In Genesis 40 we learn about the cupbearer and the baker. They upset the king and were tossed into prison.
I can’t be sure what the conditions were like there, but the ESV uses 3 different words to describe the event. Prison, confined, custody. None of those sound extremely pleasant to me. I only point this out because we know Joseph had favor in all things, including with the captain of the guard who put him in charge of the other prisoners.
While this might be an improvement for Joseph (over the other prisoners), 3 things still remain. He is in prison. He is confined. And he is captive. We get a small window into his desire to leave when he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker. He asks them to remember him and speak to the king on his behalf so he can be removed from this place.
But before we get to the dream interpretations, one other line stands out. How long were they in prison? “They continued for some time in custody”. I don’t know what the social etiquette for “some time” was back in the day, but this clearly is more than a few nights. I get the impression that each of the 3 men were settled into their roles and had formed a bit of a relationship.
After both of the King’s officers had a dream and were “troubled” by it. Joseph immediately noticed. And he felt compelled to ask about it. So he walks in, addresses his fellow inmates and asks, “Why are your faces downcast today?”.
Why are your faces downcast today?
In prison… he asks those incarcerated with him… one of whom we find out is essentially on death row, (he dies at the hands of the king 3 days later, per his dream). This further tells me this isn’t likely a minimum security scenario. This “prison” is where he put the man who was accused of advancing on the wife of the king and an officer that was killed instead of released.
And after a lengthy stay in jail, a dream that doesn’t make sense changes the demeanor of not one, but two of the prisoners. Was it because Joseph took such great care of these men that they didn’t have anything else to worry about? They obviously slept since they entered the REM levels of sleep and had memorable dreams. I’m guessing they had beds and blankets.
In my mind this all points to Joseph, who while wrongfully imprisoned (for actually doing the right thing, but being accused of the opposite) decided to make the best of the situation. It sounds to me like he created an environment that was extremely hospitable and easily livable. The men under his care weren’t scrounging for food, freezing in corners, or fearing the guards. They were sleeping, dreaming, and sharing their experiences with one another.
While much of this is speculative, he took enough care, that a downcast face in his ward was something that concerned him. (again…. IN PRISON!).
Does this sound right to you? Isn’t it considered rude to ask certain things in certain situations? Can we actually ask:
The prisoner why he is sad?
The hospital patient why she is worried?
The accident victim what could be wrong?
The outcast why they look lonely?
The mourner what is bothering them?
You can when your purpose for living isn’t tied to this world. When you have a relationship with God and you go about His business, its much easier to understand why Paul found contentment in prison as well.
What can we complain about today? Traffic. Responsibilities. Money. Relationships. Health. Jobs. Churches. Politics. I’m sure, if we brainstormed, we could come up with a few hundred things. All of those things are prisons. Each of them has only power in this world, and only the power we allow them to have.
Our friends might not be bold enough, so its a task left up to us. Spend some time in the mirror each day and ask… what do we have to be upset about? What could worry us? What could deter us from the cross? In light of what Jesus has done for us… how could our faces possibly be downcast?
We can turn that frown upside down fairly easily when good things happen to us here and now. Joseph turned his inside out by focusing on good things to come. Eternal things. They made all circumstances currently endured null and void. With the hindsight of Jesus, we can do both.