Our previous Land Blog: Space Invaders – Part 1 established the foundational concept that “occupy” in a biblical sense is much more than simply taking up space or time but rather has a much more active intent involving doing business, establishing dominion and invading space. In Part 2 it is time to explore two historical examples of this concept – the Hebrews Joseph and Daniel as described in the biblical accounts of their lives.
If you were asked, what would you say Joseph and Daniel were most known for in their day? If you said their extra-ordinary supernatural gift of interpretation of dreams and visions and their seer gifts you would be like me and probably most others who have learned this in an institutional church setting. This is especially true in recent decades with the increased emphasis in signs, wonders and miracles across Christendom. Perhaps it’s time for a deeper look at these two remarkable space invaders.
The story of Joseph opens in Genesis 37. He was greatly loved and favoured by his father Jacob which caused his brothers to despise him. He had two amazing prophetic dreams about his future (the sheaves and the sun, moon and eleven stars dreams). Like so many of us, he opened his mouth to tell his brothers and then his father about his dreams. What is interesting about their reaction is they did not discount the dream and immediately understood the interpretation. This is indicative of the culture they lived in and how dreams were commonplace and a legitimate source of information for people’s lives (a topic for a future blog). Due to the growing hatred of Joseph by his brothers, they eventually conspire to fake his death and sell him to a band of traveling Midianites (also described as Ishmaelites) who were on their way to Egypt. Once arriving in Egypt, the Ishmaelites sell him to Potiphar, the captain of the Pharaoh’s guard.
A short background on Potiphar. The captain of the guard was a very important position in Egypt (and in other kingdoms for that matter). These were highly trained, specialized troops whose assignment was to guard and protect Pharaoh and his family. In modern times think of the Secret Service (assigned to protect the President of the United States) or the Republican Guard (the special troops that were closest to Saddam Hussein or the current mullahs of Iran) or the SS in Nazi Germany. I make no moral commentary on the behavour of these examples but only make the point that the “guard” referred to, that Potiphar was captain of, were likely the best of the best troops in Egypt which by inference makes Potiphar a very important official in Pharaoh’s court.
It is clear that Potiphar was looking only for a slave based on Gen 39:1 which says that Potiphar “bought him from the Ishmaelites”. However, while Potiphar thought that he was buying a slave, he was actually buying a king! Joseph was about to invade his space and “occupy” it. Back to the story to pick up the detail of what happened next:
“The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.” Gen 39:2-6
We are beginning to see what Joseph was known for in his day. This passage is a dramatic summary of the way favour worked in Joseph’s life and how it can work in ours. There are three key phases shown in this verse:
Initial prospering phase
This is the beginning of the manifestation of the Lord’s favour and expression of the impact Joseph had in Potiphar’s life. He has positive impact on the house of Potiphar and “lived in the house of his Egyptian master”. He is beginning to be noticed by Potiphar so he brings him closer to him. The result is even more positive.
Increasing prosperity and increased authority
As Joseph gets closer to Potiphar, the favour increases all the more and the Lord gave Joseph “success in everything he did”. Potiphar then becomes his personal attendant in charge of his household and is responsible for all of Potiphar’s property. Joseph responded to his increased responsibility with greater success which resulted in greater blessing on Potiphar and his household.
Total delegation of all authority
The third phase of Joseph’s favour is complete responsibility for Potiphar’s entire life. The key distinctions of this phase from the second are the phrase “in the house and in the field” and “he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate”. In this case, Joseph was now not only responsible for all of Potiphar’s house but also facing outwardly (the field) toward everything Potiphar’s house touched in the outside world. Secondly, Potiphar basically showed up to eat and Joseph handled everything else. Joseph was second in command for Potiphar. A true “Space Invader”.
Let’s move now to the next major phase of Joseph’s life. I won’t go over the incident with Potiphar’s wife and how Joseph found himself in prison. Needless to say, he was innocent and was unfairly judged and condemned to prison. However, his impact in the prison is remarkably familiar:
“Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”
While a shorter account, you can see the three phases here as well. Initial favour with the warden, assigned responsibility over all those held in the prison, the warden paying no attention to anything under Joseph’s care. More space invaded by someone in right relationship with heaven.
Finally, as many people know, Joseph also becomes known for dream interpretation while in prison and interprets dreams for Pharaoh’s butler and baker. They unfortunately forget him in prison for two full years. Eventually, the butler remembers when Pharaoh has a dream himself and Joseph is summoned from prison (Gen 41). Joseph interprets the dream which details what will happen in the next 14 years (7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine). What happens next is incredible but also very familiar:
“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”
Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way !” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.”” Gen 41:39-44
By the way, who do you think is watching this entire episode? Where do you think the captain of the guard was when this happened? Right at Pharaoh’s side. Potiphar probably saw the whole thing. When God vindicates you, He does a complete job, better than we could ever imagine! The entire nation of Egypt has been invaded by a citizen of another kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven.
Joseph later describes his responsibilities to his brothers in this way:
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” Gen 45:8
Now, a word about releasing the gifts that our Creator has given us. It is obvious from these three key incidents in Joseph’s life that he had an amazing gift of administration and leadership. In all three cases, he is in complete charge of the environment he is in (Potiphar’s house, the jail, the entire nation of Egypt). What do you think his emotional state was at the beginning of each experience? Was he full of confidence and completely understanding about the purposes of God in his life? No. Actually, at the beginning of each of these experiences he was at an emotional low. However, each and every time a demand/request was placed on his gift and he responded by releasing it.
We don’t get to choose the arena or environment our gifts are released in. Our role is to be the conduit of God’s blessing wherever we are and to release the gifts he has placed in us. Was the gift itself of any less value when it was released in Potiphar’s house, the jail or the entire nation of Egypt? No. The value of the gift is not related to the value of the person, place or situation it is released in. It is heavenly in nature regardless of who it is directed toward. Our role is only to be willing to release it and not to let our emotions or soul dictate how we handle it. By activating and releasing the gifts that God has given us will occupy the space we are in and follow in the footsteps of the heavenly “Space Invaders” who have gone before us.
So, to reflect on the original question – What was Joseph known for in his day? Not just his dreaming or amazing dream interpretation gift but rather his incredible wisdom and ability to administrate and rule. The less spectacular made room for the spectacular. The faithfulness, administration and ruling made an opportunity for release of the dream interpretation. However, what is interesting is that the dream interpretation also created opportunity for elevation into new realms for the administration and ruling. They work together.
Let’s take a different direction for Daniel. Rather than initially looking at various incidents from his life, let’s look at what one very high ranking and influential person had to say about him. Remember that Daniel served under three distinct administrations in Babylon – Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius. During a very frightening supernatural incident when the hand of God wrote on a wall, Belshazzar’s wife, the queen, gives us a very thorough view of Daniel’s reputation in the land (from the book of Daniel):
“There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father–your father the king, I say–appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.” Dan 5:11-12
It is obvious from this passage that Daniel had a very strong reputation among the aristocracy of the land. For the queen to be familiar with him at this level of detail indicates that he was very well known.
When we think of Daniel, the first thing that comes to mind is his incredible gift of revelation and dream interpretation. However, in this passage, insight, intelligence, wisdom, keen mind, knowledge and understanding are mentioned first, before what we understand to be the supernatural gift. I believe this is because Daniel faithfully served three wicked kings with his abilities, regardless of their moral condition. He offered who he was and what God had made him to those in authority that he had been placed to serve under. There is no indication that he tried to convert any of the leaders he had been sent to serve. He only honored God with his willing offering of his gifts and abilities and clearly communicated this. It is from that posture that the supernatural encounters occurred. While Daniel was clearly known for his ability to interpret dreams, he was more known for his wisdom, character and faithful service to kings. Take the opportunity to read through Daniel’s interaction with the three kings he served. While he never bowed to their value system or beliefs, he was always respectful and honoring in how he did so.
It is also instructive to see the angelic posture toward these pagan kings. Look at what the messenger to Daniel says:
“No one supports me against them except Michael, your prince. And in the first year of Darius the Mede, I took my stand to support and protect him.” Dan 10:21 – 11:1
If heavenly beings and archangels support and protect pagan kings, should we not get aligned with them? Perhaps that is what Peter meant when he said
“Honor the king” 1 Pet 2:17
Can we walk in this posture in our own lives? What wicked or evil leaders have we been called to serve? Can we be patient in offering our gifts and abilities, trusting that God will show up and show off with his supernatural gifts at the appropriate time? This was the key to both Joseph and Daniel which resulted in them having huge influence over the most powerful leaders known in the world in their day. Taking a position of honor towards leaders puts us in a position where God can move through us powerfully to influence our society and nation. This is truly invading space and “occupying”.
While all of us may not be elevated to second in command in the country we live in or to a position of chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners , we can “occupy” or invade the space we have been assigned to and expect to see favour, blessing and success come to the organizations, teams and individuals surrounding us. As ambassadors of another kingdom, when we show up, things change for the good. Heavenly Space Invaders! This is what we mean by our Back to Eden Group tagline of “Relationship, Stewardship and Dominion”. Show up and build relationship. Take care and steward the assignment or assets you have been entrusted with. Expect an increase of dominion in all that you do.