Free Through Suffering

“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Ps. 4:1).

This is one of the grandest testimonies ever given by man to the moral government of God. It is not a man’s thanksgiving that he has been set free from suffering. It is a thanksgiving that he has been set free through suffering: “Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” He declares the sorrows of life to have been themselves the source of life’s enlargement.

And have not you and I a thousand times felt this to be true? It is written of Joseph in the dungeon that “the iron entered into his soul.” We all feel that what Joseph needed for his soul was just the iron. He had seen only the glitter of the gold. He had been rejoicing in youthful dreams; and dreaming hardens the heart. He who sheds tears over a romance will not be most apt to help reality; real sorrow will be too unpoetic for him. We need the iron to enlarge our nature. The gold is but a vision; the iron is an experience. The chain which unites me to humanity must be an iron chain. That touch of nature which makes the world akin is not joy, but sorrow; gold is partial, but iron is universal.

My soul, if thou wouldst be enlarged into human sympathy, thou must be narrowed into limits of human suffering. Joseph’s dungeon is the road to Joseph’s throne. Thou canst not lift the iron load of thy brother if the iron hath not entered into thee. It is thy limit that is thine enlargement. It is the shadows of thy life that are the real fulfillment of thy dreams of glory. Murmur not at the shadows; they are better revelations than thy dreams. Say not that the shades of the prison-house have fettered thee; thy fetters are wings–wings of flight into the bosom of humanity. The door of thy prison-house is a door into the heart of the universe. God has enlarged thee by the binding of sorrow’s chain.–George Matheson

If Joseph had not been Egypt’s prisoner, he had never been Egypt’s governor. The iron chain about his feet ushered in the golden chain about his neck.–Selected

The Silver Cup

Joseph and the Silver Cup

(Genesis 43.26-45.15) 

Joseph wasn't through...

….with his brothers yet. He needed to test them still.

Were they still the same mean brothers who sold their little brother just to make a few bucks? Or had they changed?

Did they still only care about themselves and what they wanted?

That’s what Joseph needed to find out.

And so his brothers were waiting for the Governor of all of Egypt to come home. They had their gifts laid out. The palms of their hands were sweaty. What was going to happen next?

When Joseph walked into the room, his brothers bowed low to the floor – just like Joseph’s dreams again, the ones his brothers had laughed at!

But then Joseph surprised them. He was nice to them! (His brothers still didn’t know who he really was.) He asked them how they all were, and then he asked, “And how is your father? Is he still alive?”

“Your servant our father is very much alive and well,” the brothers answered – and they bowed low to the ground again.

And then Joseph saw his brother Benjamin. Remember, Benjamin was Joseph’s little brother, and he had missed his baby brother very much (even though he wasn’t a baby anymore!).

“Is this your brother Benjamin?” Joseph asked, still pretending he didn’t know them.

“May God bless you!” Joseph said to his little brother, and then tears began to fill his eyes. He had to run from the room before his brothers could see him cry.

When the tears finally stopped, Joseph washed his face and went back to his brothers.

“Let’s eat!” he said. He clapped his hands, and immediately his servants began to bring in great platters of food.

Now, Egyptians thought they were better than everyone, and they would never even think of sitting down to eat with Hebrews. Why are people always thinking they are better than other people? God loves each of us just the same – and more than we could ever know!

So the Egyptians in Joseph’s household ate at one table, while the eleven brothers ate at another. Joseph ate at a table all by himself.

But then, to his brothers’ complete surprise, Joseph got up… and served them himself! The Governor of all of Egypt was serving THEM – and all the best stuff from his own table!

Well, it’s just like the God of the universe gives us the best stuff from HIS table every day! It is an amazing thing!

The brothers were seated by their age, the oldest to the youngest – and as Joseph served them, they couldn’t believe what was happening. They hardly even noticed that Joseph gave his brother Benjamin five times as much as anyone else.

You can be sure, if they were at home and any one of them got as much as one BITE more than the other, there would be trouble. You know how that goes! But the brothers were so amazed at their good fortune, and having such a wonderful time at this great feast, they didn’t even notice.

How strange. Here they thought they were going to be in big trouble, and instead, they were invited to a feast!

I wonder if that’s how it is with us. Sometimes we are sure God must be mad at us (and sometimes for good reason!), but He loves us so much, and is so forgiving, He really is preparing a great feast for us instead.

When they had finished, Joseph gave these instructions to his steward, “Fill the men’s packs with as much food as they can carry – and then put each man’s silver back in his pack.

“And then, put my silver cup in the mouth of the youngest one’s pack, along with his silver and his grain.”

The next morning, just as the golden light of a new day was beginning to fill the sky, the brothers loaded their packs on their donkeys and started for home.

Joseph waited a bit, and then he said to his steward, “Go after them! Say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? My Master’s silver cup is missing!’“

“What are you talking about?” the brothers said when Joseph’s steward had caught up with them.

“Why would we steal your Master’s cup? We even brought back the silver we found in our packs the last time! If you find the cup with any one of us, let the one who has it die, and the rest of us will become your slaves!”

Oops! Remember, they had promised their father that nothing would happen to their brother Benjamin – and the cup was in his pack!

The Steward said, “Very well. But if I find my Master’s cup, the rest of you can go free, only the one who has it will become my slave. ”

They each lowered their packs to the ground, and the steward began searching them. He started with the oldest and went one by one, oldest to youngest, until he came to Benjamin.

Benjamin opened his pack – and there was Joseph’s silver cup!

They couldn’t believe their eyes. “How can this be!” the brothers cried. And then, they tore their clothes and fell to the ground, “What will we do now?!”

There was only one thing they could do. They had to go back and plead for Benjamin’s life.

Joseph was still at his home when Judah and his brothers rushed in and threw themselves to the ground at Joseph’s feet.

“What have you done!” Joseph said, “Did you really think you could get away with anything?!”

“What can we say!” Judah pleaded, “Your God knows everything, and it is impossible to get away with anything with Him. We had your cup, and now we will all be your slaves!”

But Joseph said, “No, only one of you is guilty. He will be my slave, the rest of you may go home to your father.”

But Judah begged him, “Please sir! I am only a humble servant, and you are as great as Pharaoh himself, but may I say something?

“We brought back our brother Benjamin just like you asked us to. But our father is old. He loved his wife Rachel dearly, and she gave him two sons in his old age. One is dead, and now you wish to take the other. Please sir, my father loves Benjamin so much, it will break his heart if he loses him too.”

And then Judah admitted everything that had had happened, how it nearly broke his father’s heart when he believed that his son Joseph had been killed by wild animals. “Let me stay and become your slave,” Judah said, “I couldn’t bear to tell my father that Benjamin was gone too.”

Once his brothers sold their brother Joseph into slavery – but now they were willing to become slaves themselves to keep their brother Benjamin safe. Before, they were willing to let their father think Joseph was dead, and now they would do anything to keep from hurting him again.

They really had changed. They really did care.

Finally Joseph couldn’t keep it in anymore. Tears began to fill his eyes, “Please,” he said to his servants, “Everyone go. Leave me alone with these men.”

When his servants had left, and Joseph was alone with his brothers, he broke down and cried so hard and so loud that everyone in his house could hear.

“I am your brother Joseph!” he said through his tears. “Please, you must tell me, how is father?”

But his brothers were terrified. They could not say a word.

Joseph opened his arms and said, “I am your brother, the one you sold into Egypt! Don’t be afraid!”

And then he told them, “There are still five years of famine to come. For another five years the earth will be dry as bones, and no food will grow. But God told me everything that was going to happen, and I have stored up grain for us all.

“Don’t you see? You didn’t send me here, God did! It was all God’s plan from the very beginning. God sent me on ahead to save his people!

“What you meant for evil, God meant for good!”

With tears of joy in his eyes, Joseph threw his arms around his brother Benjamin, and then his older brothers too. He forgave them for everything they had done.

Through all the years, and all his troubles, God was really at work, doing an amazing, wonderful thing! Even though what Joseph’s brothers did WAS a terrible thing, God’s love and forgiveness is so great that he took a terrible thing and turned into a great blessing!


Many, many years later, there will be another cup, in another story. This time, it will be the cup Jesus drinks from at the Last Supper. And just like God sent Joseph, God will send Jesus on ahead to save his people – you and me!

Just like Joseph’s brothers turned against him, Jesus’s own people will turn against Jesus too. They will put him to death on a cross. But God will turn that terrible, terrible day into the best thing to ever happen in the history of the world.

Three days later God will raise Jesus from the dead!

Jesus will rise from the dead, and everyone who believes in him will live with Him forever!

It is all part of God’s amazing, wonderful plan to save His people – you and me!

Joseph Rules

Joseph Rules

Scholars dispute the accuracy of this illustration

(Genesis 41.39-49)


…clapped his hand on Joseph’s shoulder, “Where in all of Egypt could I find a wiser man than you!

“Surely the Spirit of God is with you!” Pharaoh said, “I will put you in charge over my house and all the land of Egypt.

“Whatever you command, it will be done!”

Wouldn’t that be fun! Whatever you asked for, someone would do. That’s why only a very WISE person should have that kind of power. Otherwise you might be commanding things like, “Bring me three dancing bears!” or “Fill my pool with butterscotch pudding!” and goofy stuff like that.

But Joseph WAS very wise. He listened to God, and only did what pleased him.

And so Pharaoh took the ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s hand. It was the ring engraved with the royal seal, the ring of authority and power. Pharaoh said, “I set you to rule over all the land. From now on, in all of Egypt only I will be greater than you!”

And then he had Joseph dressed in the finest royal robes, and he put a gold chain around his neck.

And to think, just the day before Joseph was wearing a whole different kind of chain, sitting in the dust and dirt of a dark prison floor. How quickly things can change when God is at work!

When things are bad, and it seems like nothing but troubles, you just never know what surprises God has waiting.

“I am Pharaoh, ruler of all of Egypt,” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “and this day I declare that no one shall as much as lift a finger unless you say it is okay.”

Pharaoh gave Joseph the chariot of his second in command, and wherever Joseph went, an honor guard went on before him, calling out, “All Hail! All Hail!”

And so Pharaoh made it known throughout all of Egypt that Joseph was in charge.

Then Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name.

People are all the time getting new names in the Bible. That’s because names are important. Your name says who you belong to. There is a BIG difference between calling someone by their name, and saying, “Hey, Dumbhead!“

And you only GIVE a name to someone who is very close and dear to you.

So Pharaoh gave Joseph a new Egyptian name, Zaphenathpaneah, which of course is much too long to keep having to say over and over in this story, so we’ll just keep calling him Joseph. But in the eyes of Pharaoh and all of Egypt, Joseph had been accepted as one of their own.

Joseph was just 30 years old when he was made a prince of Egypt.

After all that Joseph had been through, all the ups and downs, all the troubles, look where God had put him!

Pharaoh also chose a wife for Joseph, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. And God blessed Joseph with two sons. The first Joseph named Manasseh, which means “You will forget” because Joseph said, “God has helped me forget all the troubles I have had.”

His second son Joseph named Ephraim, which means “Be fruitful,” “For God has made me fruitful in the land that once brought me trouble.”

Scholars dispute the accuracy of thisd And then..

…for the next seven years the rains came, just as God said they would.

The crops of Egypt grew and grew, and when each harvest came, Joseph did just as God told him to. He went all around Egypt gathering up the overflowing food. In each city he gathered up the food from the fields around it and stored it up in barns for the years of famine that were coming.

What a valuable lesson to learn!

You can be as wise as Joseph. For most people, there will be good times – and there will be hard times too. When times are good, and God blesses you with more than you need, don’t go crazy and use it all up as fast as you can.

Instead, save some of it. Set it aside, and then you will be ready when hard times come.

That’s just what Joseph did. God blessed the land so richly, that soon there were mountains of grain. It was like the sand of the sea. There was so much, that Joseph finally gave up even trying to measure it all.

It was truly beyond measure.

And then one day the rains stopped.

His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. Genesis 49:24

That strength which God gives to His Josephs is real strength; it is not a boasted valour, a fiction, a thing of which men talk, but which ends in smoke; it is true-divine strength. Why does Joseph stand against temptation? Because God gives him aid. There is nought that we can do without the power of God. All true strength comes from “the mighty God of Jacob.” Notice in what a blessedly familiar way God gives this strength to Joseph-“The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” Thus God is represented as putting His hands on Joseph’s hands, placing His arms on Joseph’s arms. Like as a father teaches his children, so the Lord teaches them that fear Him. He puts His arms upon them. Marvellous condescension! God Almighty, Eternal, Omnipotent, stoops from His throne and lays His hand upon the child’s hand, stretching His arm upon the arm of Joseph, that he may be made strong! This strength was also covenant strength, for it is ascribed to “the mighty God of Jacob.” Now, wherever you read of the God of Jacob in the Bible, you should remember the covenant with Jacob. Christians love to think of God’s covenant. All the power, all the grace, all the blessings, all the mercies, all the comforts, all the things we have, flow to us from the well-head, through the covenant. If there were no covenant, then we should fail indeed; for all grace proceeds from it, as light and heat from the sun. No angels ascend or descend, save upon that ladder which Jacob saw, at the top of which stood a covenant God. Christian, it may be that the archers have sorely grieved you, and shot at you, and wounded you, but still your bow abides in strength; be sure, then, to ascribe all the glory to Jacob’s God.

Joseph the Dreamer

Joseph the Dreamer

(Genesis 37)

That’s what Joseph’s big brothers thought.

They were sure their father liked Joseph best.

In some ways they were right. Joseph was the baby of the family. And new babies aren’t much good at hunting, or watching sheep. Mostly they just roll around and cry a lot, and you have to do everything for them. So, when baby Joseph came along, of course Jacob spent a lot of time with him. Well, that, and babies are just so cute!

But, Joseph’s brothers didn’t like it.

And they didn’t like Joseph.

They were jealous. They wanted Dad to spend time with THEM. And so as Joseph got older, they picked on him. It was easy to do because they were bigger and stronger. When Dad wasn’t looking, they bossed little Joseph around. They put beetles in his bed. They were always making him do stuff for them – like he was their slave or something.

Well, one day they were all going to be in for a BIG surprise!

Of course, being mean to someone their father loved probably wasn’t the best idea. Did they think hurting Joseph would make their father love them more? That wasn’t too smart.

When Joseph was old enough, he went to work out in the fields with his brothers, watching over the sheep. Joseph was 17 now, and his brothers still didn’t like him much.

It probably didn’t help things that when Joseph went home at night, he told his father when his brothers were goofing around instead of working.

It really didn’t help things much when one day, Jacob gave his son Joseph a new coat.

It was a wondrous coat!

It had long sleeves and was made of many colors. Joseph was so proud! He wore his new coat everywhere he went.

Well, that did it!

Now Joseph’s brothers were SURE their father liked Joseph best. And maybe he did. But Jacob loved each of his sons, and would have given his life for any one of them.

Then one night, Joseph had a dream.

The next morning, they were all sitting down for breakfast (you can be sure it wasn’t Cheerios or Cap’n Crunch! – more like goat’s milk and cheese. Yum!). And Joseph said, “You should have seen this dream I had! I dreamed that we were all out in the field, bundling our wheat together into sheaves. All of a sudden, my sheaf stood up all on its own – and then all of your sheaves made a circle around mine and bowed down to it!”

“Yeah, right!” said Reuben, as he reached over and finished Joseph’s cup of goat’s milk.

“Hey! Cut that out!”

“Make me, you dreamer! You think you are going to be the boss of us?!!” And all the other brothers laughed and poked at Joseph.

That night Joseph had another dream. The next morning at breakfast he told his brothers his new dream. “Last night I dreamed the sun, the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me!”

“Oh Great and Mighty Joseph!” his big brother Levi said, and bowed down to Joseph – and then he swiped his cheese. All his other brothers laughed and teased Joseph all the more. “Dreamer! Dreamer!”

Poor Joseph didn’t know what to do. He told his dream to his father, and even his father had enough of his nonsense, “You think your mother, your brothers and I are going to bow down and worship you?!”

But, it wasn’t nonsense.

It was from God.


Genesis 45:16-20, 46:5-6

Together again

When the king of Egypt heard about Joseph’s brothers, and that his father was still in Canaan, he said, “Let your brothers go back to Canaan and fetch your father and everything they own and let them stay here in Egypt.”

So Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan with wagons to fetch their wives and children, and their father Jacob.

From that time on, Jacob and all his sons, their wives and their children, stayed together in Egypt where they had more than enough food and land.

Do family break-ups always have a happy ending?

Jacob and all his sons were together again. How happy he must have been to have everyone safely together after what his family had been through over the years. Jacob had honored God, and God had kept His promise to bless him.

Perhaps you know of a family that is not together anymore. Death, divorce, and living far from one another can scatter a family like pieces of a broken-up puzzle.

God loves families and will always bless the family that honors Him. Whether family members are in one place or scattered all over the world, God can bless them wherever they are.

Although God can bring families together that have been broken through divorce, He does not interfere with the decisions of a mother and father. He will not make people do something they don’t want to, nor can He force people to love each other. There may not always be a happy ending for families here on earth, but a time is coming when all who believe will become one big family in Heaven—for ever and ever!

Verse for today

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” John 14:18.


Genesis 43:8-12: 45:12-13

From bad to worse

When Jacob heard that Simeon was still in Egypt and that the governor in charge of selling food wanted to see Benjamin, his youngest son, he was very upset. He said to his other sons, “Joseph is dead, Simeon is in Egypt, and now you want to take Benjamin from me as well.”

As the famine continued, Jacob began to realize that the only way their family would survive would be to send his sons back to Egypt to buy food, this time with Benjamin.

All this time, Jacob and his sons did not know that Joseph was alive and well, and that he was the one in charge of the food supply in Egypt.

How can I help people in countries where there is a famine?

How would you feel if you were in charge of all the food in Egypt? Would you feel powerful and important, or would you feel happy to be serving others? Maybe you have seen pictures of starving children. How do those pictures make you feel? You may feel upset that children your age are suffering and no one seems to care.

You could do something to help needy people! Even though your part may seem small, God sees your heart and He can turn something small into something much bigger:

  • Pray for God’s mercy on their country, and if they need rain for their crops, that God would send them rain.
  • Try to find out more about poor countries. Start a scrapbook with pictures and information about countries in need.
  • Ask God to show you how you can help and, if you are wondering whether your part will really make a difference, read Mark 12:41-44.

Verse for today

“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Jesus)” Matthew 24:40.