“The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love.” How can we tell? What does that claim even mean? Our reading makes the bold assertion twice, that the LORD was with Joseph. It is nice to think of God mysteriously warming Joseph’s heart, whispering encouragement and hope for the future. His circumstance and situation certainly do not obviously show God’s presence and love. Certainly, we read that God gives Joseph favor with his jailer. Joseph ends up running the jail, but he is still in the jail as a prisoner. He is jailed for a sexual assault that he did not commit. Joseph believes the LORD is with him, so he tells the baker and the cupbearer to share their dreams with him. He believes he will be able to offer an interpretation, because interpretation belongs to God. And Joseph believes God is with him. We can believe the Bible narrator who assets that the Lord was with Joseph. At least Joseph thought so.
God is present with Joseph in work. Running a jail is hardly glamorous work. But Joseph does prosper. His own jail keeper comes to trust Joseph. If we look at Joseph's imprisonment in the light of his whole life, we see Joseph’s work at various jobs as part of God’s work to reconcile Joseph’s family. Joseph is trusted and successful in many positions: Potiphar’s steward, head trustee in the jail, advisor to the Pharaoh. In his work, Joseph has something useful to do. Even more he is part of God’s reconciling work, even though Joseph does not know it.
Joseph does actually give the Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer a sound interpretation of their dreams. He tells them what will happen. One will be restored, the other executed. In the arena of his work, Joseph has wisdom to understand things that are hidden. Somehow, he finds the LORD is with him.
It can be very hard for us to know in our heart that God is present, or to see his steadfast love. Perhaps in our work we can experience God’s presence. We may trust that our work is part of God’s reconciling work.