Community Group Study “Genesis: Serving God in Obscurity”
Read Genesis 40:1-23
What is it like to be forgotten? Joseph experienced tremendous hardship and descended down to the lowest of places… being thrown into a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery and then wrong accused and sent to prison. If that was not enough we see a new low in our passage today. He once again faithfully serves others and is forgotten. Yet God has not forgotten him and has been providing for him this entire time to bring him to the right place at the right time in the coming chapters of Genesis. Let’s explore what happens in Genesis 40.
One of the consistent things about Joseph’s character in this season of trial was his dedication to work hard and bless the people around him. After finding himself falsely accused of a crime he did not commit against Potiphar, Joseph is sent to a prison for crimes specifically committed against Pharaoh (“King’s prison – Genesis 39:20). We cannot miss this point because God, in his hidden mercy, puts Joseph into a place where he will interact with people who come into contact with Pharaoh in the future; among them will be the cupbearer.
We see that he quickly rose to a position of prominence in the prison. The captain of the guard has trust in Joseph and put him in a role of caring for some of the other prisoners. Throughout this time God continued to show steadfast love to Joseph and God blessed the prison through him (Genesis 39:19-23).
Genesis 40 opens with Pharaoh getting angry at two of his officials, the chief baker and the cupbearer. The cupbearer in particular had a prominent position in the court of Pharaoh and would daily be near his side. We can think of him as a mixture of taste tester and butler, highlighting that he was a servant who was close to Pharaoh. Both the baker and cupbearer find themselves in Joseph’s care in the prison and immediately the scripture highlights what kind of person Joseph was during his time in prison. Joseph was someone who faithfully served God in obscurity.
Notice 4 things in the text:
- Joseph was hardworking and trusted by the captain of the guard (40:4).
- He was attentive to the people in his life and he noticed things like how the cupbearer and baker were troubled (40:6).
- He relied on God and trusted God to help him in times of need. Specifically, he leans on his past experience with receiving dreams from God to boldly offer to help the cupbearer and baker (40:8).
- All of this happened in the obscurity of the prison. Likewise, he will end up being forgotten, but he also served faithfully without having any real hope of being released.
This should cause followers of Jesus to contemplate where their hope is and who they are serving. Do we work or put forth effort to just some end goal or do we faithfully serve as God has called us and as he has served us (John 13:14, Philippians 2:7). God’s steadfast love for Joseph empowered him to serve in this way and to bless those around him.
These two officials dreamed separate dreams that night which left them troubled in the morning and looking for help. The cupbearer received good news from Joseph. His dream involved three branches and the cupbearer pressing grapes into a cup that would go back into Pharaoh’s hands. The dream meant that in three days he’d be restored to his position. The baker received bad news, he had three baskets on his head in filled with various cakes. There was just one problem, birds were eating out of it and that is never a good sign in the scripture. In three days time the baker would be executed. Both of these dreams camp to pass.
Joseph made a request though of the cupbearer:
“Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.” (Genesis 40:14, ESV)
Yet, our passage ends with the haunting words “Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” (Genesis 40:23). A doubling in the passage… “he did not remember” and “forgot him”. As the Joseph story moves on we will see that God did not forget Joseph and God was working to bless him. Even though Joseph was forgotten, he would be in the right place (the royal prison), among the right people (those close to Pharaoh), with the right attitude (a willingness to serve in obscurity) and waiting for the right time (when Pharaoh would have dreams that needed to be interpreted).
Follower of Jesus, know that God providentially cares for you and is using your faithful service to bless others and he is using even the difficult circumstances in your life to humble your heart and form your character.
God continues to demonstrate his faithful love to Joseph in how he providentially cares for him. Even though it seemed like a setback, Joseph found himself in the right prison and connected to the right people. He will be forgotten by the cupbearer, but God will remember. In the meantime, Joseph faithfully served the Lord and the people God has placed in his life.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 40:1-23
One of the major themes in the Joseph story is God’s providence. Providence is the idea that God directs events of the world and cares for his people. How has the Jospeh story shown you God’s providence?
(For a great, short video on providence you can watch this from the Village Church).
How does Joseph show us a godly attitude while in prison? What would his time there have looked like if he did not have those dreams at the beginning of his story in Genesis 37 guiding him? What would it have been like if his attitude was one of self-pity instead of service?
What do we learn about Pharaoh from these verses?
Joseph served God and the people in the prison, but is “forgotten”. Joseph would not realize this until days and weeks had already gone by. What is the significance of this detail in the Joseph story and how does God use something like this to grow Joseph spiritually?
How has God been using the recent circumstances of our world in your life to form and shape your faith and your character?