“Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. […] Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Genesis 37:2, 41:46).
Joseph’s ten older brothers hated him because he was their father’s favorite son. It didn’t help matters when he began to have dreams that they would bow down to him. They plotted to kill him but settled for selling him into slavery. That, they thought, would put an end to his ambitious dreams.
Joseph was taken to Egypt, where he gained affluence as a steward in the house of the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. But then he found himself in prison based on unjust accusations. Even there, he rose to a position of power, with the chief jailer putting him in charge of other prisoners. Joseph eventually met and interpreted a dream for Pharaoh’s imprisoned chief cupbearer, assuring him he would soon be returned to service. He asked the cupbearer to remember him to Pharaoh once he was released, so he too could be freed. The cupbearer forgot, however, and Joseph remained in prison.
Two years later, however, Pharaoh himself had a dream that no one could interpret, and then the cupbearer remembered Joseph. He was brought before Pharaoh, and by God’s power he interpreted the dream, warning Pharaoh of seven years of terrible famine that would soon come upon the land. Pharaoh made Joseph his second-in-command, putting him in charge of ensuring Egypt would have enough food to survive this seven-year famine. In time, Joseph’s position would enable him to save not only Egypt but also his own family, thereby preserving the line of Abraham.
All this took years. Joseph’s story begins when he’s seventeen. Thirteen years later, he’s freed from prison and elevated to the second highest position in Egypt. And then it’s at least another seven years before he sees his family again, when his brothers do indeed bow before him. When we look at his life, we wonder why all these terrible things happened to him. But God had a purpose behind it. If the cupbearer hadn’t forgotten Joseph, he wouldn’t have been just waiting in prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream two years later. Then he wouldn’t have been put over the food distribution. And then he wouldn’t have been in a position to save his family. God knew what He was doing all along. His timing, as always, was perfect.