Scripture Focus: Genesis 41.38, 51-52
38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
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 a and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Reflection: Fruitful in Suffering
By John Tillman
Manasseh’s name looked back to Joseph’s family troubles. Joseph thanked God for relief from the memory of his trouble. This implies the easing of emotional trauma by his current circumstances. With Ephraim’s name, however, Joseph testified that all was not well even in new circumstances—Egypt was still his land of suffering.
As “fruitful” as he was, as much power as Joseph accumulated, he was still a slave. “I am Pharaoh,” the king reminded Joseph as he raised him to power. “You aren’t,” he implied. Joseph was only elevated to serve a king, not be one.
Even as his privileges grew, Joseph recognized that he lived, as we do, in exile. Later, when dying, Joseph commanded that his bones not be left in Egypt but be carried out when God “came to their aid.” (Genesis 50.24-25) No matter how pretty the cage, a bird’s true home is the sky.
Joseph lived out what Jeremiah would tell Joseph’s descendants entering Babylonian exile—he sought peace and prosperity for the place he had been sent. (Jeremiah 29.7)
In the pivotal moment in which the decision is made to elevate Joseph, the key factor is that Pharaoh sees “the spirit of God” in Joseph. As we seek the peace and prosperity of the governments and cultures of our exile, God’s Spirit will be the key to any success we achieve.
Joseph’s life in exile is marked by submission to God’s Spirit. He submitted to a sexual ethic his culture didn’t understand. He submitted to authority. He sought the betterment of every situation and every person. He gave comfort, aid, and, most importantly, the truth to others.
Joseph didn’t try to cut a deal or ask for a price before Pharaoh. He just kept giving away what the Spirit gave him. He just kept telling people the truth.
Joseph shows us a preview of Jesus, the suffering servant, upon whom the Holy Spirit would rest and be given without limit. Jesus has given this Spirit to us and he intends us, through its power, to change our world.
In exile, we must seek submission to the Spirit rather than power for ourselves. We are the messengers of the Spirit in our age, in our cities, to our culture, and to government. We can be fruitful in the land of our suffering, not by our own cleverness, craft, or scheming, but by the Holy Spirit.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
One day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room, and to stand at the threshold of the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of the wicked. — Psalm 84.9
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
Genesis 41 (Listen – 7:30)
Mark 11 (Listen – 3:59)
Read more about Setting a New Standard
Jesus reset the standard from “Moses allowed” to “God made.”
Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
Jeremiah describes a different kind of enslavement. While living in political freedom, the people of Israel and Judah became spiritually enslaved.