Valley Experiences of Joseph

Joseph was one man that went from mountain to valley to mountain several times. At the beginning of his story, we were told that Joseph was the favourite son of his father Israel (Jacob). This caused his brother to be jealous and eventually sold him into slavery.

(Gen 37:3-4 NIV)  Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. {4} When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

(Gen 37:28 NIV)  So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Joseph went from this valley experience very quickly to a mountain experience when his master Potiphar made him in charge of his entire household. The reason why Joseph became successful was that the Lord was with him.

(Gen 39:1-4 NIV)  Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. {2} The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. {3} When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, {4} Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.

Joseph went again into the valley experience through no fault of his. His master’s wife tried to seduce him but Joseph refused.

(Gen 39:7-20 NIV)  and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” {8} But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. {9} No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” {10} And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. {11} One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. {12} She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. {13} When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, {14} she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. {15} When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” {16} She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. {17} Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. {18} But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” {19} When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. {20} Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison,

We can go into the valley experience when we choose to do what is right. But because Joseph feared the Lord, God continued to be with him in this second valley experience. Note in verse 9 he says, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” His fear was not Portiphar but he feared the Lord above anything else.

(Gen 39:21-23 NIV)  the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. {22} So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. {23} The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

In his valley experience, Joseph did not wallow in self-pity. He continued to do his best under those circumstances. When he was a slave, he did his best as a slave. When he was put in prison, he did his best to administer the prison. God continued to do marvellous works through Joseph even when he was in the valley. Do not think that God can work in your life only when you are out of the valley.

(Gen 40:1-8 NIV)  Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. {2} Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, {3} and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. {4} The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them. After they had been in custody for some time, {5} each of the two men–the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison–had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. {6} When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. {7} So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?” {8} “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

When Joseph was in prison, he did not get angry with God for letting him suffer for doing what was right. He realised that integrity can put us in valley experiences and he was willing to endure that because he feared God more.

When the baker and cupbearer need someone to interpret their dreams, Joseph gave glory to God in verse 8. His answer indicated that there was no resentment against God at all.

Our valley experiences prepare us for something greater.  Because Joseph was in prison, he had the opportunity to interpret the dream of the cupbearer and because he did that he had an opportunity to interpret the dream of the Pharaoh.

(Gen 41:1-16 NIV)  When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, {2} when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. {3} After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. {4} And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. {5} He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. {6} After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted–thin and scorched by the east wind. {7} The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream. {8} In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. {9} Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. {10} Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. {11} Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. {12} Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. {13} And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.” {14} So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. {15} 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.” {16} “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

Joseph, with God’s help, interpreted the dream of Pharaoh. Eventually he was made the second-in-command in the whole of Egypt.

(Gen 41:37-40 NIV)  The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. {38} So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” {39} Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. {40} You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

So Joseph moved from one mountain – the head of Portiphar’s household – to a much higher mountain – second-in-command in Egypt. When God calls you from one mountain to an even higher mountain, He usually does not fly you there. He takes you down the valley in order that you may climb the next mountain.

(Gen 41:50-52 NIV)  Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. {51} Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” {52} The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

We can learn further lessons from the way Joseph named his sons. The firstborn he named Mannasseh. By that he was declaring that God had made him forget all the suffering he had gone through because God had more than made up for the suffering. We see this also in the case of Job. While Job suffered initially, he was more than made up for by a better life later on. Therefore, when we are in the valley we should hope for the better future God has intended for us.

The second son he named Ephraim because he acknowledged that God can make someone fruitful even when he is in a state of suffering.

When God put you in the valley, it is not only you that will benefit from a higher position later but also other people that will be blessed because of your valley experience.

Because Joseph was in a position to influence Pharaoh, Egypt was well stocked with food during the years of famine. This meant that many people in Egypt were spared of starvation, including Joseph’s own family. God had planned in such a way that Jacob’s family, especially the line of Judah from which the Lord Jesus came from, will never be extinguished.

(Gen 45:3-8 NIV)  Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence. {4} Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! {5} And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. {6} For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. {7} But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. {8} “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

(Gen 50:18-20 NIV)  His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. {19} But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? {20} You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Joseph realized that the hand of God was upon all he had gone through.  Even though you may have reached the valley through the works of evil men, do not fret or hold it against them. Joseph had every reason to hate his brothers when they sold him to slavery. Yet he did not because he realised the hand of God on all that has happened.

(Rom 8:28 NIV)  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.