In our passage today we see God bring Joseph from the pit to the palace. Though it is true that Joseph was blessed for his faithfulness, God had a bigger purpose than "just" Joseph in mind. God would use Joseph and his new position of power to reconcile with his brothers and to bring the Israelites to Egypt. A good reminder for us that our own gifts (spiritual talents, material gifts, etc) are not to be used solely for our own benefit, but to bless those around us and to glorify God. This passage is not, however, a guarantee that faithfulness will result in the same prosperity in this life that Joseph received.
Sometimes it is necessary for God to elevate someone in order to use them for His purposes, as He did with Joseph. But sometimes it is necessary to humble us in order to use us for His purposes, as He did with Moses when God had him step down from the palace to become a shepherd and leader of his people. We don't get to demand that God treat us like Joseph, or even like Moses. God has a purpose for our lives and our faithfulness will be blessed, if not in this life, then the next.
We also cannot absolve ourselves of our own responsibility to be good stewards of the talents and time God has given us. It is true that God elevated Joseph because of his trust and obedience (and, of course, because of God's purposes), but it is also true that Pharaoh elevated Joseph because of his skill and diligence. Had Joseph not been a hard and skillful worker, he would not have lasted long as Pharaoh's right hand man!
I love the fact that Joseph was very quick to give God the glory for the dream interpretation instead of remaining silent and allowing the glory to go to himself. He spoke up in a situation where it would have been very difficult to speak up, especially to glorify God whom Pharaoh would have had little to no regard for. Would that we have the same courage!
In Chapter 42, Joseph's brothers appear in the story again. It is clear from their reactions that they all feel guilt over what they did to Joseph, and they interpret their present dilemma as punishment for it. It is true that evil does not go unpunished. Either we will receive the punishment we do deserve, or we will receive Christ who took our punishment on our behalf.
We also see the fulfillment of Joseph's dream as his brother's bow down to him. I can only imagine what that must have been like for Joesph! The shock of seeing his brothers, who had betrayed him so devastatingly, after about 20 years, must have been incredible. His willingness to forgive is humbling. He didn't spend those 20 years growing bitter and resentful, as he so easily could have done.
In our Romans passage we see that we are to love each other no matter where we are on our spiritual journeys. Those who are strong or mature in faith, should not look down on the weak or new in faith. And those who are weak should not judge the strong. In this passage Paul is specifically referring to the freedom from the ceremonial laws (including eating certain foods, observing the Sabbath, etc). What is key to this passage is to realize that the Christian's life is not his own. We belong to God and He is our judge. No matter what we do, we need to honour God and give thanks to Him, and love our fellow believers, encouraging each other and striving for peace.
We should never encourage anyone to do something they believe to be wrong, even if it isn't wrong, because that is causing them to violate their conscience which is something we should never purposefully do. Our conscience is placed there for a reason, and when we purposefully violate it, we make it less effective in the future.
We need to be more concerned with the rights of others, and less concerned with our own rights. We are not to cause a fellow believer to stumble, but we are to build them up and encourage them.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 43-45, Romans 15:1-13