The word literal is complicated. According to one of the first definitions in the dictionary, literal means: “adhering...to the ordinary construction of primary meaning of a term or expression.” In other words, being literal can just mean saying what you mean to say, giving primary importance in the moment to...
“Let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:33)
“Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.” (Genesis 41:39)
The keys words here are discerning and wise. What does it mean to be discerning and wise? What would it mean for us? Lots of things, but in the story of Joseph, it means two things:
1. Restrain indulgence in times of plenty
In years of plenty, it is easy to become extravagant and wasteful. Joseph says, “We need to make sure that does not happen.” Don’t waste what you have been given. When God prospers you, it is easy to begin throwing it around.
2. Take reasonable measures to provide for the future
Joseph discerns that this will mean putting a fifth of the harvest in store for seven years. He sets out a very specific plan as to where these savings are to be stored and how this stewardship is to be exercised. This is remarkable wisdom from a 30-year-old man!
George Lawson asks the question, “How does Joseph’s policy to store up food relate to the words of Jesus, when he says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19).
Lawson says, “[Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth] is not intended to prohibit us from providing in time of plenty for a time of scarcity as far as it can be done without neglecting the necessary duties of charity and piety according to our circumstances.”
Our first duty is to be faithful in our giving to God (piety) and generous in our giving to others (charity). After we have done that, then we should consider what we can do for the future. Saving is never the first thing for the Christian; it comes after piety and charity.
What made Joseph such a wise and discerning counselor?
1. The wise counselor speaks the Word of God.
It is very striking that God is not spoken of a single time in the first 15 verses of Genesis 41.
The palace is wrought with anxiety: A troubled king is facing the relentless pressure of overwhelming responsibility, and pundits are pouring over the mysteries of life and the disturbing prospects of the dream.
All these people! All this anxiety! Yet the name of God is not even spoken. Why? Because there isn’t anyone in the whole palace who knows God or who is walking with God. But then Joseph is called, and when he arrives, he speaks on behalf of God:
- “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16).
- “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (41:25).
- “It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (41:28).
- “The doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about” (41:32).
So Pharaoh says to his servants, “Can we find a man like this in whom is the Spirit of God?” (41:38). Now Pharaoh is speaking about God, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are” (41:39).
In this story, Joseph points us to Jesus, who says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Jesus is the wise and wonderful counselor who comes to you in the mysteries of your life, when you are pressed down by the burdens of your responsibilities, and you don’t know where to turn or what to do, and He says, “Come to me.”
2. The wise counselor is appointed and honored.
“You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.” (Genesis 41:40)
Pharaoh wants all the people to know that authority has been given to Joseph, so he takes his signet ring, puts it on Joseph’s hand, and clothes him in garments of fine linen (41:42). He puts a golden chain round Joseph’s neck, a big change from the collar of iron (Psalm 105)! He has Joseph ride in a chariot, and has his servants call out before him, “Bow the knee!” (41:43).
You can’t read this as a Christian without thinking about Jesus the wise and faithful one who has been raised from the dead. He was exalted to the highest place that at his name every knee should bow (Philippians 2:9-11).
Jesus comes to us with the message of grace in a world of trouble, and when you see who He is, the wise response is to honor Him and appoint Him as Lord and Master over your life. To take up the words of Pharaoh, “Place him over your house, over your life. Bow the knee! Order your life at his command.”
3. The wise counselor supplies the need of the people.
Here again Joseph points us very wonderfully to Jesus. Joseph sets up these centers for gathering grain in every city. The location is important: Easy access for all the people
The seven years of plenty came and went, and then the time of famine arrived, “When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph. What he says to you, do” (Genesis 41:55).
The king doesn’t say, “Go to the storehouses.” He says, “Go to Joseph! He is the one who has what you need. He is the one who will open the doors of the storehouses. He is the one who will feed you.”
You read that and hear the voice of Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, saying:
- “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
- “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37).
- “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
Go to Jesus to receive what you need. He has a storehouse of forgiveness, with enough to cover all your sins; a storehouse of strength, sufficient for you to stand and endure; a storehouse of wisdom, for all the perplexing decisions of life.
Christ is the one who opens the storehouses of grace! They are all His. When you come to Him, He will make sure that you have all that you need.