Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.”
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began reflecting on the relevance for us of Joseph’s talking about God in his conversation with Pharaoh. As you may recall, when Pharaoh mentioned Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, Joseph said, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (41:16). Then, after Pharaoh explained his dream to Joseph, Joseph brought up God again: “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.”
The examples of Joseph and Paul encourage us to speak of God among our colleagues in a way that honors and involves them, rather than pushing them away.”
Joseph understood that God’s engagement with human beings is not limited to those who have entered into an intentional relationship with the one true God. Rather, God was willing and able to work within Pharaoh for God’s own sovereign purposes. Through dreams, God showed Pharaoh what was about to happen to Egypt, so that Egypt might be prepared for the coming famine.
So, the second time Joseph mentioned God, he did so by pointing to God’s work in Pharaoh’s life. This is striking for several reasons. Listen, once again, to the wise commentary on this passage by Al Erisman in his book The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph: “Joseph also saw
others in his workplace as valued human beings; in fact, they too had insight from God. He said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (Genesis 41: 25). Joseph continued this theme in the ensuing conversation, showing respect to Pharaoh.
Joseph’s brief statement of God’s work in Pharaoh reminds me of Paul’s longer statement in Acts 17 on Mars’ Hill (or the Areopagus). There, Paul addressed his pagan audience by affirming their religious sentiments, recognizing that they worshiped as unknown the God proclaimed by Paul, and finding godly wisdom in Greek poetry (Acts 17:22-31). Though Paul did not back away from matters of theological difference with his audience, he sought to emphasize common ground with them.
The examples of Joseph and Paul encourage us to speak of God among our colleagues in a way that honors and involves them, rather than pushing them away. Both of these examples also challenge us to see God’s presence in unexpected places and unexpected people, as God works in and through those who are not in a covenant relationship with him.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
If you work in a setting where some or all of your colleagues are not followers of Jesus, do you believe that God is at work in these coworkers? Can you imagine that God might even reveal something important to one of these colleagues?
When you speak of God, whether at work or any other setting, do you emphasize common ground with others? Or do you emphasize discontinuity and disagreement?
If you have time, read Paul’s speech on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:22-31). How does this speech challenge and encourage you when you think about speaking of God in your workplace?
Gracious God, thank you for the examples of Joseph and Paul. Thank you for their ability to see you at work in unexpected ways and unexpected people. Thank you for their affirmation of your presence among these folk.
Help me, Lord, to be discerning and wise. Help me to see where and how you are at work around me. May I learn to speak about you in ways that affirm others even as they affirm your presence in their lives. Amen.