Finally, Joseph the victim becomes Joseph the victor. He goes from slave and prisoner to doing for Pharaoh what no one else in Egypt could do. He becomes Pharaoh’s right-hand man; Pharaoh even tells him that all his people will kiss the ground at his command (41:40, see ESV note on the Hebrew). Quite the meteoric ascent to greatness, from prison to palace.
But what is most impressive to me about Joseph is not that he is placed over one of the most powerful nations of his day. That is impressive, but he only had so much to do with that; God was clearly doing some orchestrating where his career was concerned. What impresses me about Joseph is his growth!
Remember the stuck up, favorite son who was so impressed with himself in chapter 37 that he lorded his dreams over his brothers? There was pride in Joseph’s heart, a pride that painted a big, red target on his back in his brothers’ eyes. The Lord, in his goodness, chose not to promote Joseph while he walked in his pride. He chose first to allow Joseph to be humbled by life’s circumstances and injustices before he used him to save Egypt and the surrounding nations from famine. God made Joseph great when he realized he had no greatness in himself. God made Joseph great when he ascribed all greatness to God (41:16, 25, 28, 32).
Joseph, in his discourse to Pharaoh, suggests he find a “a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt” (41:33). I suspect that he had no inkling that Pharaoh would choose him, which is likely why Pharaoh found him to be so wise. Joseph ascribed all his greatness to God, to the point that even Pharaoh agrees: “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” (41:38). Joseph’s humility allows God’s work to shine through him. And God’s work is far greater than anything you or I could do with our own hands.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov. 11:2). Joseph proved to be that wise man in Pharaoh’s eyes, not because he was so talented—Pharaoh had the most talented people in the nation at his disposal. Joseph’s wisdom shone through because he humbly pointed to God’s work, not his own.
In Christ, we have every reason to be humble. Our sin required his blood. That’s how bad we are. Remembering that will let God’s work shine through us.