Joseph’s Dream Come True.

When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him. – Genesis 43:26-34 ESV

It had been many years since Joseph had experienced his two dreams while living in the land of Canaan with his father and brothers. He would have been 39-years old at this point in the story, but he would not have forgotten those two dreams and the reaction of his father and brothers when he shared them. He may not have fully known what they meant, but he knew jealousy and resentment when he saw it. Those two dreams were the impetus for his brothers’ betrayal of him.

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. – Genesis 37:5-8 ESV

It was his dreams, at least in part, that had resulted in his sale to the Midianite traders. And that one act had set in motion a chain of events that led to Joseph’s rise to power. And now, years later, at least one of his dreams would be fulfilled right before his eyes.

And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. – Genesis 43:28b ESV

But this was not the thing that caught Joseph’s attention. He was not seeking for revenge or retribution. He did not gloat over the fact that his brothers were being forced to bow before him. At this point, they did not even know who he was. No, Joseph was overcome with emotion by seeing his younger brother, Benjamin. Jacob had 12 sons. Four of them were born to his wife, Leah. They were Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah. Dan and Naphtali were born to Bilhah. Gad and Asher were born to Zilpah. Issachar and Zebulun were born to Leah. But Joseph and Benjamin were born to Rachel. They shared the same mother. And there was a 16-year difference in their ages. So when Joseph saw Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion. So much so, that he had to excuse himself and go to another room to weep. When he had regained his composure, he rejoined his brothers for a meal.

It was at this meal that Joseph gave his brothers yet another test. While they all shared the privilege of eating in the Egyptian governor’s home as his guests, Benjamin was given five times the portions his brothers received. Joseph was showing his youngest brother favor much as his father had done to him years earlier. Would his brothers become jealous? Would they reveal a hatred for Benjamin as they had for Joseph? Joseph got his answer. “And they drank and were merry with him” (Genesis 43:34 ESV). The Hebrew word translated “merry”, actually indicates that they got drunk. This time his brothers were too busy being amazed at their incredible good fortune and too relieved that things had turned out the way they had to get jealous. But they were in for quite a surprise. Their merriment was going to turn into amazement when they discovered who their host really was. Their joy was going to turn into fear when they learned his true identity and realized their dangerous predicament. But before Joseph would reveal himself to his brothers, he had yet another test to give them.

Why all the subterfuge? Why didn’t Joseph just reveal himself to his brothers immediately? Was it really necessary for him to play this charade and keep his identity a secret? What was he trying to accomplish? The best we can gather from the events recorded in the book of Genesis is that Joseph was trying to ascertain if his brothers had changed. Did they have any remorse over what they had done to him years earlier? In the years since they had sold him into slavery, had they matured and had enough time to rethink their actions? Did they regret their earlier decision? Joseph longed to be restored to his family, but he had to know just what kind of family they were. He was in a position to bless them and provide for them, but Joseph wanted to know the condition of their hearts. We know from the record of Genesis, that Joseph was a man of integrity and honor. He had proven himself to be honest, a hard worker and loyal to his employers. In every situation he found himself, he applied himself to his work and made himself an invaluable asset to all those around him. He had the favor of God and men. But what about his brothers? Could they be trusted? Were they men of integrity and honesty? When they discovered who Joseph was, would their bowing be replaced with renewed hatred and jealousy. Joseph had been favored by God Himself. God had raised Joseph to a prominent position in the court of Pharaoh. God had clothed Joseph with beautiful garments and given him riches beyond his brothers’ wildest dreams. Would their old jealousies surface again?

Behind all of this is the hand of God preparing his people for His blessings and the fulfillment of His promises. As we have already seen, this is not really a story about Joseph, but about God and His faithfulness to His chosen people, Israel. Joseph is simply a conduit through whom God sent dreams and by whom God was going to fulfill the promises He had made to Abraham. Joseph’s dream had come true. His brothers had bowed down before him. But the real point of the story is that God’s promise was coming true. He was in the process of fulfilling all that He had said He would do. And each of these events is part of His divine plan for bringing about His to make of Abraham a great nation and, through him, to bless all the families of the earth.

What God Is About To Do.

Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine. It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do. There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt, but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.” – Genesis 41:25-36 ESV

If you were going to have to interpret the dreams of the most powerful man in the world, wouldn’t you prefer that you have something positive to share? Nobody likes to hear bad news, especially someone like Pharaoh, who was probably used to having everyone around him tell him what he wanted to hear. But Joseph gave Pharaoh the truth, telling him, “God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (Genesis 41:28 ESV). According to God’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s two dreams, there was only one meaning. There was going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of drought and famine. The seven years of agricultural bounty would be completely consumed when the famine came. And as if that news was not bad enough, Joseph tells Pharaoh, “the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about” (Genesis 41:32 ESV).

This is going to be a divine act. Which brings us back to the issue of God’s timing. Why had Joseph had to stay in prison for two years? Why had God waited all that time before causing Pharaoh to have his dreams? It was all part of His divine plan and according to His perfect timing. At just the right time, Pharaoh had his dreams. At just the right time, the cupbearer remembered what Joseph had done for him in the prison. At just the right time, Joseph was brought from the prison to the palace to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. And it would prove perfect timing, not only for Joseph but for the land of Egypt. The events foretold in Pharaoh’s dreams were about to take place. And Joseph gives him some very sound counsel:

“Therefore, Pharaoh should find an intelligent and wise man and put him in charge of the entire land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh should appoint supervisors over the land and let them collect one-fifth of all the crops during the seven good years. Have them gather all the food produced in the good years that are just ahead and bring it to Pharaoh’s storehouses. Store it away, and guard it so there will be food in the cities. That way there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come to the land of Egypt. Otherwise this famine will destroy the land.” – Genesis 41:33-36 NLT

The passage doesn’t say this, but it seems clear that Joseph’s counsel to Pharaoh had been given to him by God. This was not some off-the-cuff advice that Joseph threw in for free. It was part of the interpretation. God had shown Pharaoh what He was about to do. Now He was telling Pharaoh what he should do to prepare for the inevitable. Honestly, I doubt that Joseph had any idea that the words coming out of his mouth were in reference to himself. That kind of grandstanding doesn’t fit the kind of character he has displayed throughout the story so far. Joseph wasn’t trying to audition for a job. We know that he was a hard worker, a good manager of the affairs of others, and had a track record of having God’s hand of blessing on his life. But there is no indication that Joseph was trying to get out of jail by jockeying for a role in the royal cabinet. He was simply sharing the words of God. The remarkable advice he gave Pharaoh was divinely inspired, not the result of human discernment. God was giving ample warning about the events to come and the steps to prepare for them. The famine had a divine purpose behind it. So did the seven years of plenty. But only those who heeded the Lord’s counsel and followed His prescribed steps of preparation would survive. And survival was at the heart of God’s message. This famine would be widespread and have an impact far beyond the borders of Egypt. And God was preparing the land of Egypt to be His divine resource for rescuing the descendants of Abraham and fulfilling His promises to them.

So often, the ways of God make no sense to us. His methods appear to be convoluted and confusing. We wonder why He does things the way He does. We question His reasoning and complain about His timing. Whether we intend to or not, when we doubt the ways of God, we are really questioning the wisdom of God. And He has some fairly strong words for those who raise questions about His wisdom.

“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.” – Job 36:2-3 NLT

This statement was addressed to Job, who had been through a great deal of suffering and loss. He had some legitimate questions about all that had happened to him. He was confused by all the pain and persecution he had endured. And his confusion caused him to lash out at God, questioning His ways and raising doubts about His wisdom. So God had a few questions of His own for Job:

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.” – Job 36:4 NLT

“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?” – Job 36:12 NLT

“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths?” – Job 36:16 NLT

“Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?” – Job 36:34-35 NLT

God’s questions to Job are numerous and come in relentless waves. Then He adds one last question: “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” (Job 40:2 NLT).

We may not understand God’s ways, but we have no right to question His wisdom. He is God Almighty. He is the creator of all things. He is the God of the universe. His wisdom is beyond our comprehension. His methods are too much for our minds to grasp. But we can know this. He is all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving. He knows what He is doing and what He does is always right.

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! – Deuteronomy 32:4 NLT

The LORD is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. – Psalm 145:17 NLT

 

A High View of God.

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” – Genesis 40:1-8 ESV

It is important to look back on an important detail from the previous part of the story. In chapter 39 we read, “And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison” (Genesis 39:20 ESV). A little later on, in chapter 40, we are told it is “the house of the captain of the guard” (Genesis 40:3 ESV). This was most likely a building attached or adjacent to  Potiphar’s house so that he could keep his eye on these royal prisoners. Because Joseph had been a slave of Potiphar, captain of the king’s guard, he had been transferred from Potiphar’s house to the royal prison. Joseph had committed no crime against the king, but yet he was placed in this prison, even though he was a common slave. This is an important detail, because it is while Joseph is in this prison that he will “just happen” to meet two other individuals who will play a significant role in his future.

Before long, Joseph is joined by the king’s cupbearer and chief baker, both of whom had done something to make the king angry enough to throw them both in prison. We are not told their crimes, but they had both experienced the same meteoric fall in their fortunes that Joseph had. They were placed under Joseph’s care, because as we saw in the last chapter:

And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. – Genesis 39:22-23 ESV

Two men with close ties to Pharaoh are imprisoned alongside Joseph. Because of the Lord’s hand on Joseph’s life, he is placed in charge of them. And then the fun begins. Both of these men end up having dreams. Vivid dreams. Disturbing dreams. On the very same night. And we’re told that each dream had its own interpretation. But remember where they are: In prison. They have no access to wise men or magicians, astronomers or seers. How will they ever discover the meaning to their dreams. And why had they both had dreams on the very same night in the very same place?

The next morning, Joseph notices that something is wrong. The two men are visibly upset and, true to his role as their caretaker, Joseph asks them what is disturbing them. They both reply, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them” (Genesis 40:8a ESV). They seem to know that these dreams are not your garden-variety dreams. There is something significant about them and they are anxious to know what they portend. The response Joseph gives provides us with a glimpse into his theology – his view of God. He simply states, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me” (Genesis 40:8b ESV).

There is a great deal of similarity between this story and the one concerning Daniel and his interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Over the book of Daniel we read:

Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” – Daniel 2:2-3 ESV

The king’s counselors and wise men respond, “Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation” (Daniel 2:4 ESV). But the king is adamant. He not only wants them to tell them what the dream means, he demands that they be able to tell him what he dreamed. If not, he will have them torn limb from limb. These men are dumbstruck. They find themselves in a life or death predicament and plead with the king.

“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 1The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” – Daniel 2:10-11 ESV

Enter Daniel. He tells the king:

“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” – Daniel 2:27-28 ESV

Long before Daniel lived and his story was written down in a scroll, Joseph held a similar view of God. His God was all-knowing and ever-present. His God was able to reveal mysteries and make known the unknowable. Joseph knew a thing or two about dreams. He had had a few of his own. Perhaps Joseph had been given the interpretation of his own dreams by God. By this time in the story, Joseph could have had a much more clear idea of his future and the role his two dreams were going to play. But whatever the case, Joseph is nonplussed by what the two men say and simply asks them to share their dreams so he can provide them with an interpretation – with the help of God.

Joseph held a high view of God – even in the lowest moments of his life. He refused to let his physical location or the state of his circumstances alter his view of God. His expectations of God were greater than any complications life might bring. Even in prison, his God was with him. And if his God was with him all the time and in all places, He was big enough to handle the interpretation of a few dreams.

“We should fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with Him…we should feed our soul with a lofty conception of God and from that derive great joy in being his. We should put life in our faith. We should give ourselves utterly to God in pure abandonment, in temporal and spiritual matters alike, and find contentment in the doing of His will,whether he takes us through sufferings or consolations.”  – Brother Lawrence

Proverbs 13e

Turning Dreams Into Reality.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12 NLT

“I want to lose 20 pounds.”

“I wish I could go back to school and get my degree.”

“I hope I make varsity this year.”

“I am going to get out of debt this year.”

“I am determined to spend more time with my family this year, and less at work.”

There are all kinds of dreams out there, and we all have them. We dream of success. We dream of getting married or, if we are married, of having a better one. We dream of our kids becoming successful at sports or growing up and having a family of their own. We dream of a day when we will be financially free and emotionally happy. We dream of getting into better shape or accomplishing a long-sought-after goal. We all dream. But many of us never see those dreams come to fruition. And as the verse above states, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” The frustration of an unfulfilled dream can result in depression and discouragement. It can leave us frustrated and wallowing in self-pity, wondering why everyone else seems to have it so well and so easy.

But there is a second verse in Proverbs 13 that is a companion to this one. It says, “It is pleasant to see dreams come true, but fools refuse to turn from evil to attain them” (Proverbs 13:19 NLT). Wow! That one hurts. It seems that there is a certain degree of responsibility when it comes to seeing our hopes and dreams become reality. We have to make certain decisions and alter our lifestyles if we want our dreams to ever happen. And a big reason they never do is because we refuse to turn from evil. That word “evil” is a hard one for us to get our hearts around. It sounds so, well, evil. It sounds like we must be doing something really wicked and ungodly. But in the Hebrew, the word carries a range of meanings. It can simply mean “bad” or “wrong.” So when it says that fools refuse to turn from evil, it can also mean that they refuse to turn from doing what is bad. So if your dream is to lose 20 pounds, it never happens because you refuse to cut down on your eating and neglect doing any kind of exercise. That’s bad. It’s wrong. You see, a fool dreams of losing weight, but won’t stop doing the bad things that are contributing to the problem. If you dream of having a better marriage, but refuse to stop doing the bad things that are harming your marriage, your dream will never come true. The Proverbs are full of admonitions about diligence and hard work. Dreams rarely come true with both. I can dream about running a marathon, but if I refuse to go out and train, strapping on my running shoes and putting in the miles each day, my dream will never become a reality. It will be hope deferred, and it will lead to a sick heart.

But when we do what is necessary to see our dreams fulfilled, it is like a tree of life. It enthuses and encourages us. It invigorates and revitalizes us. Setting a goal and achieving it is a powerful motivator. But only a fool would believe that dreams are possible without hard work and a determination to stop doing those “bad” things that are counterproductive and potentially destructive. God has wired us to pursue transformation. He has placed His Spirit within us and given us His Word to direct us. He inwardly and outwardly motivates us to pursue transformation into the likeness of His Son. But there are going to be things we must give up and turn away from if we want to see change take place. If our goal is godliness, we must turn from evil, from doing what is bad or wrong for that goal to come about. The Spirit of God gives us the capacity and capability to say no to those things that are detrimental to our transformation. If you want to lose weight, you can’t keep a box on donuts in the pantry. If you want to become godly, you can’t surround yourself with ungodly influences. That would be counterproductive and lead to defeat. What dream has God placed on your heart? What are you willing to give up to see it become a reality?

Father, we all dream, but so few of us ever see our dreams come true. All because we refuse to give up those things that are holding us back. We hang on to the wrong things, then wonder why our dreams go unfulfilled. Open our eyes and show us the part we need to play. Thank You for giving us Your Spirit to motivate and empower us. But never let us forget that we have a responsibility to do our part. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org