Many today say we are over-populated and there isn’t enough to feed everyone. Yet every day thousands of tons of food are thrown away in America alone. In Joseph’s time, all of the near east (maybe the world?) fell victim to a true food shortage. The famine effected Israel in Canaan, and peoples even more distant. But thanks to the understanding which God gave Joseph, Egypt was prepared and able to help the world maneuver these difficult times. I especially love Joseph’s words to his brothers when he finally reveals who he is. “Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” What a perspective. He sees the bigger picture, and humbly views his circumstance through God’s eyes, always making sure to give glory and honor to God. How much better would our demeanor and even our lives be if we learned to take this same perspective?
A slight back-track: yesterday I spoke with someone who asked about all this name changing. Why do the significant characters receive new names? Changing our names is not so common to us these days. However it still occurs. In the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox churches, new Christians often receive new names (Biblical names). The same is seen in Muslim converts, especially converts from Western cultures. The Pope chooses a new name. Kings, even today, often take new names on their coronation. When kings conquered other nations and kept their rulers as vassal (servant) kings, or when they appointed someone to a new position of power, they gave them new names to go with this. Such is the case with Joseph. He is no longer the slave and prisoner; he is now a ruler of Egypt. He is no longer the Canaanite; he is an adopted Egyptian. A new name represents a new life, purpose, meaning, relationship, or position. When God covenants with the ancients (and some of the apostles) he gives them new names signifying the new relationship and the change in their lives. They no longer carry the identify of their former self, but take the new identity shaped by their relationship with God.