Grades 3-6 Lesson for Sunday School:
Joseph: Part 3
Be a Dandelion!
Author’s Notes: Last week, we watched Joseph go from the bottom of a pit, into slavery - where he became a successful servant, and then into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And all the while, we found that the Lord was right there with him. God had a plan for Joseph’s life. He was preparing him for a very special task. Along the way, Joseph found himself in many difficult surroundings. But no matter where that was, Joseph was a great example of the old expression, “bloom where you’re planted.” He was able to serve the Lord faithfully, right where the Lord had planted him.
(Dandelions tend to be everywhere this time of year. If you can find one, bring it to class for the opening discussion.)
Has everyone here seen a dandelion? They grow nearly worldwide; and are said to be “specially well-adapted to a modern world of ‘disturbed habitats…’”* That means they grow well in places other plants might not. They don’t need perfect soil. They’ll grow in just about any dirt, as long as they get some sunshine.
What do you know about dandelions? They are generally considered a weed, and treated as one. Many people treat their lawns with special fertilizers to try to keep dandelions from growing there. But dandelions can be very hardy, and difficult to get rid of. In fact, if you break off a dandelion without getting all of its root, it will keep growing back.
But did anyone know that dandelions can be useful? (Allow the students to share the ways they may have used dandelions). Let’s look at some good points of the dandelion.
But most people will still look at a dandelion as just that…a weed. And they will miss out on the many benefits that could come from truly recognizing what that “weed” can do.
There’s one more thing we should know about dandelions. They can grow into healthy flowers in just about any surrounding; not just a lawn, but in the crack of a sidewalk, or in the stones along the side of a road. There was once a dandelion that pushed itself right up through solid blacktop. The water underneath, and heat of the sun soaking in allowed it to grow until it forced its own crack, and then pushed its way up through to the sunlight.
Can anyone tell me who we have been learning about for the last couple of weeks? Joseph. For a moment, let’s imagine Joseph is a dandelion. Think back to our first lesson on Joseph, and his coat of many colors. Did anyone in Joseph’s life consider him a weed? Yes, his brothers wanted nothing more than to get rid of him. So they first plotted to kill him. But they were convinced by Reuben, the oldest, to just throw him in a pit.
What do you think could happen to a dandelion if you threw it into a pit? If there is any dirt at all in there, and if even the tiniest bit of sunlight could shine into that pit, a dandelion’s seeds could grow in there. And remember that God was right there in the pit with Joseph. So Joseph, our dandelion, did not die in that pit. God had other plans for him.
Then our dandelion, Joseph, was sold into slavery, and went to work in Potiphar’s house. But did he wither and die there? No, the Lord was still with him. And he blossomed and grew into a useful, faithful, successful servant; so much so that his master, Potiphar, gave him control over his entire household. That is, until his wife stirred up trouble, and with false accusations, had Joseph thrown, like a troublesome weed, into prison.
And that is where we left Joseph last week. Now there are many more delicate flowers that, under such circumstances, would just shrivel up and die. But not a dandelion. Its roots are very big and very deep. And its leaves and flower are sturdy and strong. Joseph’s roots went right back to the Lord, who stayed right with him, even in the prison. And we’re going to find that even there, Joseph continued to bloom for the Lord.
You see, God had a special plan for Joseph. And each new circumstance he found himself in was just another step in God’s will for his life. In today’s lesson, we’re going to learn just what God had in mind, allowing Joseph to spend time in an Egyptian prison. And we’ll learn, with Joseph, that when God chooses us, and asks us to faithfully serve Him, that He will be faithful to us, in return, and finish the work He has started in us. This week’s memory verse says just that.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:”
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for our study on the life of Joseph. Help us to learn, from his faithfulness to You, that we can bloom wherever we are planted. We can be faithful to serve you, right where we are, no matter how hard the circumstances may seem. Give us ears to hear Your Word today, in Jesus name. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Be a Dandelion! (Genesis 40 – 41:14)
Last week, we left Joseph in a new predicament. He was thrown into an Egyptian prison for a crime he didn’t even commit. Now, if you were Joseph, do you think you might start to wonder if God was really with you? After all, God could have softened Potiphar’s heart, so that he would listen to Joseph’s side of the story and believe him. Then he wouldn’t have found himself in such a terrible place.
But our passage in Genesis never says that Joseph complained to God about His plan. It only says that “the LORD was with him, and that which he did, the LORD made it to prosper.”(Genesis 39:23) So Joseph must have been faithfully trusting and serving God, even in prison. And perhaps the keeper of the prison, like Potiphar, noticed how God was blessing him. Because we find, in Genesis 39:22 that “the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison; and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it.” The keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge, just as Potiphar had.
And it was while Joseph was serving God, in charge of this prison, that two new prisoners were brought in. Let’s look at today’s passage, and find out what was happening Joseph’s prison.
1And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.
2And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers.
3And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound.
4And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward.
Remember that this prison was the palace prison, so many of the prisoners there were servants to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And this was true of the two new prisoners who were brought to Joseph. One was the chief baker for Pharaoh, and the other was his chief butler.
Why were they put in prison? The only detail we’re given is that Pharaoh was mad at them. Perhaps they had been wrongly accused, as Joseph had been. But being servants of the king, they knew he could do as he pleased with them. And it doesn’t sound like they were just in overnight, while Pharaoh’s temper cooled. Verse 4 tells us they continued there “for a season,” or for some time.
But it must have been enough time for the butler and baker to get to know Joseph, because one morning they were both quite upset. And they were willing to tell Joseph just what was troubling them.
5And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.
6And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad.
7And he asked Pharaoh's officers that were with him in the ward of his lord's house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?
8And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.
We read of another dreamer in our first lesson on Joseph. Do you remember who it was? Yes, Joseph had dreams, too. In fact, his brothers referred to him as “the dreamer” in Genesis 37:19, when they were plotting to kill him. Why did Joseph’s dreams upset his brothers so much? At that time, people believed that dreams sometimes revealed the future. But they didn’t always understand what their dreams meant. Joseph’s dreams had made it sound like his brothers would some day bow down to him. And they certainly had no intentions of doing any such thing!
Now Joseph was in prison. And these two men had dreams, as well. If Joseph really thought that his dreams had meant he would rule over his brothers someday, do you think he may have now doubted the significance of dreams? After all, he was certainly in no position, in this prison, for anyone to be bowing to him…especially his brothers, who were partly to blame for his being there. What would he say to these men, who seemed so disturbed by what they had seen? Do you think he might have told them not to worry about it; that dreams don’t really come true, anyway? That there must not be a God out there with a plan that He sometimes reveals to men?
No, Joseph had not become discouraged by his circumstances. Just like a dandelion that is planted in harsh surroundings, Joseph kept growing in his trust in God. And he was willing to share that faith with his fellow prisoners. So they opened up their hearts to Joseph, and he shared what God placed in His heart, with them. But it’s important to note that Joseph’s faith was not in himself, and his own abilities, but in God and His willingness to use His faithful servants for His purpose.
When the butler saw Joseph’s firm trust in God, he spoke up first with his dream:
9And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine was before me;
10And in the vine were three branches: and it was as though it budded, and her blossoms shot forth; and the clusters thereof brought forth ripe grapes:
11And Pharaoh's cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand.
Do any of you remember the dreams you have? Have you ever shared a dream with someone else, and have them try to figure out why you might have dreamed it? Many times we dream about things that are bothering us. It’s our brains’ way of working out on our problems while we’re sleeping. So sometimes the reason for our dreams can be clear, and we can make a pretty good guess at what they might mean.
Would anyone, who doesn’t already know this story, like to guess at what the butler’s dream might mean? Joseph didn’t have to guess. In verse 8 he told the prisoners where the interpretations would come from. It was not from his own mystical head. Where did Joseph say the interpretations came from? God!
12And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days:
13Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.
14But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house:
15For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.
What was Joseph’s prediction about the butler, based on what he had dreamed? Joseph told him that in three days, he was going to be called back to the palace to get his old job back, serving Pharaoh. And Joseph had a special request of the butler. What did he ask the butler to do when he got out of prison? He wanted the butler to plead his case before Pharaoh, and get him out of prison. Surely the butler would be so grateful to have his old job back, and remember the kindness Joseph had shown him in prison that he would say something to Pharaoh about the injustice that had been done to Joseph.
And then it was the baker’s turn. And he was certainly excited to the butler’s good report from Joseph.
16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head:
17And in the uppermost basket there was of all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.
Notice that the baker’s dream was similar, in some ways, to the butler’s dream. They were both in their dreams. Both were carrying the things they normally did when serving Pharaoh. And both had the number three involved. Unfortunately for the baker, the similarity would end there. Joseph did not have good news for the baker.
18And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days:
19Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.
How would you like to have to deliver that news?! Joseph had told the butler he was getting his old job back. But what was going to happen to the baker? Joseph said Pharaoh is going to have him beheaded and hanged. Right about then, don’t you think the baker was really hoping that Joseph had no idea what he was talking about?
But sure enough, just like Joseph had predicted, that third day came. The Bible passage didn’t say whether the butler and baker did any more dreaming in that time. But they probably didn’t sleep too well on that second night.
Then that third day came. And it happened to be a very special day in the palace; a day of great celebration. Perhaps Joseph would be wrong about the baker’s fate, after all.
20And it came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants.
21And he restored the chief butler unto his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand:
22But he hanged the chief baker: as Joseph had interpreted to them.
This must have been a very exciting day for everyone. It was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he called for both the butler and baker to be brought out of prison. It would end in tragedy, of course, for the baker. Because just as Joseph had predicted, Pharaoh had him hanged.
But for the butler, it was a day of great rejoicing. Not only was he released from prison, but he was also given back his job as chief butler, just as Joseph said it would be. And for Joseph it would have been an exciting day, too. He had helped a very influential man while in prison. And surely he would remember Joseph’s request, and speak to the Pharaoh about him.
But the last verse of Genesis 40 tells us it didn’t go quite as Joseph had hoped. For in the excitement of the day, the butler’s mind was on other things. And he completely forgot about the promise he had made.
23Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.
Can you imagine how disappointed Joseph must have been when night came, and he had not been called out of the prison? Then another day went by…and another. And still no word from the butler. Joseph had, indeed, been forgotten. In fact, Joseph spent another two whole years waiting and wondering if the butler would ever remember that he was there.
Had God also forgotten that Joseph was stuck there, in that prison? It sure doesn’t seem like Joseph could be doing much to serve the Lord from in there. But God had His reasons for the delay. And Joseph had learned, over the years, to trust God. So what do you suppose Joseph did all that time, stuck in prison? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we can guess at what might have been going on.
There will be times, in everyone’s lives, when things seem to be at a standstill. And it isn’t obvious that God is using us for anything important. There may be years of just doing what seems like little, everyday things that don’t count for much to the human eye. Maybe that’s how you feel, as a kid…like God couldn’t use you where you are because you’re just a kid. But God can always use us right where He has planted us. We must remember that He has put us where we are for a reason. And oftentimes, Christians will look back on their lives, and realize those years that seemed to be wasted at the time were actually years of training for God’s service in years to come.
Joseph could easily have just given up on ever being rescued, and become hateful and bitter against those who were responsible for his being in prison. But just like those dandelions blooming in a crack in the sidewalk, Joseph continued to grow in his faith in God, and in his godly character, even in the toughest of circumstances.
When the butler forgot him, Joseph might have felt like a weed that was being plucked up out of the ground to be tossed away. But enough of his faith, rooted in God, was still there to keep him going, and growing. And when God’s timing was right, Joseph was ready.
In Genesis 41, we find that Joseph’s call came in the form of another dream:
1And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
2And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fatfleshed; and they fed in a meadow.
3And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
4And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.
5And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good.
6And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them.
7And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.
8And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh.
Was there anyone in Egypt who could interpret dreams, with God’s help? Yes! But he was in prison. Was there anyone who knew of Joseph’s special gift, who could help? Yes! And he finally remembered…
9Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:
10Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard's house, both me and the chief baker:
11And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream.
12And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret.
13And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.
14Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.
Finally the day had come! Joseph found himself being quickly brought out of the prison, and into a room where he was told to get dressed, get shaved, and get ready. He was about to meet the king! How do you think Joseph felt about this opportunity? There’s no doubt he was happy to finally be freed from that prison he’d been in for years. But what did he know about at the prisoners who were brought out to stand before Pharaoh? Some lived. Some were hanged! So there was probably some concern in Joseph’s heart, too. He probably didn’t know exactly what was happening. But maybe word had reached the prison, during the night, that Pharaoh had had a dream and was looking for someone who could interpret it.
Regardless of how much he knew, we can be certain that Joseph was talking to God about what was happening. He had trusted Him this far. And he really didn’t have any choice but to go forward, and see where God was leading him next.
And we will find out, in our next lesson, just what was in store for Joseph, as he was promoted from the prison to the palace.
Now, it’s not likely that a king is going to have a dream this week, and come looking for you to interpret it. In fact, it’s not likely that God has given any of us that same gift he gave to Joseph. God did, however, give each of us other gifts that He expects us to be using for Him. Can anyone name some gifts God might have given you to use?
Maybe you are good at witnessing to unsaved friends. Some Christians are good at teaching, or explaining the Word of God to others. Other Christians are great at coming alongside a friend and encouraging them just when they need it most. Those who are good at sports can be a witness for God with their teammates. Christians who do well in school might use their intellect to learn more about God that they can share with others.
Even at your age, God has given you abilities that you can be using for Him. And if there are times when you just don’t seem to have any opportunities to be using those gifts for God, don’t get discouraged. Be a dandelion! Keep pushing your roots of faith closer to God, and keep pushing yourself back up, through all the tough surroundings, so you can be ready when He calls you to action.
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the story of Joseph. And for the reminder that we can be faithful in serving You, no matter where You have planted us. Whether at home, or at school. At work or at play. We can be sharing Your message and doing things to help others, in Your name. And when those tough times come, Lord, help us to remember to just be faithful to trust You; and ready to serve when You call. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Joseph told the baker that he, too, would be restored to his old job. (false – Joseph said he would be hanged)
2. Just as Joseph predicted, the butler got his old job back. (true)
3. The butler and baker came out of prison on Pharaoh’s birthday. (true)
4. Joseph asked the butler to help get him out of prison. (true)
5. The butler asked Pharaoh to release Joseph on the same day he was released. (false – he forgot)
6. When no one else could interpret Pharaoh’s dream, the butler remembered Joseph. (true)
Bloom Where You’re Planted
Bloom where you are planted,
In soil bad or good.
Keep your roots well grounded
In God, just like you should.
And don’t get discouraged
By thinking you’re a weed.
God has given you a gift,
So share that precious seed.
And, if you get cut down,
Keep trusting, anyway.
For God can help you come right back
To serve another day.
*The information on dandelions was obtained at the following internet sites:
Lisa DeVinney, JFebruary 2015