Joseph: A Visionary Leader
Opening: Reading the story of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37 stirs our soul to rise to new possibilities in life! Rising from the humble life of a shepherd’s son to becoming second in command over all of Egypt is something that makes for a “too-good-to-be-true” story! The mention of Joseph’s name lifts our thoughts to new levels and stirs our imagination to see what may be possible for us to attain in our lives.
There are a lot of things about Joseph that are very appealing to many of us. When we think of Joseph, we think of him as a dreamer, highly favored, an interpreter of dreams, second in command over all of Egypt, very successful, and the savior of his family and their offspring. These are noble things that many of us desire to do in some way.
We find the key to his phenomenal rise in life to (1) the dreams he had as a child, and (2) his unswerving, undying, continual faithfulness to what he saw in those dreams.
His life reminds us of the words of the prophet Habakkuk, “For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, It will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3 NKJV).
What God showed to Joseph did not come to pass immediately. As the years went by until the dreams came to pass, it gave Joseph enough time to develop and be ready when the things he had seen became a reality.
Vision can come to us in many forms, and in Joseph’s case, it came in the form of dreams. Those two dreams gave him vision for his future. It gave him a glimpse of the plans God had for his life.
Joseph’s vision of the future helped him stay steady in the face of criticism, misunderstanding, jealousy, betrayal, false accusations, wrongful imprisonment, and being forgotten by others.
- His brothers hated him and were jealous of Joseph because of the special treatment he received from his father.
- His father rebuked him.
- His brothers sold him into slavery.
- Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of raping her.
- Potiphar sentenced him to prison for his wife’s accusation.
- Pharaoh’s chief butler forgot Joseph for two years after he was released from prison, and Joseph remained in prison.
- Joseph is an example that shows us the power of having a vision for our future.
- Joseph’s vision for the future enabled him personally to have great favor, success, and prosperity.
- Joseph’s vision also helped Egypt as a nation to survive the seven years of famine.
- Finally, Joseph’s vision put him in a position to save his family, which ultimately became the nation of Israel.
Looking at Joseph’s life shows us that our lives are better for having a vision for the future. It enables a person to see the invisible, and it empowers them to accomplish what others consider impossible!
Joseph Prepared Himself to be Used of God to Bring Vision to a Troubled Pharaoh
A. Joseph’s story is not an overnight success story. It is an account of someone who had to develop himself and get himself ready for the time when his dreams would come to pass.
B. Joseph did not have an ideal beginning. The Scriptures begin his story when he is seventeen years old boy having to learn what life is really all about.
Genesis 37:2, NKJV
This is the history of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brothers. And the lad was with the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to his father.
1. Joseph brought a bad report to his father about his brothers (37:2). He seemed prompt in his disapproval of evil and scandalous conduct of his brothers. Yet the fact that he was a tattle tale put him in disfavor with his brothers.
2. Joseph was a favored child of Jacob, and as a result he could easily have developed an entitlement mentality. He was more loved by Jacob than the others (37:3). Jacob made Joseph a special tunic or coat, which certainly indicated favored status and probably signified birthright privileges (37:3). Joseph did not have to go to the fields to take care of the sheep all the time, as his brothers did (37:12-13).
3. Jacob was an immature teenager when he received his dreams from the Lord. He rashly related his dreams to his brothers and his father, even when he knew that his brothers hated him (37:6-10). Perhaps Joseph tried to lord over his brothers with his dreams because of their hatred of him. Or perhaps it was an attempt on Joseph’s part to show his brothers that he had been chosen by God to rule the clan when his father passed away.
C. We know that Joseph as a young teenager received a vision for his future through two dreams from God (37:5, 9). However, receiving a vision from God does not mean it will happen immediately. Often, after receiving a vision for the future, a series of circumstances and experiences will follow that helps a person to develop and grow into the kind of person who is able to fulfill the vision.
1. Although God did not cause any of the negative things that happened to Joseph, He did use these events and situations to help Joseph develop the right attitudes.
2. The difficult circumstances Joseph found himself in required him to put his trust in God.
3. The unfairness of betrayal, slavery, false accusations, and imprisonment were the testing points to help Joseph develop godly character, handle extreme pressure, and remain steady under huge demands.
D. While the vision was not coming to pass, and no opportunity came to him, he did three things that kept him ready for when it would come.
1. He kept a good attitude no matter what people did to him, or what his surroundings were!
2. He maintained a servant heart in the midst of dire and unpleasant circumstances!
3. He remained faithful in his current duties, even when it looked like nothing else would come to him.
E. Joseph recognized his opportunity when it came to him, and he got himself ready.
1. He shaved, cleaned himself up, and changed into clean clothes before he stood before Pharaoh.
Genesis 41:14, NKJV
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh.
2. He remained humble before Pharaoh, giving the credit to God for any ability he had.
Genesis 41:15-16, NKJV
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it.” So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
F. These things enabled Joseph to be successful whether he was in prison or in the palace.
1. Joseph learned not to be moved by problems or prosperity.
2. Joseph learned to serve God, whether he was being treated right or wrong.
3. Joseph learned to look to God no matter what people did against him or for him.
Joseph Brought Vision to the Pharaoh of Egypt!
Genesis 41:17-41, NKJV
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: “Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the river. Suddenly seven cows came up out of the river, fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such ugliness as I have never seen in all the land of Egypt. And the gaunt and ugly cows ate up the first seven, the fat cows. When they had eaten them up, no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were just as ugly as at the beginning. So I awoke. Also I saw in my dream, and suddenly seven heads came up on one stalk, full and good. Then behold, seven heads, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. And the thin heads devoured the seven good heads. So I told this to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”
Genesis 41:25-32, NKJV
So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
A. It is true that Joseph went from the prison to the palace in one day! It looked like something that happened suddenly, giving him seemingly “overnight success.” Actually, it was the result of Joseph’s continued faithfulness to his dreams for 13 years no matter where he was or what his situation was.
B. Joseph clearly related the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream in such a way that the Pharaoh could understand it and find it believable.
Genesis 41:25-32, NKJV
Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind are seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe. And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
C. Joseph also shared a wise application based upon what the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream showed for the future.
Genesis 41:33-36, NKJV
Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine.
1. He told Pharaoh to choose a wise and discerning leader, who could save the nation of Egypt.
2. This leader would have to choose able, honest, and qualified people to implement his plan.
3. The leader’s plan was to make sure that a fifth of the food crops would be stored and kept to see Egypt through the seven years of famine.
D. This enabled Pharaoh to view Joseph correctly, and recognize him as a viable candidate to oversee Egypt being prepared for the future.
Genesis 41:37-40, NKJV
So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.
1. Pharaoh saw that the Spirit of God was upon Joseph.
2. He also recognized the wisdom and discernment that Joseph had.
3. Finally, Pharaoh gave credit to God for showing Joseph such a wise plan.
E. This also caused Pharaoh to bestow honor upon Joseph and give him a position of ruling over all Egypt just under the Pharaoh himself.
Genesis 41:41, NKJV
And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
Joseph Acted Upon the Vision He Had Received
A. Joseph did three things that ensured his success in taking care of Egypt: (1) he gave clear direction to all in Egypt on the meaning of the dreams, (2) he gave clear expectations as to what each one was to do, and (3) he gave clear outcomes on how Egypt would survive the famine.
Genesis 41:46-49, NKJV
Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. So he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them. Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was immeasurable.
B. Joseph anticipated the troubles that were coming to Egypt, and prepared for those adverse circumstances.
Genesis 41:53-57, NKJV
Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, do.” The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands.
C. Joseph had learned in his personal life to make decisions and act according to the dreams he had. He acted with similar wisdom and application to do things in Egypt according to the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams.
D. “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel A. Barker, http://awakenthegreatnesswithin.com/38-inspirational-quotes-on-vision/
E. Under Joseph’s rule, Egypt was so well prepared when the famines came that, not only did it survive the seven years of famine, but was also able to sell grain to people in neighboring countries!
1. Joseph turned a negative situation into a time of increase for Egypt!
2. Under Joseph’s leadership, Egypt went from barely surviving the famine to abundantly thriving during that time!
F. As with most things that are successful when someone is following God’s plan, the enemy came to see if he could derail Joseph with the wrongs of the past.
Genesis 50:15-20, NKJV
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
1. Joseph did not let the situation with his brothers distract him from taking care of what he was in charge of. The dreams he cultivated all his life enabled Joseph to be bigger than holding grudges against his brothers.
2. Holding unforgiveness would have stopped Joseph from acting upon the vision he had, and focus on something else. Unforgiveness will detour a person from the way that God intended for them to go, and turn their dreams into nightmares!
3. So Joseph did not fall for Satan’s trap of offense. Instead, Joseph focused on the plan that God had for him, telling his brothers, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (v.20).
4. Joseph’s dreams allowed him to focus on far more important things than the wrongs that his brothers had done to him. Forgiving his brothers allowed Joseph to continue on unhindered in being a successful leader.
G. There is a time to receive a vision for your future. There is also a time to act on the vision that has been received. Often the vision is accomplished step by step, bit by bit, and day by day. Eventually, if a person does not give up, the vision will come to pass.
Joseph’s Vision Enabled Him to be Successful as a Leader
A. While Joseph focused on the welfare of the whole nation of Egypt, there is no doubt that Joseph personally prospered as well.
1. Vision gave Joseph the ability to see what was in the future.
2. Vision gave Joseph the ability to deal with situations with great wisdom.
3. Vision gave him the foresight to prepare for the future!
4. Vision gave him wisdom to ensure provision for the future!
B. The story of Joseph reveals the great truth that to truly effect the world, our vision must be bigger than just meeting the needs of ourselves. It must be big enough to provide answers for the world!
C. “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson, https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/woodrow_wilson_121798?src=t_vision
Summary & Action Steps
Your God-given vision won’t always come to pass overnight. Remember, the Cinderella story is just a fairy tale!
The story of Joseph shows us the value of having a vision for our future, in whatever form it may come.
Joseph also shows that having a vision for our future will strengthen and stabilize a person to stay the course until the vision comes to pass.
Those with a vision for the future have seen the future that is possible for them. They now have a road to travel that will take them in the direction of their dreams and visions.