THE QUESTION of Joseph. “Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?” Genesis 40.6,7. The question I raise today about Joseph's question is what type of question is this? In the answer, there are two things. I. The Scripture shows there are different types of questions. II. What type of question Joseph's question was.
I. The Scripture shows there are different types of questions. In particular, the Scripture speaks of three types of questions. First: there are hard questions. In I Kings 10.1, the Queen of Sheba came to King Solomon with “hard questions.” In II Kings 2.10, just before the Prophet Elijah went to Glory, his servant Elisha asked if he could have a double portion of the Prophet's spirit. The Prophet said: “Thou hast asked a hard thing.” There are tempting questions. In Matthew 22.35, the Pharisees asked JESUS a tempting question. They didn't ask their question to learn anything. They asked their question to tempt JESUS and find fault with Him. There are “foolish questions.” I Timothy 1.4 says “foolish questions” do not lead to godliness. I Timothy 6.4 and II Timothy 2.23 say foolish questions lead to strife. Titus 3.9 says “foolish questions” should be flatly avoided.
Before I leave the first point, I deduce two instructions. 1. The first instruction: not all questions are good questions. Among the different types of questions the Scripture mentions, two-thirds of the questions are not good questions. The Scripture shows when questions are asked with dark intentions, they are tempting questions. When questions are asked that do not lead to godliness, they are foolish questions. Foolish questions should be avoided.
2. The second instruction: be encouraged to bring your hard questions to THE LORD. Although the Scripture rejects tempting and foolish questions, there is not one hard question in Scripture that was left unanswered. King Solomon had a response for all the hard questions of the Queen of Sheba. When Elisha asked for the double spirit, though it was a hard question, he received it. This is encouraging. It shows THE LORD cannot be stumped. THE LORD is in the business of answering hard questions. In my own life, when I have brought hard questions to THE LORD, I have found His Word to be the best settler of all doubts. What is the Way to be saved? What is the worship GOD requires? What are the days GOD would have us to observe? What type of lifestyle does GOD approve of? In the Scripture, the hard questions have answers.
II. What type of question Joseph's question was. When Joseph's question is considered, there are four features. First: this was a perceptive question. It is quite striking that Joseph came into the prison cell that morning, looked on the officers of Pharaoh, and instantly perceived their sadness. This question was caring. Care drips from every Word in the question. The Words are so full of care that you can almost see through them the gracious manner with which Joseph asked his question. If Joseph did not care for the officers, he would not have thought about the question. He would not have asked the question. The question had a good objective. Joseph did not play in his question. He did not ask his question to make fun of the officers—or to increase their sadness—or for gossip. The sincere objective of his question was to solve their sadness. This question had to do with their spiritual good. In Psalm 142.4, during a hard time in his life, the Psalmist said “no man cared for my soul.” But these officers could not say this. Here was the young man, Joseph. He was attending to the needs of their souls. In Fact, when I read the Story of Joseph, it seems to me that it was in this season of his life (amidst all his suffering) that as a Preacher of the Word he was given success in his work. He tried preaching to his Family. His Brothers rejected him. But when Joseph preached in the prison and in Egypt, there were those who heard him. It was in this place where GOD rewarded his ministerial labors.
In conclusion, attend to three instructions. 1. There are some questions that are good questions. I grant, it is true. No one can deny it. The Scripture says there are hard questions, tempting questions, and foolish questions. Then there is Joseph's question. From any perspective you consider Joseph's question, Joseph's question was a good question.
2. Good questions have to do with your spiritual state. This precisely is what Joseph's question had to do with. “Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?” This question belongs to a great chain of Scriptures that inquire into the spiritual state of the soul. In Genesis 3.9, “the Lord God said unto Adam, Where art thou?” II Kings 4.26 asks: “Is it well?” In Matthew 26.22, the Disciples asked JESUS: “Lord, is it I?” Matthew 27.22 contains the golden question: “What shall I do with Jesus?” Romans 6.1 asks: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”
3. Good questions ought to be welcomed. I ask you, what did the officers of Pharaoh do with Joseph's question? Were they offended by it? I'll tell you what they did with this question. They humbled themselves before it. They knew their sadness more than Joseph. Joseph knew their sadness from their faces. They felt their sadness in their hearts. They were thirsting to come into peace. And if I might here say: years ago in our country, plain spiritual questions were freely asked. Our fathers, grandfathers, mothers, grandmothers, and preachers spoke their minds about right and wrong. But the country today has come to such a low state as that it commonly despises such questions. Plain questions now-a-days are generally considered insensitive. Not only is free speech suffering as a consequence, but there are fewer genuine conversions. Let me encourage you. Don't despise good questions. Let them be welcome in your heart. Good questions are often the sweet means by which GOD carries on His Work of Grace. Psalm 85.9. “That glory may dwell in our land.” Amen.