9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “I remember my offenses today. 10 When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, 11 we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. 12 A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. 13 And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.” 14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
Joseph’s “career path,” if we may call it that, was full of unexpected ups and downs: he was thrown in a pit, lifted out again, sold into slavery, and made chief of staff in his master’s estate, only to be imprisoned on a false accusation. While in prison, the captain of the guard recognized Joseph’s talent and put him in charge of the prisoners' affairs.
Then Joseph got his big break: Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker were sent to prison and placed under his supervision. Joseph predicted the cup-bearer’s release and return to Pharaoh’s house, and also foresaw the baker’s unfortunate demise. Joseph begged the cup-bearer to lobby Pharaoh for his release from prison [Gen. 40:14]. It was his chance to get out of jail, and he gave it his best shot. He appealed to the cup-bearer’s empathy and sense of justice: “For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit” [Gen. 40:15].
In short, Joseph seized the moment to ask a favor. Unfortunately, the cup-bearer forgot all about Joseph for two full years. Only when Pharaoh was troubled by a dream did the cup-bearer remember the “talented young Hebrew” still in prison. When Joseph finally got his chance to see Pharaoh, he made no appeal for release, no speech about injustice. He merely did as Pharaoh asked and interpreted the dream. Afterwards, he recommended a wise plan to manage Egypt's agricultural policy.
Joseph’s example is instructive. Wherever he was, he served the people around him. He earned the respect of the captain of the guard, who became his mentor and later put Joseph in charge of prison affairs. Joseph served the cup-bearer, who became a colleague and [eventually] mentioned him to Pharaoh. Finally, Joseph had the opportunity to serve Pharaoh, the supreme ruler, who became Joseph’s greatest mentor and promoted him to Egypt's highest rank, second only to Pharaoh himself [Gen. 41:40-45].
Joseph’s story demonstrates the old adage that “nobody gets anywhere without a mentor.” The corollary is that nobody gets a mentor without earning the respect of the people around them. Joseph did this by serving those around him well, developing colleagues and mentors in the process.
There is no way to predict the “big breaks” that may present the next opportunity to take on more responsibility. God directs those events and sets those times. But the best preparation for those pivotal moments is to serve faithfully and well. Find colleagues and mentors. Make friends. Develop relationships. Trust God to bring the right opportunity at the right time, and seize the moment when it comes.
© Bruce D. Baker, 2014