My oldest daughter is fifteen years old, soon to be sixteen years old. And her most favorite question at this point in my life is, “Can I drive?” If we go to my parents’ house the question is, “Can I drive to Granny’s?” If we go to my in-laws’ house the question is, “Can I drive to Grandma’s?” But this is Chloe! She has always loved to ask questions. And my answers to her questions are usually, “I don’t know;” or “Because I said so;” or “I have seen as much of the show as you have.”
But this too is the book of Genesis! It is a book of questions; questions that make you tilt your head, slightly squint your eyes and say, “Hmmmmm.” The first question in the Bible, also the first question in Genesis, is the very first question recorded in human history. “Did God really and actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1). And from there the questions keep coming. Sometimes God himself asks a question. “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Or, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8). Or, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Genesis 18:17). And sometimes God himself is asked a question. “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23). Sometimes dads are asked a question. “Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). Sometimes people ask themselves a question. “Why is this happening to me?” (Genesis 25:22). The book of Genesis ends with a question. “Am I in the place of God?” (Genesis 50:19).
Can We Find a Man Like This?
But sometimes we are asked a question. “Can we find a man like this?” (Genesis 41:38). I read a book this week called The Prayer that Turns the World Upside Down by Albert Mohler. It is about what is called the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13. It is a well known prayer, many know the prayer but do not really know the prayer. And there is something so subtle, but so beautiful about the prayer. Notice how the prayer begins, “Our Father.” There are then seven petitions which follow. But notice just four of these petitions. “Give us…forgive us…And lead us…deliver us.” The beauty of this prayer is that it is a prayer that we are to pray together. It is a corporate prayer.
And so it is with the big question in Genesis 41. It is a corporate question. “Can we find a man like this?” And in Genesis 41, who is asking this very corporate question? His name was Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world. He was a man. He was thought to be a god. He thought of himself as a god, but he was a man. And in Genesis 41, this most powerful man in the world was reduced to a man in need. He was reduced to a man in need of the help of a forgotten prisoner named Joseph. And in Genesis 41:38, this man asked a question. He asked it as a man in need. And he asked it as a man among a people in need. “Can we find a man like this?”
What Kind of Man is This?
It just intrigues me so much that Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world needs this kind of man and says to the nation, “we need this kind of man.” Listen closely to the rest of Genesis 41:38. “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” So, what kind of man is this?
In the very next verse, Pharaoh says to Joseph. “You’re the man! You are this man!” How does Pharaoh know that Joseph is this kind of man? Listen closely to Genesis 41:39. “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.” How does Pharaoh know that in Joseph is the Spirit of God? How does Pharaoh know that Joseph is discerning and wise?
On Pharaoh’s birthday, he dreamed a dream. He woke up, collected himself and went back to sleep. He then dreamed another dream. So two dreams were dreamed in one night. And perhaps really important is that Pharaoh remembered both dreams down to the smallest details (Genesis 41:1-24). Pharaoh was really bothered by the dreams. The Bible says that it stirred up anxiety within him (41:8). It kept his eyes open, he did not want to go back to sleep out of fear of dreaming a third time. So, he gathered all the magicians with their dream books and all the wise men with their wisdom to discern the dreams. Is that not interesting? Pharaoh’s first reaction was to find men who were discerning and wise. And he found none. No one could figure out these two dreams.
But Joseph was remembered. He was quickly plucked from his prison confines, given a bath and a shave and brought before Pharaoh. In short, Joseph interpreted the dreams. The dreams were different, but the same; each had the same meaning. But what was it about the telling of the dreams that said to Pharaoh, we need a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? What was it that showed Pharaoh that Joseph was discerning and wise? The two dreams were God’s revelation. Joseph showed from God’s Word (revelation) what God was about to do. And that was not enough. Joseph also showed from what God was about to do what needed to be done. And we need both. We need to be shown, week after week after week, from God’s Word what God has done, what God is doing and what God is about to do. And that will not be enough. We also need to be shown what needs to be done; what we need to do.
Why hear so much of this a second time? This was all review of last week, so why hear it again? The big idea of Genesis 41 is that question. Can we find a man like this? And it is because in Genesis 41:42-57 there is more to this man.
Thus Joseph Was Over All the Land of Egypt
What did Pharaoh do when this man was found? Listen to Genesis 41:41. “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’” For two whole weeks, I kept picturing Pharaoh, his hands on Joseph’s shoulders rotating him to behold the view. It was the view of Egypt. It was the view from the top. And Joseph saw the pyramids; pyramids completed and pyramids yet to be completed. There were large statues and large pillars, and men carving stones and men making bricks. There were homes and businesses; there was Potiphar’s house just across the way and near it, the prison. The busy-ness of Egypt filled the air. And the view led all the way to the horizon. The sun was setting and everywhere its rays touched belonged to Egypt. Here stood Joseph over it all. He was in charge.
It was an awesome picture, at least how I pictured it. But it was not the picture at all. When Pharaoh told Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt,” Joseph was not looking out some window. He was looking down. Pharaoh slid the ring, his signet ring, off his finger and placed it on the hand of Joseph. All the land of Egypt was in that ring. Joseph possessed all the authority of Pharaoh in that ring on his finger.
Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh clothed Joseph in “garments of fine linen,” perhaps the Egyptian version of a robe of many colors. It was the clothing of royalty. It really stood out. When was the last time Joseph wore such clothing? Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh placed a gold chain around Joseph’s neck. A forever gift to show that the gratitude of Pharaoh rests upon Joseph. Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh gave Joseph the second best chariot in all the world! Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh led the way in a parade for Joseph! Throughout the streets it was exclaimed, “Bow the knee! And make way. Make way for Joseph!” It was all to show that Pharaoh is Pharaoh and without Joseph’s consent, no one would lift a finger or their baby toe in all of Egypt. Thus Joseph was over all the land of Egypt (41:42-44).
Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh gave Joseph a new name; an Egyptian name. Oh, this is not all. Pharaoh gave Joseph a wife, the choicest of wives, an Egyptian wife. And what comes with all wives? In-laws; Joseph was given a father-in-law. Joseph’s wife had a name – Asenath. Her name meant, “belonging to Neith.” Neith was an Egyptian goddess, a powerful and fierce deity. She was revered as the first of all gods, the prime creator of the universe and the sustainer of all it contains, governing all of its functions. This goddess gave birth to the sun god named Ra. It was ironic, for Joseph’s father-in-law was a priest. He presided over the worship of the sun god named Ra and officiated all the major festivals and supervised all the other priests. He was this world’s religious leader (Genesis 41:45). “A young Joseph began his married life listening to hymns sung to Ra at the morning sunrise – in his own home.”
And it all says this to us: will Joseph be this kind of man? How will this affect him? Will he be the man Pharaoh needs? Will be he be the man God has provided for the needs of Pharaoh and the needs of the nation? Or will he be this man? He was primed for pride. He was primed to be enveloped by a godless culture. What man will he be?
Joseph Went Out Over the Land
It is twice mentioned that after all of this, and Joseph is now thirty years old, he went out over the land of Egypt. He seems unphased by it all; the power, the prestige, the prominence, the beautiful morning and now everything finally going his way. He gets to work. He gets to work to oversee the plenty so that he might plan for the empty (41:45-49). And can we find a man like this? Joseph kept the next fourteen years in view.
Joseph had thirteen years in the pit, one pit after another. It shaped him. It humbled him for such a time as this; that he would be God’s man for God’s purpose in God’s plan at God’s better timing. And what did Joseph do? He kept the big picture in view. He kept the long run in view. He knew where to lead and he knew how to get there. But how did he do it in the midst of it all?
Before the Year of Famine Came
Notice Genesis 41:50. Before the year of famine came, Joseph became a dad of not one, but two sons. And what is really interesting is that Joseph named each son. But really, really interesting is what Joseph named the two sons. He gave them Hebrew names; Manasseh and Ephraim. And each name said something about God. “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name itself though showed that Joseph did not really forget all his hardship or his dad and family. Instead, it is just to say that all his hardship, all thirteen years of it, was not holding Joseph from growing and moving forward. It did not make him bitter and resentful. Instead, it said that through it all God was holding him fast. And the other boy. “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.” See, each boy was to be a reminder of who God is, who Joseph knew God to be in and through all the hardship and all the affliction. And by the way, the Egyptian name that Pharaoh gave Joseph, Zaphenath-paneah, is best thought to mean, “God speaks and is alive!” So, everywhere Joseph went and every time he was called upon, he heard always, “God speaks and is alive!” It was what would keep him from pride. It was what would keep him from being enveloped by the culture, especially as the whole world would come to him for bread (41:57).
Joseph knew God. I read of a pastor who endured hardship and affliction. He wanted to quit and just get away. But he did not. He was faced with a reality. It was a question he had to ask himself. Do I really know the Word of God? God speaks and is alive, but do I really know the Word of God? Not the facts and the Greek and the Hebrew, etc. But am I being shaped by the Word of God? Humbled and driven to repentance and contrition and joy and life and grace and mercy. But there is more. Do I know the Word, the incarnate Word Jesus Christ? Am I knowing him better, growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ?
And so, can we find a man like this? Can we find men like this? Men like this show from God’s Word what God is about to do. Men like this show from what God is about to do what we need to do. Men like this keep the big picture in view, knowing where to lead and how to get there. Men like this know the Word of God. Men like this know the Word, the incarnate Word Jesus Christ.
 R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Believing, page 487.