‘All the world came to Egypt to buy grain because the famine was severe everywhere’. Genesis 41:57
Wisdom is more than knowledge. Wisdom is about how we use our knowledge and sometimes about how we recognise our lack of knowledge. Wisdom guides our actions.
Joseph is one of a number of inspiring biblical examples of wisdom in action. I suspect that Joseph was born clever, but I’m sure he wasn’t born wise. I believe he must have learned wisdom partly through hardship – the harsh treatment he suffered from his brothers, and his enslavement, wrongful accusation and imprisonment. He languished in prison forgotten by the cupbearer who had promised to seek his release. He could have learned bitterness, but, to my mind like Nelson Mandela, he learned wisdom instead.
Joseph is called into a leadership role at a crucial time. Ecological disaster is just over the horizon – a disaster that has the potential to cause huge human suffering. We read about it in Genesis chapter 41, which begins with Pharaoh’s dream. Pharoah is troubled and confused. His advisor informs him of a young Hebrew, at that moment still languishing in a dungeon. Joseph is then called out, washed, shaved, given fresh clothes, and brought before Pharaoh. How did Joseph handle the situation? I find it both fascinating and relevant.
First of all he looked to God for wisdom. When he was asked to interpret Pharoah’s dream he was clear, ‘I cannot do it, but God will give me the answer’ (Genesis 41:6). He doesn’t push himself forward as the man for the job, but he’s quick to advise that food from the years of plenty be kept in reserve. This is far-sighted wisdom – resisting greed and over-consumption, and advising restraint. And not easy advice.
Then when he’s thrust into a position of authority we see him acting both globally and generously. He uses his influence to support the neighbouring nations and to help the economic refugees who come to Egypt. In Genesis 41:57 we read that, ‘All the world came to Egypt to buy grain because the famine was severe everywhere’.
In the environmental crisis the world faces today we need our leaders to show the wisdom of Joseph.
Pharoah was troubled but didn’t know why. Joseph laid out the facts of what lay ahead and came up with a plan to deal with the forthcoming crisis. Our governments really have no excuse. The facts are there and we know a lot of what we need to do. The trouble is they don’t seem troubled enough!
The story of Joseph inspires me to raise my voice. To raise it to put positive pressure on business and political leaders to have the wisdom to act generously, justly and effectively in this global crisis. And to raise it in prayer that they will set aside narrow self-interest and be troubled enough to put words into action.
This reflection was written by Andy Jowitt for our Wild Christian email, ‘nature and stepping up’. Andy is A Rocha UK’s Volunteer Community Engagement Officer at our Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve in north Essex. Tune in next month (November 2022) for more bible reflections from Andy.