; he was the intercessor between the gods of heaven and people on earth, and when he died, he was thought to become Osirus, the god of the dead.[3] Joseph is bravely declaring to a man who thinks he is a god that only YHWH is sovereign over the earth. Around this time, a man named Job was writing this (Job 23:13 NIV): [God] stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases. Joseph isn’t done with just an interpretation, because he has a plan.

33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”


This plan is well beyond God’s interpretation of the dream; this is Joseph using his gifts to solve the obvious problems presented in the dream.

37This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” 39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.”


This is the highpoint in Joseph’s life. Looking back, we can clearly see how a chain of painful but divinely planned events have brought him to this point. Had Joseph not said “no” to Potiphar’s wife and been thrown into prison with the cupbearer, he would never have met Pharaoh. Had Joseph not been betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery, he would never have been in Potiphar’s house. We are beginning to see more clearly how Joseph’s life paints a picture of Romans 8:28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Joseph has both of the disclaimers on this verse: 1. He loves God 2. He is being called to use his gifts for an incredible purpose.


We need to grab two key truths from this passage or we could read this story and walk away with some really bad theology—theology, like that video at the beginning, that is selfish.

 1. Joseph’s rise was more about usefulness than it was blessing. It is important that we don’t use this story to make an inappropriate theological leap. Some have read this story and taken this away: Bad things happen, but because God is good, God turns bad things into blessings. That’s karma not Christianity, and it is not the message of this story. Sometimes bad things happen and then something worse happens.

Last year, Al-Qaeda forces moved into a village in Southern Syria. The people were “Druze,” a religious community that is a strange mixture of Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism. They are unbelievers who need the gospel. On June 15, Muslim soldiers began forcing everyone in the village to convert or die. While hundreds forcibly converted to Islam, 20 villagers were shot and killed point blank for refusing. Where is the good news in this bad news story? Bad things happened and then at least 20 people were sent into a Christ-less eternity.

Our only hope in situations like that is Gen 18:25 Will not the judge of all the Earth do right? The answer is “Yes.” He will do right, by those and all the Earth. Joseph’s rise was not about God bringing some “good karma” into Joseph’s life because he experienced “bad karma.” YHWH is a neither a Buddhist nor a Hindu. Joseph to this point has shown himself faithful to God in good times and bad times, with much and with little. Because of this, God entrusted Joseph with the responsibility of rescuing his entire family from famine. If you want to be like Joseph, pray for faithfulness. Jesus said it this way in Luke 16:10 One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. The Bible does not teach “good karma,” what the Bible teaches is that when we are faithful (like Joseph) with smaller responsibilities, it places us in the position for God to entrust us with much more. Joseph rose because he was faithful and useful for the kingdom.


2. Joseph’s rise was more about others than it was about Joseph. Joseph’s life isn’t just about him. Sometimes we can get self focused and fall into a black hole of thinking our lives are just about us. Joseph’s rise was a result of God keeping his promises to Abraham and his plan to preserve the lineage of Christ and two entire nations. Joseph was not the sole object of God’s attention and activity. Joseph’s position of power and prosperity enabled him to become the “savior” of his brethren. God does care for us as individuals, but he always has broader purposes for the gifts and blessings he brings into our lives. God blessed Abraham and he very specifically told him why he was chosen for blessings. Gen 2:2-3 “I will bless you (God said)…so that you will be a blessing.”

What about us?  Each of us has been given spiritual gifts—each of us a special way that the Holy Spirit works through us. But those gifts are not meant to be spent on ourselves; they are meant for the body of Christ! We have been blessed for the same reason Abraham was: to be a blessing. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:7 NIV) As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:10 NIV). Watch how Joseph uses his position, blessings, and skills to bless the whole world.

46 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. 47 During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, 48 and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. 49 And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured. 50 Before the year of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph. Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, bore them to him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh (He who makes someone forget). “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim (God has made me fruitful), “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”


These two boys’ names summed up what God was doing through the faithfulness of Joseph’s life: causing him to forget the pain that it took to get him here and bringing fruitfulness to his present service. His fruitfulness blessed the whole world.

56 So when 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. 57 Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Blessed to be a blessing.


Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are again offering you the opportunity to be challenged. There are cards with one of six different challenges on them; these are specific applications from this morning’s message. By choosing a card, you will be like Joseph: you won’t know what you will get—it may something difficult, it may be something easy. Like Joseph, you will not know until you get there, but each of the challenges will help you live differently.


Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 41 and have everyone else try to tell the story from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we watched him rise. Pastor Paul made a big deal about this not being “good karma.” If it wasn’t karma, what was it?

3.          This is the third time Joseph has risen to a place of prominence. Discuss Luke 16:10 and the role that this may have played in Joseph’s life.

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          Discuss some ways that God has blessed you and how you can use those blessings to bless others.

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.


© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.


[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

[2] See Figure #1 The Dream Book (

[3] Ancient History Encyclopedia “Pharaoh” by Joshua J. Mark published on 02 September 2009.