“When the seven years of plenty which had been in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began to come, just as Joseph had said, then there was famine in all the lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph; whatever he says to you, you shall do.'”
Genesis 41:53-55 NASB
Recently I had some people over for supper. And when asked, “What can we bring,” I immediately knew what I wanted. Bread! It’s funny, but bread is what I most look forward to in a meal, yet I am always a little gun-shy to put together and serve on my own. I’ve never felt very competent with my own homemade bread, so when someone asks, I always respond, “You can bring the bread!”
Who doesn’t like fresh-baked bread? There’s something so pleasant and delectable about fresh-from-the-oven-bread. Some in my family have been known to ask for two or three servings at a meal. In fact, if given a choice, they would probably make a meal all on their own with just bread!
But ours is a culture far removed from the want of practically anything. We can make and eat bread anytime we want. But such was not the case during the time of Joseph with the Egyptians. They faced a scarcity of grain during a famine, and their need for it was severe. So much so that they cried out for it. In their case, the need for bread was a matter of life or death in the face of famine.
If you are unfamiliar with the story of Joseph from the Bible, you should know that he was the favored son of his father, Jacob. However, his older brothers resented him because of this, and one day they opted to sell him off as a slave to some merchants headed to Egypt. 
Joseph spent several years as a servant to an Egyptian household. There he was wrongly accused and sent to prison for several years. In prison, he petitioned a particular prison mate to remember the help he’d given them when he was released, but he did not. 
However, Joseph finally found his freedom after interpreting a set of Pharaoh’s dreams. He explained that there would be seven years of surplus followed by seven years of famine in the land. Pharaoh, being impressed with this, then placed Joseph as second in power of all the land of Egypt. And by wisdom from God, Joseph stored the excesses during the surplus years and then had ample grain for all of Egypt and the surrounding areas during the years of famine. 
While physical famine was the prevailing threat at the time, I believe Joseph was already very familiar with famine. Not necessarily the famine from lack of food, but the famine of brotherhood and family. It must have been so lonely and disheartening all on his own during his younger years in Egypt. I doubt anyone would envy what he went through. It makes me wonder how he could go through so much hardship and not be marred or bitter?
Yet, God did an incredible work amidst his loss. The scriptures tell us that even as he served in the Egyptian household and also later in prison, “…the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor…”  Joseph was successful and blessed at anything he did whether under Potiphar, the Egyptian household master, or later with his prison warden.  There could hardly be a more tremendous success for Joseph than to be retrieved out of prison and placed second-in-command to Pharaoh when he gave his dream interpretation. 
Beyond the outward signs of God’s favor in Joseph’s life, Genesis 41: 51-52 hints at a work done within his heart. In these verses, he gives names to the two sons bore to him. With the first son called Manasseh, he declares,” ‘For…God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.'”  Then, with the second son called Ephraim, he says,” ‘For…God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.'”  With these descriptions given in the names of his sons, we see how God helped him persevere through hardships and even blessed him in this foreign land.
There are many faces to hunger. Sometimes, people are forced to go without food. But there are other forms, as well. Sometimes people can become emaciated from lack of joy, lack of favorable circumstances, or the lack of simple kindnesses from others. Sometimes our very souls cry out for bread. Perhaps you’ve walked through a season of mental, emotional, or spiritual drought? And like the Egyptians, you realized that you could not provide yourself with sustenance.
This is what Joseph had come to know about God during his hard years. He depended on God in the land of his affliction. When you think about it, Joseph had so many reasons to despair. But he did not. Joseph clung to God even as he lived in Egypt far from the comforts of home. And the scriptures tell us that God remained with him and blessed him in all he did. And in turn, Joseph bore witness to God’s provision to him with the names he gave his two sons. 
God worked redemption from Joseph’s hardships. He brought forth fruit in Joseph’s heart and life from his formerly desolate past.
Interestingly, as the famine spread during Joseph’s time, “…all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth” (Gen. 41:57). Through his years of affliction, Joseph had learned how to trust God and now was not only wise but equipped to handle the current physical famine in the land. Ironically, God had provided sustenance for his inward needs all those many years. Now he was positioned to provide bread for the physical demands of those in the land, including the very brothers who had betrayed him so many years before.
Genesis 42:3 describes, “Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.” And in verse 6, we read, “Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.” God enabled Joseph to endure his own personal years of suffering so that he would later help those in their time of greatest need.
No one explains the redemptive work of his life better than Joseph himself as he spoke to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20). The very sustenance needed to survive, God had enabled Joseph to provide to them.
Each of us knows the kind of bread that satisfies in the here and now. But other bread satisfies into endless ages. Our greatest need is to find satiation with the bread needed for our spiritual hunger. It is a matter of spiritual life and death. And this bread is found in Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus tells his followers in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
So what does it mean to partake of the bread of life? It is to believe in Christ and what he has done for you on the cross.
We all are spiritually starved in our natural sinful state and need the sustenance found only in Jesus. When we first come to believe in Christ as God’s son, we then partake of the bread of life as we believe in His death in our place on the cross. Instantly we are justified, forgiven of sin, and sealed with His Holy Spirit. But every day after that, we will still need to feed on the bread of life as we face struggles, work to overcome sin, and find our true pleasure in Christ. Our spirits will find renewal, wisdom, and guidance by reading His Word and seeking Him in prayer.
Joseph found hope, strength, and encouragement during many years of personal hardship as he clung to God. I hope that each of us will also make it a practice to partake of the bread of life given from the Father through Jesus. I hope that we will look forward to our daily provision. Just like a small child eyeing dinner rolls as they rise in the oven, we can look forward to hearing from Jesus as we read the Bible or experiencing fellowship with Him in prayer or praise. May He nourish us and satisfy us and become our sheer delight.
And as we are fed daily with the bread of life, may we then, in turn, be generous to provide for those in our midst.
 Genesis 37
 Genesis 39-40
 Genesis 41
 Genesis 39: 2-4;21
 Genesis 39:3;23
 Genesis 41:25-39
 Genesis 41:51
 Genesis 41:52
 Genesis 39: 2-4;21
 Genesis 41:51-52
Leave a Reply