Genesis 40:12-15; 23
12 “This is what the dream means,” Joseph said. “The three branches represent three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift you up and restore you to your position as his chief cup-bearer. 14 And please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. 15 For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I’m here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it.” 23 Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.
Genesis 41:1 Two full years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River.
Joseph had been imprisoned on false charges and while he was in prison two of the kings chief officials, the kings cupbearer and the king’s baker, were thrown into prison for displeasing the king. The two men both had dreams and were distressed as to their meaning, Joseph served them by interpret their dreams. The cupbearer was to be restored to his former position and the baker was to be hanged. When Joseph interpreted the cupbearer’s dream, he had asked him for a favor, “please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place.” In Genesis 40:23 we read “Pharaoh’s chief cup-bearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.”
So we find Joseph alone in prison, forgotten by the man whom he had served and who had promised to remember him. After a gap of two full years we pick up his story again. In Genesis 41:1 we read, “Two full years later, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing on the bank of the Nile River” Two full years left alone and ignored, they represented a long, dull, monotonous grind, month after month, the same old prison walls. That is what it is like when you’re in a period of waiting, nothing seems to happen. Joseph served others by interpreting their dreams while his dream seemed to slip away, forgotten by others, but not by God. At this point in his life serving others hasn’t seemed to get him very far, he served Potiphar only to be thrown into jail, he served the cupbearer only to be ignored. It would have been easy for Joseph to punt the whole serving others thing, after all it wasn’t helping him. Yet later, when God brings Joseph into Pharoses presence, we see a man with a servant’s heart ready to serve the whole of Egypt including the surrounding region. Joseph understood the key to serving; the key is where we place the focus. True serving always has an outward focus and places it away from self and onto others. Joseph was able to keep his servants heart even when he served others and they ignored him, because Joseph didn’t make the focus of his serving himself.
Joseph remembered his own dream, God’s promise, that someday, Joseph would be a ruler and people would bow down to him. But he understood that it wasn’t about the position it was about the heart, it wasn’t about ruling it was about serving. Many of us are ok serving as long as there is something in it for us, as long as we benefit, at which point we have completely missed the heart of serving. Joseph would rule to serve, we want to serve so we can rule. One of the greatest tests of serving comes when we serve and there is no recognition, no one remembers us and we are ignored! In this critical test of our servant’s heart will we be like Joseph and have an unswerving confidence in God based on God’s divine revelation, or will we have a shaken confidence as we focus on the circumstances?
Joseph knew that God was the source of his dreams, and God had confirmed them to him again and again. He knew what Peter would later write: God is not slow, in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness (2 Peter 3:9). In our waiting times the key isn’t escape, it’s endurance. James 1 says, the testing of our faith produces endurance. If you are really going to serve others and develop a servant’s heart you will need endurance. We can serve in obscurity because God notices, he cares and after all, aren’t we doing it for Him anyway?