It’s just human nature, this desire we have to make a name for ourselves. We like recognition and being needed and valued. In truth, those desires come from something God has placed within us. But we so easily can find ourselves living a life that is shaped by our desire to be named, to be seen, to be recognized.
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Genesis 41:14-15
Here we find Joseph finally getting the recognition he deserves. If you remember the story of Joseph from Genesis 40, Joseph rightly interprets the dreams of the King’s cupbearer and the baker (while they are stuck in prison with him). And Joseph made it very clear that it was God, not himself, who was really doing the interpreting. All he asked in return was that the cupbearer remember him when he stood before the king.
But of course, the cupbearer forgets about him.
Why does it always seem that people forget to give us credit for all we do? (Of course, this isn’t necessarily true, but it is the cry of a heart bent on making a name.)
So here in Genesis 41 we see Joseph finally getting the acknowledgement he deserves. If I were Joseph I would be tempted to call out the cupbearer for failing me. Or to simply and graciously appreciate how nice it is to finally be seen as one who had done something significant. It would have been difficult not to revel in the feeling of vindication or bask in the sense of self-importance that undoubtedly comes when being called before the king to do what no one else seems able to accomplish. Or called before anyone and told that no one else can fix it quite like you can.
But this isn’t what Joseph does.
No, instead, he makes it abundantly clear that it is not him, but God who deserves the credit, the acknowledgement:
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Genesis 41:16
No one would have blinked if Joseph had just done the interpreting and thanked the king for the opportunity. No one would have thought twice or judged Joseph harshly had he not made this statement about God. So long as he did not overtly take God’s credit for himself we would not have even considered it.
But Joseph makes certain that everyone knows that any acknowledgement, any accolades, any gratitude go to God, not him.
I wonder in my own life how often I miss opportunities to turn the credit back to God. I never blatantly take God’s credit; never claim His works as my own…but how often does my omission of acknowledging Him occur? How often do I get caught up in the feeling of being the hero, the problem solver, the one with the answers? How often do I let the desire to make a name for myself rob God of the credit due Him?
I would never dream of being Nebuchadnezzar who intentionally takes God’s credit for himself (Daniel 4), but how often do I forget to make sure those around me see not just what I have done or said, but that they see the One who made it possible, who acted or spoke through me, whose Spirit is at the source of all the good I do?
I cannot do this, but God can do it through me.