The writer of Genesis devotes over one quarter of the account to Joseph’s life and career. He was the great-grandson of Abraham and it is a very good story. If you have not read it recently, I highly recommend it to you. (Gen 37, 39-50)
Joseph had two great abilities. One was to interpret dreams. The second and more significant one was that Joseph was an extraordinary manager. He had the ability to steward affairs so that everything was fully accomplished with excellence.
He spent thirteen years enslaved and eventually imprisoned – falsely – but the whole time he was employed. In both jobs, he surfaced as the best manager they had ever seen. This statement could be taken straight out of Joseph’s employment record:
The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners—he ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best. (Gen 39:22-23, The Message)
Notice that God is credited for Joseph’s abilities. Certainly the Lord was orchestrating events. Dreams play an important role – not just Joseph’s dreams, but also those of the cupbearer, the baker and finally of Pharoah, who has two dreams. Joseph is given the interpretation of all four of those dreams, which leads to the defining job interview of his career.
This is what Pharoah says in hiring Joseph:
“You’re the man for us. God has given you the inside story—no one is as qualified as you in experience and wisdom. From now on, you’re in charge of my affairs; all my people will report to you. Only as king will I be over you. I’m putting you in charge of the entire country of Egypt.” (Gen 41:39-41, The Message)
So, at thirty years of age Joseph, descendant of Abraham and the Promise, became the Prime Minister of Egypt. He conducted Egypt without loss through the worst-ever famine in the Middle East. The account is silent about the issue of his retirement, but it does note he lived eighty years after assuming the role.
We are seeking to develop an inventory of careers and callings that God has revealing through the Biblical stories. Joseph can enter the list as 1) Visionary and 2) Manager.
God gave Joseph the vision to interpret the dreams of others in the spur of the moment. In the case of his own dreams, it may be that the interpretation unfolded over time. Although God was sovereignly directing the outcome, Joseph clearly did not know how to handle the impact of his dreams when he was seventeen. But he steadies to his plight for thirteen years and appears to embrace a remarkably positive attitude. How else do you excel in hard work as a slave and in a dungeon?
Joseph had a standout career. But the real significance was the fulfillment of a vision given to Abraham years before – that his descendants would move and eventually be enslaved in a land not theirs – and multiply greatly before being returned to the promised land. When Moses finally leads them out in deliverance, they had grown to a nation of over a million.
What career possibilities and insights can we take away from Joseph?
Embrace vision! Steve Jobs was booted out of his own company, but came back to create the most valuable public company ever. Do you have a vision? Trust God with it. Need to understand what it means? Pray for understanding and interpretation.
Don’t let hardship and obstacles stop you. You can’t control circumstances, but you can control your response. A positive attitude is more powerful than trials along the way.
It is a vitally important task to manage, administrate, organize and execute. If you are good, you are priceless to those around you. All throughout the stories of the Bible you find stewards of a little or a lot. Jesus’ parables are filled with stewardship. If you are gifted like Joseph, excel in what you do and prepare to enter into the Lord’s good pleasure.