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Staying Cool Under Pressure

Stress doesn't have to be stressful.

Genesis 41:37-45 (ESV)

This proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph's hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” Thus he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.” And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphenath-paneah. And he gave him in marriage Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On. So Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.

Everywhere you see “God” here it’s “Elohim” in the original Hebrew. Pharaoh uses the word Elohim? Can that be?

Well, yes and no. Pharaoh isn’t speaking Hebrew, so that’s not necessarily the word he used – but that’s what he means. Pharaoh could have used an Egyptian word that means the monotheistic creator of everything (if there was one).

More importantly, Pharaoh gives Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera priest of On, to Joseph in marriage. Notice that Potiphera isn’t in on the transaction; it’s Pharaoh who gives Asenath to Joseph. But Potiphera isn’t just anybody; he’s a high priest of the sun god Ra.

Pharaoh’s sudden lack of respect for Potiphera (and Ra) is significant. Ra isn’t having a good week – and he’s about to have 14 bad years.

We tend to think of Joseph’s gift as dream interpretation. He’s really a master at glorifying God.

Actually, Joseph has a gift for playing along; God does all the heavy lifting. Joseph isn’t distracted by his suffering, so his response to Pharaoh is cool, calm and collected. In a way he just gives the obviously right response – but giving it under that much stress is no small feat. How does he do it?

Faith. Stress doesn’t have to be stressful, if you’re confident enough. But that’s an advanced skill – even an advanced level of faith. This generally takes time and trials (which Joseph had in spades) to develop.

Remember this the next time your whole world seems to be falling apart. God knows what He’s doing, and trials are one of the main ways He trains us.

Big trials mean God’s not treating you like a beginner.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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