Reading: Genesis 41:55-57
When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere. (Genesis 41:55-57)
Joseph is a man whom from his own life of sufferings, raised to a life of service to others in the time of scarcity and great need. Joseph encountered all kinds of turmoil. And yet he navigated every situation with absolute faith in God. Joseph’s story reminds us that, sometimes God may seem SILENT, but He is never ABSENT.
The whole land was in great need for food. Children were crying to their parents for food. Old people were languishing from lack of nourishment. Households were desperate across Egypt and around the world. “When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.” (41:55). Joseph became the only person who had both the responsibility and authority for administering the food distribution program for the entire country.
How much trust Pharaoh expressed here in Joseph by saying to the people: “Look, don’t call me; go to Joseph.” Pharaoh knew that only Joseph and Joseph’s God could pull them through this crisis. For “when the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt.” (41:56). By the grace of God, Joseph was able to turn this period of famine and sorrow into joy. All eyes were on him. The survival of millions of people depended on his program. There must have been enormous challenges facing Joseph, like how to maintain honesty and fairness among people desperate for food. He probably had to deal with food lines that erupted in fist fights, people trying to steal food for the black market, and how to handle illegal immigrants who were sneaking across the Israeli border into Egypt looking for food. “And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” (41:57). Joseph never denied food from anybody or chase them away but was able to fulfil all the demands of those who came to him. It would have been catastrophic had it not been for God’s provision through Joseph’s plan. Joseph first learned how to handle this kind of administration right in Potiphar’s household (Genesis 39:4) and in prison where he supervised all the prisoners. The life of hardship, rejection by family, mistreatment, injustice, false accusations, betrayal had trained Joseph in preparation to face the future. It also strengthened him to meet obstacles head on. In all the tests and trials that lay ahead in his life nothing would daunt him, discourage him, or deter him. His sufferings had truly taught him to persevere. A lesson we should learn as Peter says: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Pet 1:5-7).
You can go like Joseph “from hardship to fruitfulness.” Joseph had turned his back on the past and was using all the talents and opportunities God had given him to make a difference to the needs of the people of his time. He was fruitful even in the land of his affliction. By God’s grace you can overcome your past and face the brightness of God’s future in Christ Jesus. No matter what your experience or what challenges you are facing now, look to God and pray that it may prepare you to persevere. Satan wants you to give up, but you can choose to be fruitful in the land of your affliction.
May God make our past experiences of hardship and suffering and bad memories the building block for future fruitfulness rather than lamentation, despair and doubt. But setbacks are no reason to give up. Do not be discouraged just because somebody tells you, "you can’t do it." The size of the goals for your life can have a lot to do with the size of the God you serve. The more you understand about God, the more you will realize the tremendous potential in your life. May God use you as a source of blessings to others as He did in the life of Joseph.
The Most Revd Dr Justin Badi Arama
Archbishop and Primate of the
Episcopal Church of South Sudan and
The Metropolitan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Juba