I wanted to call this entry “The Prismatic Grace of Genesis 40” but the definition would not let me without reaching too far in metaphor. I like the word prismatic. Look out for an entry with that word soon.
Manifold (adj.) 1) marked by diversity or variety; many. 2) comprehending or uniting various features; multifarious. 3) rightfully so-called for many reasons. 4) many of one kind combined. (merriam-webster.com)
There are things that stick with us and the word manifold is one of those things for me. When I was little I recall hearing 1 Peter 4:10, a little treasure chest that held this big word. It says, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (KJV)” Isn’t that beautiful?
Manifold Grace. Also known as great variety (NLT), God’s varied grace (ESV), and the grace of God in its various forms (NIV) in other versions of the Bible.
We steward this various grace. We take it in through the scriptures, not just in life — as in, “He gave me grace” — and we own our spiritual growth through the many-sided grace of God. We find many lessons in scripture. We allow the accounts of real people show us how complex we are, how flawed, and how usable we are when we see God’s plan for us through the various grace.
I want to make sure we are on the same page, as you will see entries on occasion titled “The Manifold Grace of….” and I want you to think about…. wait for it… Rubik’s Cube. It is the perfect example of turning the scripture this way and that way for examination, to glean beyond the surface, and through the prism of grace (I had to use it just once!) see ourselves more clearly.
Genesis 40 is the account of the chief cupbearer and chief baker of pharaoh who get sent to jail, meet Joseph, dream, and learn their fate through Joseph’s gift of interpretation. There are five, maybe six, perspectives worth consideration in Genesis 40. I offer these for our present and future meditation. Let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of each.
- JOSEPH — He is the easy and obvious choice. Genesis 40 is a chapter in his story and a chance for us to see our gifts are limitless in challenge. God will use us anywhere. Note that Joseph does not respond to a “leading.” Instead he offers to help these troubled men after they dreamed. We are Joseph when we pay attention to opportunities to glorify God in our gifts, and even want the people we help to rescue us for “payment” (vv.5-8, 14-15).
- CHIEF CUPBEARER — We have the task to protect the pharaoh, to make sure he does not succumb to poison. We stay in constant threat of death. We cannot take life too seriously or hold on too much. We live by the whims of the pharaoh. In fact, pharaoh is angry with us now…and we are in prison. We dream of a good future, and Joseph interprets our restoration to office with pharaoh. (vv.2-13)
- CHIEF BAKER — We feed the pharaoh. We, along with the chief cupbearer, are men of rank, officers of pharaoh… not simply kitchen help (v. 2). Pharaoh is angry with us too. We dream of our death, and Joseph confirms our fate (vv. 16-19). The greatest difference may be between us and the chief baker because we are never far from the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
- PHARAOH — When others are at our mercy, when we place people in “prisons” for their offenses against us, then we are most like pharaoh. We choose our birthday — a special day or any day where we are the focus — to “release” people out of prison and into our debt (vv. 20-21). We hold people at bay, and force them to live on egg shells around us. Or, on a whim, we take life away when we resign from connection for unforgivable offenses (v. 22).
- CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD — We receive the task of transporting our co-workers to prison (v. 3). We make Joseph responsible for them (v. 4). We have to oversee the stay of our fellow officers (v. 2) in the prison until pharaoh chooses to free them.
- POWER OF MEMORY — I include this for Joseph’s appeal to the chief cupbearer to remember Joseph when the cupbearer is restored to position with pharaoh (vv. 14-15). Think about a time when another’s words or reference on our behalf would have changed everything. Consider a time when we had the chance to speak well of someone and kept our mouths closed or gave a different report.
Genesis 40 is full of application, and points of reflection. We are Joseph, but that is easy — they hate us, they sell us, they betray us, and because of them we “go through” the “process” because God chose us. Blah.
We are also the chief cupbearer, the pharaoh, and the captain of the guard. That manifold grace is more precious now, is it not? Draw from this what you will, and remember to remember the many sides of God’s great grace. Remember to remember how our words can bring clarity and comfort to others, and cause us to lift Christ when we use our gifts.
Selah, and love to all.