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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Genesis 41

 

 

Verse 41

DISCOURSE: 53

JOSEPH’S ADVANCEMENT

Genesis 41:41. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.

IN the eventful life of Joseph we are particularly struck with the suddenness and greatness of the changes he experienced. One day he was his father’s favourite; the next he was menaced with death and sold as a slave: one day at the head of Potiphar’s household; the next immured in a prison and laden with fetters of iron. From that state also he was called in a moment by the singular providence of God, and exalted to the government of the first nation upon earth. Of this we are informed in the text; from whence we take occasion to observe,

I. That we can be in no state, however desperate, from whence God cannot speedily deliver us—

[The state of Joseph, though considerably ameliorated by the indulgence of the keeper of his prison, was very hopeless. He had been many years in prison; and had no means of redress afforded him. His cause being never fairly tried, his innocence could not be cleared: and there was every reason to apprehend that his confinement would terminate only with his life. The hopes he had entertained from the kind offices of Pharaoh’s butler had completely failed: and God had suffered him to be thus disappointed, in order that, “having the sentence of death in himself, he might not trust in himself, but in God that raiseth the dead.” But when God’s time was come, every difficulty vanished, and his elevation was as great as it was sudden and unexpected.

It would be well if we bore in mind the ability of God to help us. People when brought into great trials by loss of dear friends, by embarrassed circumstances, or by some other calamitous event, are apt to think, that, because they see no way for their escape, their state is hopeless; and, from indulging despair, they are ready to say with Job, “I am weary of life,” and “my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life [Note: Job 7:15.].” But we should remember that there is “a God with whom nothing is impossible:” though human help may fail us, “his arm is not shortened, that it cannot save, nor is his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:” yea rather he would glorify himself, as he did in rescuing Israel at the Red Sea, if we would call upon him; and our extremity should be the opportunity he would seize for his effectual interpositions: “In the mount, the Lord would be seen.”

We may apply the same observations to those who seem to have cast off all fear of God, and to have sinned beyond a hope of recovery. But while the conversion of Saul, and the deliverance of Peter from prison, stand on record, we shall see that there is nothing too great for God to effect, and nothing too good for him to give, in answer to the prayer of faith.]

II. That God is never at a loss for means whereby to effect his gracious purposes—

[He had decreed the elevation of Joseph to the highest dignity in the land of Egypt. To accomplish this, he causes Pharaoh to be disturbed by two significant dreams, which none of his magicians could interpret. The solicitude of Pharaoh to understand the purport of his dreams leads his butler to “confess his fault” in having so long neglected the youth who had, two years before, interpreted his dreams; and to recommend him as the only person capable of satisfying the mind of Pharaoh. Instantly Joseph is sent for (not from a sense of justice to an injured person, but from a desire for the information which he alone could give); and, upon his interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, and giving suitable advice respecting the steps that should be taken to meet the future distress, he is invested with supreme authority, that he may carry his own plans into execution. Thus God, by suggesting dreams to Pharaoh, and to Joseph the interpretation of them, effects in an hour what, humanly speaking, all the power of Pharaoh could not otherwise have accomplished.

If we were duly observant of the works of Providence, we should see, in many instances relating to ourselves, how wonderfully God has brought to pass the most unlooked-for events. Things the most strange have been made to subserve his gracious purposes, and to accomplish what no human foresight could have effected for us. In relation to the concerns of our souls this may perhaps be more visible than in any temporal matters. The history of God’s people, if it were fully known, would furnish thousands of instances, not less wonderful than that before us, of persons “raised” by the most unexpected and apparently trivial means “from the dust or a dunghill, to be set among princes, and to inherit a throne of glory.” We are far from recommending any one to trust in dreams, or to pay any attention to them whatever: for “in the multitude of dreams are divers vanities.” But we dare not say that God never makes use of dreams to forward his own inscrutable designs: on the contrary, we believe that he has often made a dream about death or judgment the occasion of stirring up a person to seek after salvation; and that he has afterwards answered the prayers, which originated in that apparently trifling and accidental occurrence. At all events, there are a multitude of little circumstances which tend to fix the bounds of our habitation, or to bring us into conversation with this or that person, by whom we are ultimately led to the knowledge of the truth. So that we should commit our every way to God, and look to him to order every thing for us according to the counsel of his own gracious will.]

III. We are never in a fairer way for exaltation to happiness than when we are waiting God’s time, and suffering his will—

[We hear nothing respecting Joseph but what strongly impresses us with a belief that he was perfectly resigned to the will of God. It is most probable indeed that he had formed some expectation from an arm of flesh: but two years experience of human ingratitude had taught him that his help must be in God alone. At last, his recompence is bestowed, and ample compensation is given him for all that he endured. With his prison garments, he puts off his sorrows; and, from a state of oppression and ignominy, he is made the Benefactor and the Saviour of a whole nation.

Happy would it be for us if we could leave ourselves in God’s hands, and submit ourselves in all things to his wise disposed! We are persuaded, that our want of submission to Divine Providence is that which so often necessitates God to afflict us; and that if we could more cordially say, “Thy will be done,” we should much sooner and much oftener be favoured with the desire of our own hearts. Have we an husband, a wife, a child in sick and dying circumstances? our rebellious murmurings may provoke God to inflict the threatened stroke, and to take away the idol which we are so averse to part with: whereas, if we were once brought to make a cordial surrender of our will to His, he would in many instances arrest the uplifted arm, and restore our Isaac to our bosom. At all events, he would compensate by spiritual communications whatever we might lose or suffer by a temporal bereavement.]

We may yet further learn from this subject,

1. To submit with cheerfulness to all the dispensations of Providence—

[We may, like Joseph, have accumulated and long-continued trials; the end of which we may not be able to foresee. But, as in his instance, and in that of Job, “we have seen the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,” so we may be sure that our trials shall terminate well; and that however great or long-continued they may be, our future recompence, either in this world or the next, will leave us no reason to complain.]

2. To be thankful to God for the Governors whom he has been pleased to set over us—

[It is “by God that kings reign, and princes decree justice.” Sometimes, “for the punishment of a land, children (that is, persons weak and incompetent) are placed over it,” that their infatuated counsels or projects may bring upon it his heavy judgments. We, blessed be God! have been highly favoured in this respect. By his gracious providence, we have for a long series of years had persons exalted to posts of honour, who, like Joseph, have sought the welfare of the nation, and have promoted it by their wise counsels and indefatigable exertions. Let us thankfully acknowledge God in them, and endeavour to shew ourselves worthy of this mercy, by the peaceableness of our demeanour, and the cheerfulness of our submission to them.]

3. To be thankful, above all, for our adorable Emmanuel—

[“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour.” “To Him hath he given a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow [Note: Compare 3 with Philippians 2:9-11.].” To Him doth our almighty King direct us, saying to every famished soul, “Go to Jesus [Note: 5.].” In Him there is all fulness treasured up: to Him all the nations of the earth may go for the bread of life: nor shall any of them be sent empty away. They shall receive it too “without money and without price.” O what do we owe to God for raising us up such a Saviour! and what do we owe to Jesus, who has voluntarily undertaken this office, and who submitted to imprisonment in the grave as the appointed step to this glorious elevation! Let us thankfully bow the knee to him; and go to him continually for our daily supplies of grace and peace.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Genesis 41:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/genesis-41.html. 1832.

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