Have you ever had a weird dream? In Genesis 39-41, Joseph was called upon to interpret a couple weird dreams that Pharoah had. Joseph was in prison at the time and had built for himself a nice little reputation as being someone who interprets dreams accurately. He had even accurately interpreted a baker’s dream that 3 days later the baker would be decapitated, his body impaled on a pole, and birds would come and peck away at his corpse. Can you imagine being that baker for the next 3 days?
So, Joseph was in a jail after being wrongfully accused of attempted rape on Potipher’s wife. He had in been imprisoned for over 2 years and while we don’t know the sanitation facilities of an ancient Egyptian jail, they likely had it a little rougher than today’s inmates. While I was reading this morning, a few words caught my eye that hadn’t before.
Genesis 41:14: “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. “When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.”
Now, hopefully I’m not making something out of something that shouldn’t be made something of. But since it’s recorded in the Bible, it must be something to make something out of, right?
So, why did Joseph shave and change clothes before meeting with Pharoah? And why would that detail be included in this story? There are a few truths to glean here.
1. Joseph was showing respect for Pharoah.
I’ve been in fulltime student ministry for almost 15 years, with part-time internships before that. So, I’ve been around long enough to watch a none-too-subtle shift in the teen culture. Some people would label it as a blatant decline in respect that young people have for just about anything. In many places, teens speak to adults as equals and there is even a doing away for “Mr.” and “Mrs.” where children/teens address adults by their first name. In our fractured-family culture, we have tried desperately to use materialism as a stand-in for time spent with our kids. This has left young people with a sense of entitlement and a disappearing of the ability to wait for anything. We have placed cell phones in their hands under the guise of “safety/security” and in doing so have weakened our position as boundary holders in their lives. They are instantly in touch with anyone they choose, making anyone else marginalized and therefore irrelevant. In these and in other ways, it appears that young people are becoming more and more disrespectful. But I’d like to disagree with that evalutation; at least in part. The children and teens of today’s generation are nothing more than products of the world you and I (as adults) have created, just and we are products of the world that our predecessors created. But before I shift too far into digression, let me bring it back to the issue of Joseph’s respect for Pharoah’s position and what in the world that has to do with us right now.
It’s really only when we recognize the position of God that we are truly set free as His creation. When you truly understand the holiness of God, and you couple that together with your own sinfulness, and you recognize the purpose and the power of the cross to bridge that expanse, then you are in a place where you are not only set free to worship, but where all you can do is worship.
2. Joseph was showing respect for the situation.
Weighty situations call for weighty decisions. Today is Monday. I work today. There’s nothing extraordinary about today. I might get a slurpee since it’s hot. I might not. But last Wednesday was my 14 year wedding anniversary. THAT was a day to celebrate the significance of the date. Joseph saw the significance of the event that day; the fact that he was being called before Pharoah, the most powerful man on earth, and would be playing a supporting role in Pharoah’s life and reign. And just like that, there are days (some planned, some not) for us that demand a showing of respect for the weight of that day. Will we rise to it or will we slouch? Does my day of worship (typically Sunday) when I meet together with others in the body of Christ hold a place of prominence in my week?
3. Joseph was showing respect for God.
There’s no way to look at Joseph’s life and not see a reverent awe of God. Because of this awe, God enabled Joseph to do amazing things. While certainly imperfect, Joseph was clearly used by God throughout his lifetime. And likewise, when we respect God as Creator and Completer, we are in a position to be used by Him in this world. And you’d be hard pressed to find anything more humbling and awe-inspiring that a mere human being used by the Divine to carry out His purposes on earth.
But our respect for God has dwindled, I’m afraid. I fear that God, in many places has been reduced to a Grandpa figure, or a best buddy, or a bailout plan. We’ve lost a sense of the divine reality that I breathe in and out, moving my fingers across this keyboard–and your eyes move from left to right across these words and compute them correctly so that your mind can understand what you’re reading–all because God thinks we should. I breathe, you read, the world spins…all because of the thought process of God. The instant God stops thinking the world should spin on its axis, it stops spinning on its axis. The moment God stops thinking I should be breathing, I stop breathing. What a magnificently powerful God He is. A God who commands respect; not because He’s worked hard and earned it, but simply because He is. And in showing respect for Pharoah and the weighty situation he was in, Joseph was ultimately respecting God.
So, on presentability, Joseph found it necessary to shave and get dressed for Pharoah. It’s one of the instances in the Bible when the outward appearance reflects the inner condition. May I also be a person who’s insides are able to be seen by looking on the outside.