How long was Joseph in prison?
We’re not sure. Certainly more than two years (because two years pass between the story told in chapter 40 and the one related in chapter 41) and probably a good number more. In fact, by the time he enters Pharaoh’s service at the age of thirty, Joseph has spent all of his adult life in slavery or prison.
Significantly however, we don’t see Joseph bemoaning his plight, nor ever giving up. As I write this our nation is mired deeply in a recession with unemployment at an all-time high. The news mentions every day those who disappear from the rolls of the unemployed – not because they found jobs, but because they have despaired of finding one and have given up. I cannot say Joseph always had a cheerful face, but he took his situation and made the best of it. Specifically, he used his time to become interested in the misfortunes of others.
I suppose Joseph could have had entirely too much heartache on his mind to notice the plight of others, but he didn’t. He notices that the cup-bearer and baker look dejected and sad, and takes an interest in why.
Furthermore, Joseph, in all his troubles, maintains a relationship with God. Notice that Joseph believes, and tells the servants, that the interpretation of dreams “belongs to God.” Then, he sets out to listen to and interpret the dreams. He believes, no matter what his circumstances, that God is with him and that God will empower him to help others.
In whatever situation we find ourselves, if we are God’s people, God constantly has his eye on us. Whatever our situation, he expects us to take an interest in the problems of others, believe that He will empower us to help, and go about helping.
Our situation will not change immediately, but it will change, and always for the better.
It certainly did for Joseph.