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  • Writer's pictureRobert Hasler

Keeping Promises

Genesis 40

This devotional is part of a series through the story of Joseph. You can read the whole series here.


Unfortunately, most of us know what it feels like to be on the other end of a broken promise. No matter how big or small the original promise, it still hurts when our friends let us down. You may also know the particular shame after breaking a promise to someone else. No matter how sincere our promises, humans seem to have a special knack for breaking them.

In Genesis 40, we see that Joseph, the character we’ve been following through this study, was also no stranger to broken promises.

After being falsely imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, Joseph found himself in a cell with two interesting characters. One was the personal cupbearer to Pharaoh himself. The other was a baker in his royal kitchen. It is unclear exactly what these men did to warrant such a punishment but here they were in prison regardless.

Interestingly enough, both had strange dreams in need of interpretation. Luckily for them, their cellmate has had some experience with strange dreams.

Recall Joseph’s own dreams from Genesis 37. In those, he saw sheaves of wheat and the stars, sun, and moon bowing down to him as though he were a king. The audacity of those dreams was the reason Joseph was in this unfortunate predicament.

After the cupbearer and the baker described their respective dreams, Joseph enlightened them to their meanings. The cupbearer's was surely good news. He would be restored to his former position in just three days' time. But the baker must have listened to Joseph’s interpretation with horror: “In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head-from you!-and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

Before the cupbearer was released, Joseph made sure the man promised to remember him and plead Joseph’s case to Pharaoh. As Joseph wallowed in his lonely prison cell, I can’t help but wonder if he too was thinking of his own dream and the promise from God it entailed. It certainly seemed as if the cupbearer had broken his promise. And if he had, how was God going to fulfill this dream now? To the reader, there doesn’t seem to be much chance of Joseph’s family bowing to him now.

But God never breaks his promises. Because we deal so often with sinful people–and because we know the sinfulness of our own hearts–we know humans break promises all the time. We even break promises that seem very easy to keep!

But God is not just the perfect promise maker. He is the perfect promise keeper. As we’ll see later in Genesis, God is not done with Joseph, even if all seems hopeless. In keeping his promise to Joseph, God is also keeping his promise to Joseph’s forefathers, the patriarchs of Israel.

And in keeping his promises to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, God is also keeping his promise to all mankind back in Genesis 3:15: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

All the way back in Genesis 3, God made a promise to his people that he would send a savior who would rescue them from sin and death. That promise was made as much to you as it was to Adam and Eve and the characters of the Old Testament. And it was a promise fulfilled ultimately in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

And until he returns, we will continue to experience the pain of broken promises between men. But we don’t have to worry about whether God will keep his promise. He already has!

Robert Hasler is a Ministry Associate and cohost of The Will & Rob Show.


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