It is hard to feel blessed when you are in the pit but Joseph’s life shows it to be the case! It was God’s blessing that prevented Joseph from being murdered by his brothers; it was God’s blessing that prospered him in Potiphar’s house; it was God’s blessing that gave him favour with the prison warden; it was God’s blessing that gave him the interpretation of dreams; it was God’s blessing that brought him before Pharaoh. Ultimately he was blessed when he was simply a beloved son of Jacob, when he was a slave in Potiphar's house, when he was a prisoner in the king's prison and when he was second in command of all Egypt!
Joseph, the son of Jacob and his beloved wife Rachel, born to him in his old age, was his father’s favourite. Unsurprisingly his ten older brothers were jealous of their younger sibling: his confident swagger, borne out of the love lavished upon him by their father, his immaturity and tattle-tale tendencies (Genesis 37:2) didn’t help but when Jacob gave him a specially made ornate robe their jealousy turned to hatred (Genesis 37:4). Joseph’s dreams only made things worse. His first dream indicated that one-day his brothers would be subordinate to him, and the dream itself as well as the way he related it, made them hate him all the more (Genesis 37:8). But his second dream, that involved his father as well, even drew a rebuke from Jacob. His dreams were God-given and would prove to be true but not every dream should be shared and if they are, they should be shared with sensitivity - however this was wisdom that at the tender age of 17, Joseph did not possess!
His brothers’ hatred turned to violent murderous scheming when, having been sent out to check on them minding the sheep in the fields by their father Jacob, they saw Joseph coming towards them in the distance and plotted to kill him. To his credit, Reuben the eldest dissuaded them from murder. Yes Joseph was an arrogant, bigheaded snitch but that wasn’t a reason to kill him. Reuben didn’t have the guts to stop the attack completely so he suggested throwing Joseph into a dry cistern without harming him. His plan was to return later and rescue his brother.
However Reuben didn’t keep watch over Joseph and in his absence, the others sold him to some Midianite traders who took him to Egypt. So at the age of just seventeen Joseph became a slave - a season of his life that would last 13 long years.
But through all this, God was with Joseph and He prospered him. The Lord gave Joseph success in everything he did (Genesis 39:2-3). His Egyptian master Potiphar saw that the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in everything so he put him in charge of his entire household (Genesis 39:6). But through no fault of his own, Joseph was falsely accused of molesting Potiphar’s wife and ended up in prison (Genesis 39:20). His physical attractiveness coupled with his integrity and desire to please God now landed him in an even worse situation - could God still be with him, was he still under the blessing of the Lord?
Well the bible tells us this:
Genesis 39:20-23 (NIV)
But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. 22So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.
Yes God was still with him, granting him favour and success. His blessing was still there.
Eleven years after being sold by his brothers, having been in prison now for several of those years, one of his jobs was to look after two special prisoners - the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker. By now Joseph was well used to serving others and had learned compassion. He noticed that both the cupbearer and baker were dejected and he showed them concern. They’d both had dreams but had no idea what they meant. Joseph knew God would reveal the meaning to him so he asked them their dreams and gave them each the meaning: in three days time, the cupbearer would be reinstated to his previous position serving Pharaoh, while the baker would be executed. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him once he was released. Everything happened exactly as the dreams had predicted. But the cupbearer forgot Joseph.
People may forget us in our struggles, they may not show gratitude when we help them but God does not forget.
Two years later the years as a slave and a prisoner would come to an end; Joseph found himself interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams and was finally put in charge of the whole of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh!
Joseph openly claimed that God was the giver of dream interpretations and it was clear to Pharaoh that God’s Spirit was in Joseph:
So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
So it was that through Joseph, Pharaoh encountered the living God who speaks to man and so he gave Joseph an Egyptian name: Zaphenath Paneah: "the god speaks and he lives.”
Now every time anyone in Egypt would call upon Zaphenath Paneah, they would remember that the God of Joseph was a living, speaking God unlike their own dead idols.
Pharaoh gave Joseph a high ranking priest’s daughter as his wife and within the next 7 years Joseph had had two sons: Manasseh, which means “forget” and Ephraim meaning “twice fruitful”. Genesis 41 records why Joseph chose these names:
Genesis 41:51-52 (NIV)
51Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Joseph’s relationship with the Lord enabled him to be victorious over the betrayal, abuse and trauma of the past. Now every time he said “Manasseh”, he would be declaring the trouble of the past forgotten. This would certainly help him when it came to meeting his brothers again, forgiving them and even saving their lives. Similarly he knew God’s blessing was upon him and every time he would call upon his son “Ephraim” he was declaring double fruitfulness!
The apostle Paul in Philippians reiterates this principle of forgetting the past in order to gain a better future:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Putting the troubles of the past behind us is key to living in fruitfulness in the future. Moreover as we see in Joseph’s story, continually declaring the woes of the past forgotten and the future fruitful, even “twice fruitful”, will bring about the fruitfulness God has purposed for us!
In Joseph’s case he really did become twice fruitful! He was blessed twice by his father Jacob: once together with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, (Genesis 48) and then again with the rest of his brothers (Genesis 49). Jacob “adopted” Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons and they became two tribes in their own right (Genesis 48:5); therefore Joseph was the only son of Jacob to father two tribes while all his brothers fathered one tribe each and to reflect this doubling, Joseph was given an extra portion of land (Genesis 48:22).
And when Jacob called all his twelve sons together to bless them, twice he called Joseph fruitful:
22“Joseph is a FRUITFUL vine,
a FRUITFUL vine near a spring,
whose branches climb over a wall.
23With bitterness archers attacked him;
they shot at him with hostility.
24But his bow remained steady,
his strong arms stayed limber,
because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob,
because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel,
25because of your father’s God, who helps you,
because of the Almighty, who blesses you
with blessings of the skies above,
blessings of the deep springs below,
blessings of the breast and womb.
26Your father’s blessings are greater
than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
than the bounty of the age-old hills.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
Even in Ezekiel’s allotment of land to the restored tribes of Israel, Joseph is allocated a double portion (Ezekiel 47:13).
If we look at the example of Elisha, he too requested a double portion of the Spirit that rested upon Elijah and his request was granted (2 Kings 2:9)!
And as Jesus ushered in the Year (or Age) of the Lord’s Favour, prophesied in Isaiah 61, (see Luke 4:18), all those who have suffered shame can expect a double portion of honour:
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
Similarly if you are in a time of struggle, hold on tightly to hope (biblically hope is a confident expectation of good) because double blessing is promised to those who remain as “prisoners of hope”:
Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
So today, as Joseph did, declare you are twice blessed, as Elisha did, ask for a double portion, as Isaiah prophesied and Jesus proclaimed, expect double honour and as Zechariah foretold, receive double restoration!
Abba Father I thank You that whatever my circumstances, even in the midst of trouble You are with me and Your blessing is upon me.
Today I declare that You will make me forget all my trouble and make me twice fruitful!
In the mighty name of Your Son Jesus Christ, Amen!