Intro… What kind of dreamer are you? Do you dream much? Did you dream last night? Or was it a nightmare perhaps? If you do dream, can you retrace the possible source of your dreams? Ever had a crazy or strange dream? Ever had a recurring dream? Do you like dreams or not? Do you think that God can speak to people in dreams?
Several years ago, I had two dreams separated by a short time space…I can’t recall how long of a time space, but perhaps within two weeks of each other. In my dream a good friend that was about to leave on a six-month missions trip was sitting in a certain seat in our church. Eventually, I told her about my dreams and wondered if she would remain and be a shot in the arm to our body? She did and served as my part-time assistant for a year. In the process she served as a much-needed sounding board for me. She knew how I thought. She was incredibly helpful. In addition, because she stayed around, she was able to explore a friendship with a guy whom she had just met—a relationship that no doubt would have gone by the way side had she left. Eventually their friendship, mutual respect and love for one another grew to the point that this past year I officiated their marriage. Was my dream God’s way of keeping her around so that she could get to know what turned out to be her future husband? I am not sure, but I am highly suspicious.
Also several years ago, I experienced what for me was somewhat of a traumatic ministry experience. Afterwards, I had several troubling nightmares. Though the dreams were very symbolic, it was easy to figure out their connection to my recent trauma. Even though I had really done nothing wrong, it was as if my mind was trying to work through what felt like a shared guilt in the matter. Someone died who was dying anyway…just a bit sooner. All I could have done was spoken up to possibly delay it a few hours, but I didn’t. And although I have been with quite a few dying souls in their last minutes, I had never been in that particular moment before when I knew what was about to happen—and it did happen much as I had feared. Even today, several years later, I can discuss that night and once again dream, and the dream will be symbolic, much like the dreams Joseph is about to interpret within this story, but I know exactly my dream’s interpretation. Exactly.
Things may get a bit wild or out there, but in order for your students to better connect with this story, I would risk some time discussing their dream experiences. One never knows what they will come up with. Bottom line…dreams are important, and they do have a function, even if that function is not always clear.
Recently, we began a new unit or section or person of study…the life of Joseph. Essentially, the story of Joseph, is for the most part, our story. Chosen by God for a special purpose, Joseph must first endure much suffering and injustice before arriving at his God-ordained purpose and calling, and what a purpose it will be.
As we read, I want you to continue pondering, your special identity in Christ, and that just because you may be going through difficult days, your suffering…your waiting is NOT in vain. As God’s child…as God’s children, just as with Joseph and his brothers, you…we…all have a purpose in Christ (Romans 8; Eph. 1; 1 Peter 1).
The Bible’s very first word is the Hebrew word Bərēšīṯ, which means “in [the] beginning.” “Genesis” is actually the Greek word for “beginnings” or “origins,” and thus the origin for both the Latin and English transliteration: Genesis.
So what’s our goal? Just to explore. Like an archaeologist exploring ancient ruins, we are going back to the Scripture’s beginnings to do a little Spiritual digging and poking around to see what was God doing before God’s Son was Spiritually conceived in his mother Mary’s womb? What were the world, people and life like from the very beginning?
Summary of Recent Explorations…
• The Creation: The Creator Creates His Creation and its Caretakers (Adam and Eve). Gen. 1-2.
• The Fall: But a Crafty Adversary Emerges, Infecting the Creator’s Caretakers with a Virulent Strain of Deceptive Evil (non-beneficial actions). Gen. 3-4.
• The Flood: The story of the righteous Servant and a devastating Flood. In order to Save his Creation from a self-destructive and merciless evil, the Creator Must radically purge or cleanse his Creation Gen. 5-7.
• Creation’s New Beginning…Gen. 8-11.
• Creation’s New Caretaker: The Creator Raises up, Chooses and Greatly Blesses a righteous and trusting Caretaker named Abraham. Gen. 12-25.
• The Torch of the Creator’s Trusting Caretaking Now Passes to Succeeding Generations (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Joshua…) Gen. 26ff.
And Now Joseph’s Story…Gen. 37-50.
• Jacob’s older sons grow deeply resentful of their favored youngest brother, Joseph. Gen. 37:1ff.
• Joseph’s jealous older brother seizes an opportunity to sell or traffic their younger brother into slavery, then leads their grieving father to believe that Joseph was killed by wild animals. Gen. 37:12ff.
• God’s grace still accompanies and blesses Joseph as he is first wrongly trafficked as a slave and then later wrongly thrown into prison. Gen. 39:1ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
40:1 Then it came about after these things, the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt.
Makes you wonder how they had offended Pharaoh? Was Pharaoh easily offended? Had they feared him? Did they do something not exactly right and Pharaoh freaks out? Was Pharaoh a villain? Or were the cupbearer and the baker wrong?
2 Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker.
“Furious” sounds very strong, and at the same time makes you wonder whatever it was that they had done, were their actions in cahoots with each other? Or was it just coincidence…divine coincidence?
3 So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned.
So now we have a connection between Joseph and Pharaoh…not the best, but a connection no doubt, and God can use anything. Anything!
4 The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time.
Was their confinement intended to be temporary?
5 Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night, each man with his own dream and each dream with its own interpretation.
Here is their connection with God and Joseph…dreams…dreams which Joseph will be able to interpret.
6 When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected.
Each disturbed, or perhaps confused by their dreams?
7 He asked Pharaoh’s officials who were with him in confinement in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?”
8 Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.”
Apparently, Joseph indeed believes that his monotheistic God gives as well as interprets dreams. In other words, God can and does connect with our subconscious…that is more than amazing to me?
9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me;
10 and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes.
11 Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.”
12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days;
13 within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer.
14 Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house.
What did Joseph expect Pharaoh would do with such a story or his case? Did he think he could ask for his freedom? Did he want to plead his case before Pharaoh? Did he actually think or know that he would or could interpret Pharaoh’s dreams? Who would want such a risky position?
15 For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”
Like all of us, he wants to plead his case to someone who can make a difference. Joseph wants his freedom.
16 When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted favorably, he said to Joseph, “I also saw in my dream, and behold, there were three baskets of white bread on my head;
17 and in the top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.”
18 Then Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days;
19 within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh off you.”
This would seem to indicate that something had taken place which Pharaoh perhaps saw as treasonous, but he didn’t know if it was the food that had made him sick or his drink. Thus, not knowing which was to blame, he imprisons them both…
20 Thus it came about on the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants.
21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand;
22 but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them.
Was this an act of unmerited favor? I will pardon one, but not the other, and the cupbearer was chosen, or was the baker actually guilty of something, and now Pharaoh has determined the truth? Apparently, within the grand scheme of things, the Divine did not think it important for the reader or the millions of readers to follow to know.
23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
And still another seemingly bad break among a series of bad breaks…first his jealous brothers, slavery, false accusations, imprisonment and now a forgotten promise. When will Joseph ever get a break?
Where? Egypt, in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned, to them, in front of me, on the vine, out, in my hand, into Pharaoh’s cup into Pharaoh’s hand, up, into his hand, out of this house, from the land of the Hebrews, here, into the dungeon, on my head, in the top basket, out of the basket on my head, up, on a tree, off you, up.
• As Joseph is prospering in prison, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are both thrown into prison along side of Joseph. The jailer puts them into Joseph’s charge.
• One night, both have dreams and are dejected the next morning when Joseph arrives on the scene, because neither understands what their dreams mean.
• Joseph informs both men that the interpretation of dreams belong to God and asks both men to share their dreams with him.
• So the cupbearer goes first telling Joseph that within his dream a vine grew up before him with three branches. As its clusters brought forth grapes, the cupbearer squeezed the grapes into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.
• Joseph then interprets the cupbearer’s dream. He tells the cupbearer that in three days the cupbearer would be restored to his former office, and for this gracious interpretation, Joseph asks that the cupbearer remember him to Pharaoh because Joseph has been wrongly imprisoned.
• Seeing the favorably interpretation that Joseph had given the cupbearer, the baker now asks Joseph to interpret his dream as well. He tells Joseph that he saw three baskets of an assortment of breads for Pharaoh upon his own head, but then birds came along and ate them out of my basket.
• Joseph interprets the baker’s dream—in three days, Pharaoh will lift you up and hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat off your flesh.
• Then on the third day, Pharaoh’s birthday, Pharaoh holds a feast in which he restores the cupbearer, but hangs the baker, just as Joseph had predicted, but the cupbearer, despite his providence, forgets to tell Pharaoh of Joseph’s interpretation as Joseph had asked.
Summary: At the same time that Joseph is in prison, two of Pharaoh’s servants are thrown into prison as well. Both have dreams, which Joseph interprets. The cupbearer is restored to his position and rank within Pharaoh’s court, while the baker is hanged, just as Joseph had predicted according to their dreams. Only the cupbearer fails to honor Joseph’s kindness in interpreting his dream by forgetting or remember an innocent Joseph to Pharaoh.
Bottom line… Providentially, Joseph interprets correctly the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants, but is not rewarded for it.
Restated… Joseph is not rewarded for correctly interpreting the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible?
• Seemingly nothing happens merely by accident or without God’s involvement or knowledge, and in this case, everything works out, including the imprisoning of Pharaoh’s two servants, their dreams and Joseph’s ability to interpret their dreams.
Things, life, events have purpose, even divine purposes…purposes that we may not understand at the time. Why? Because we are not God. We are not in heaven. We are limited by time and space. God…heaven is not. Therefore, we can’t see the future or even how things that seemingly turn out initially against us, may actually be in our longer term favor. In other words, don’t get so caught up in the NOW as final verdict. Be patient. Back up and attempt to see things from a grander, distant purpose…even seemingly bad or unfair or unjust things in the moment.
• God can and does use our subconscious to connect or reveal things to us, if only at times, just our own inner struggles…struggles that we are not facing during our waking consciousness. Not all or every dream, but he can, and it perhaps is not necessarily a bad thing, if we can remember our dreams to see if we can connect them to what is going on within our lives. I know that I can usually trace a lot of my dreams back to either something I saw or experienced that day, even if minimally. And at other times, I have explicitly recognized the symbolic nature of my dreams. Some dreams I have repeatedly, not so much as an adult, but when I was younger. Dreams may not be everything, but they are something. No doubt about it.
• Despite our best efforts, people are imperfect. In this case, the cupbearer. He simply forgot. Was it wrong? Yes and no. His forgetting wasn’t intentional, it was just human. But because we can all be overly egocentric when others are not others-centric, then we get bent out of shape. People are human. They are not perfect. It does little good becoming furious over others humanity. It just is. Better to see it for what it might be—man’s imperfection….man’s sin, let it go, and knowing, trusting and hoping that God is in charge, as the Scriptures teach, and that he loves and cares for me, and that he is both fair and gracious, that things will work out for my Spiritual good. Buoyed by such greater truth, then prayerfully consider my next move, that is with God’s permission, leadership and direction. It’s not about me saving me. It’s about God saving me, thus the importance of trust, worship, hope and love. Saving “me,” is what the world does. Saving “me,” for the most part is flesh. Being saved by the Creator is Spirit…is life…is the reversal of the fall (which was death)—giving back life, or taking back life from death. Do your job, keep your nose clean. Trust in God and allow God to deliver you. If not, one’s threat alert never ceases or is falsely misplaced.
Praise… 1) A harbinger of Spring’s coming…temps in the 60s and a momentary break from what has been a brutally cold winter! 2) Accomplished a two-for-one teaching this past Sunday. Not sure if the Body really appreciated it, but it was huge for me. Having lost literally two and a half teachings in the past month due to weather, I plowed through two teachings. The first was inspired by one of our mom’s video of her son’s playing basketball in the little kid’s park board league. I was able to use her video as a future anchor to foreshadow of where we are going with our “Story of Sin” series. The second was what I have been hoping to share for the past several weeks…that is what possibly was being taught in the Jewish synagogues concerning both Elijah and Messiah’s coming at the time of John and Jesus’ appearing?
Why was this important? Having heard the gospel story a million times, we all tend to take for granted how the story turns out. But what if the story were happening right now and we didn’t know the ending or the next part of the story? What if we were sitting in our local synagogue every Sabbath and suddenly there is this guy preaching at the local river that we all need to not only confess our sins…wrongs and imperfections, but repent of them and be baptized as a ritualistic cleansing of our past sins? And what if, while being baptized ourselves, one day this preacher baptizes this other guy, and tells us that this other guy is special… that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins or imperfections of the world? And what if this other guy starts healing people, and as he does, he releases these healed people from their former sins or imperfections? And what if while he is doing this, the current, very skeptical and quite frequently, hypocritical religious pastors and scholars begin to freak out because neither man conforms to their long-standing interpretation of the roles or titles that these two men are claiming to be? What would you do? What would we do? Maybe we get it; maybe we don’t? After all, how does one really know if some faith-healing minister today is really genuine, especially if we feel that most, if not all, are NOT genuine? In other words, what do we do, if we had been taught one thing, but what we were seeing and hearing didn’t conform to that previously-taught understanding?
So in thirty minutes, I gave my perhaps, somewhat spoiled (teaching-wise) flock, the tip of the tip of a massive historical theology iceberg…or a twenty-minute summary of a very long, complex early 20th century scholarly article on Jewish expectations concerning the Jewish Messiah’s appearing according to a thousand years of rabbinical teaching…which for the most part is contained within the Babylonian Talmud.
I am not a Talmud scholar, and the Talmud, the rabbinical interpretation of the OT oral tradition, is alleged to be over 6,000 pages, or approximately six times larger than the Bible itself. Making matters even more difficult, the Talmud’s interpretations of the Law are all over the place. But Jewish scholarship, beginning in the 20th century attempted such a summary, and I, a century later, attempted a summary of their very complex eschatology (last things) summary, and I did it via a Keynote presentation in twenty minutes—perhaps a foolhardy and impossible task, but nevertheless I unloaded it on my Body.
Did my body get it, or did I confuse them more? Probably both. But I laid another critical foundation. One cannot appreciate why what Jesus was saying, doing and preaching was so profoundly different than what the people were expecting until he or she has a taste of what these Rabbis were teaching in Jesus’ day. It is no wonder why Judah missed her saving Messiah at the time, and why some still miss it two thousand years later.
They were expecting an overthrower of Rome, but Yah-Saves (Jesus) comes forgiving people of their sins. They have no clue! For them, what does “forgiveness of one’s sins or man’s imperfection” have to do with anything?
In fact, for the Jews, perhaps the Greek Stoics, and a few other religions, most notably Zoroastianism (originating in the 6th century B.C. Persia, coincidently, at the same time exiled Jews were first living in Persia) salvation, or entrance into some kind of paradise after death was whether your good deeds or righteousness, however it was measured, outweighed your evil, wrong or imperfection.
And when compared to other religions at the time, this works-based system was perhaps the best-case scenario.
Other religions, including those in Greece, Rome, Egypt and the Far East, paid homage to many gods, as well as, for the most part, salvation, or escaping one’s fickle fate or the lowering of one’s status within one’s many reincarnated lives, was about either observing certain rituals, ancestor worship or some kind of achieved inner, secretive enlightenment, calm or tranquility. And again, while comparative world religions is NOT my field–and far be it from me to judge another person’s religious preferences–but NO ONE…absolutely NO ONE, NO RELIGION–not even Judaism, which seemingly completely ignores its own Tanak (the Old Testament) and Isaiah 53’s symbolic slaughtered lamb atoning for the sins of God’s stubborn sheep–sees, grasps or has a God that stubbornly loves mankind enough to offer himself as a sacrificial atonement for mankind’s countless imperfections in order to offer every human being salvation or deliverance from every imperfection via child-like trust!
If we see it, Sin’s story, literally before our eyes is taking an unbelievable plot twist.
What is happening within the tiny Roman vassal state of Judea, and then later to the rest of the world, to the tune of over two billion adherents two millennia later, is more akin to a divine meteor coming out of nowhere, suddenly striking the earth… and then unexpectedly a superhero or superman emerges from the meteor’s surviving remnants, healing and preaching an entirely contrarian message as to mankind’s deliverance from his propensity towards sin, injustice, depravity and imperfection…one that the world has never heard: “As both human and divine, Trust me! Then, first, via my divine-human sacrifice for all your Spiritual imperfections, have all your imperfections atoned — something you were never ever going to be able to do…despite all your human efforts to the contrary. And then from a position of divine, irrevocable Son or Daughter-ship, incredibly rich Spiritual inheritance and My ongoing, sustaining grace, strength and help, receive my eternal Spirit, who, over time and along with like-minded other Spiritual siblings and his divinely inspired words, that Spirit of God will developmentally teach or enlighten you as to how you are to Spiritually and eternally survive, including how you are to let go of yourself, as well as, your fallen, innate desire to self-protect at the expense of others, so that you can counter-intuitively care for, serve, encourage and accountably love your fellow man…just as I, your God and brother, have accountably and sacrificially loved you.
It’s an other-worldly message. And two-thousand years later, despite thousands upon thousands of attempts to screw it up, when searched for, like a great lighthouse, it’s supernatural light of hope and love still beckons the oceans’ vast graveyards of lost ships to give up their dead in order to be divinely reclaimed, resurrected, restored, repaired and redeemed so that they might delightfully sail the oceans’ seas while serving the wondrous purposes of their Master Shipbuilder.
Bottom line: whether my crew got it or not, I laid a crucial foundation down for our ongoing Homeric-like journey in understanding just what the angel commanded Joseph two thousand years ago, “…name him Yah-Saves for he will save the people from their sins.” So, yeah, I’m stoked, whether anyone else is or not.
Struggle… I was telling Rhonda, it really seems strange, or perhaps not, but despite a very brutal winter and less than stellar giving since the start of the year, which means, despite a good 2013, 2014, at least financially-wise, has NOT started out as well as I had hoped for, it seems NOT to matter. Perhaps it will change in time. I hope not–that is my joy being robbed by fear. But for now, I am rejoicing. I am getting to study and write as consistently as I have in several years, and what I am studying I am loving…absolutely loving…I see where it is going…I have a good idea, and yet I am having fun filling in the gaps or details…that is building the bridge.
Why now? I am not sure. It just is. It’s like understanding your Spiritual roots as you have never seen them before…another level of understanding…of being allowed in to see, grasp or experience God’s wondrous mystery for mankind, with the result that being close to God, or what I interpret as being closer to God, literally, emotionally and even cognitively, shrouds out everything else. And then on top of that, after waiting for so so many years, I have someone committed to consistently working through all the internet bugs to post the fruits of my study labors online, which I have no doubt helps to keep me motivated and disciplined, as opposed to getting lost, distracted and doing other things…some things very crucial, just not as crucial…seemingly. I am very very blessed on so many levels.
Truth… Don’t measure the future by the present. Don’t measure the incredible future by the less-than-incredible present. Do your job. Reveal God. Trust God as you reveal God. Be willing to suffer. Suffering is okay. Suffering is NOT the end of the world. Delay one’s gratification. Why? Because that is what is needed. That is what is required—learning to Spiritually suffer and to delay immediate gratification for a much greater and larger prize or purpose. We do this all the time…or at least we seek to do this, at the very minimum, in child-rearing, do we not? You don’t raise a child over night. Raising a child is thousands upon thousands of delayed gratifications. Spiritual growth, maturity, achieving our Spiritual reward, achieving heaven, someone else’ Spiritual growth…it’s all about delayed gratification…a thousand thousand delayed gratifications. Patience, waiting, obedience, trust, focus, patience, obedience, trust…again and again and again…until…
Application… Stay on task, be faithful, write, study, write, study, publish, think, write, study, evaluate, edit, rethink, clarify, clarify, keep simple, pray, listen, pray…and regardless of what anyone says or does, regardless of their response, regardless of what the world thinks…I have done my job, my task, my stewardship, my responsibility. I only work for God. It’s His truth, His revealing, His whatever. I am just the miner, the storyteller, the teacher, the messenger, the teacher. What the world, God or anyone else wants to do with the fruits of my labor, is up to others. The joy has been mine…loved or not love by my brothers, sold as a slave or not sold as slave, running my master’s estate efficiently or not, falsely accused or not falsely accused, imprisoned or not imprisoned, running the prison efficiently or not, interpreting dreams accurately or not, being remembered or not, paid or not, valued or not. My life…my existence belongs to God…bottom line…and NO other!
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
What about your kids?
Biggest Struggles (Imagine these or several–put yourself in their shoes–walk through a day with them at school, at home. What might they encounter?)
Now how does what happen here possibly relate/ (Remember this is only to give you a feel or an introductory hook or a reinforcing look; in their looking, they may come up with something entirely different.)
Remember to have fun, sense the Spirit’s leading and develop a love for these kids.
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission.” (www.Lockman.org).