Intro… Two possible thoughts here: 1) Does life seem to always get better, worse, stay the same or go up and down and why so? And if up and down, when things are up, do we expect them to go back down, or if things are down, do we expect them to go back up again? Or do we think things will continue to become better and better or worse and worse? Why is this? Why is it human nature not to expect change? And finally, is God big enough to sustain us through the change, unexpected or not? How? How can or does or could he do this?
2) What do you think you are good at? What are your gifts and abilities? Now ask yourself, could and how could God use these someday to minister, serve, deliver or help other people in significantly meaningful ways? For example, as a kid I thought I wanted to be a football player, lawyer or doctor, but I could argue with a fence post my family always said. So maybe I should have been a lawyer? But my passion to communicate led me into the ministry where I both teach and counsel today. My passion is to help take what was difficult to me and make it understandable to others, particularly, how to live and think about life and its many struggles with God’s help and the truth of his Word…so that a person has half a chance in this difficult world. I want to make things understandable…the difficult, but practical and important…understandable and repeatable. I want to teach people how to live life. What about you? What are your skillsets and gifts and how may God be using your gifts to make a difference in the lives of others?
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 lead 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.
• Joseph is not rewarded for correctly interpreting the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer. Gen. 40:1ff.
Pray; read three times (perhaps just twice) and ask questions…
41:1 Now it happened at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. 2 And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass. 3 Then behold, seven other cows came up after them from the Nile, ugly and gaunt, and they stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile. 4 The ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. Then Pharaoh awoke.
Two more years of waiting? Amazing.
5 He fell asleep and dreamed a second time; and behold, seven ears of grain came up on a single stalk, plump and good. 6 Then behold, seven ears, thin and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them. 7 The thin ears swallowed up the seven plump and full ears. Then Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. 8 Now in the morning his spirit was troubled, so he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was no one who could interpret them to Pharaoh.
Interesting, it seems obvious to us now because we know what happened, but would it have been as obvious to us if we didn’t know the story? Or was it because Pharaoh’s magicians were afraid to tell Pharaoh that bad times were eventually coming? Or did God block the dream’s meaning from Pharaoh’s magicians because he has other, greater plans for both Joseph and Israel’s family?
9 Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would make mention today of my own offenses”.
At least the cupbearer was honest and called his oversight his “offense”?
10 Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. 11 We had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. 12 Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant of the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our dreams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. 13 And just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.”
“He” hanged him, not “you” Pharaoh hanged him or is “he” the captain of the guard?
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph, and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh.
How ragged did Joseph appear? And had Joseph been innocently in prison for 13 long years?
15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
16 Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”
File:Adrien Guignet Joseph et Pharaon.jpg
Joseph Interprets the Dream of Pharaoh (19th Century painting by Jean-Adrien Guignet)
17 So Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, “In my dream, behold, I was standing on the bank of the Nile; 18 and behold, seven cows, fat and sleek came up out of the Nile, and they grazed in the marsh grass. 19 Lo, seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and gaunt, such as I had never seen for ugliness in all the land of Egypt; 20 and the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. 21 Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them, for they were just as ugly as before. Then I awoke. 22 I saw also in my dream, and behold, seven ears, full and good, came up on a single stalk; 23 and lo, seven ears, withered, thin, and scorched by the east wind, sprouted up after them; 24 and the thin ears swallowed the seven good ears. Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.”
25 Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine.
What is the east wind, a dry wind from Arabia?
28 It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. 29 Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; 30 and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. 32 Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.
33 Now let Pharaoh look for a man discerning and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt.
Joseph goes further. Not only is this from God; it is sure and here is an action plan to deal with it.
34 Let Pharaoh take action to appoint overseers in charge of the land, and let him exact a fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven years of abundance.
A twenty percent tax seems high in good times, but ultimately proves necessary. How did the people handle this at the time?
35 Then let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and store up the grain for food in the cities under Pharaoh’s authority, and let them guard it. 36 Let the food become as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which will occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land will not perish during the famine.”
37 Now the proposal seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his servants.
• Pharaoh has two consecutive dreams. One in which seven lean cows eat seven fat cows along the Nile River and another in which seven full ears of corn are devoured by seven thin ears of corn.
• He is troubled by his dream so he asks all his magicians as to what the dream means, but no one can tell him.
• Then the restored cupbearer remembers his promise to Joseph and tells Pharaoh how Joseph interpreted both his and the baker’s dreams correctly.
• So Pharaoh sends for Joseph and relates his dream to Joseph.
• Joseph gives credit to God and tells Pharaoh the meanings of his dream—seven lean years will devour the fruits of seven good years, and because Pharaoh dreamed similar dreams, this means that God has determined that these events will surely come to pass.
• Joseph then goes one step further, giving Pharaoh a plan by which Egypt can survive the next fourteen years.
• Joseph’s plan is embraced by Pharaoh and his court.
Summary: Joseph is finally and providentially delivered from his false imprisonment by first being remembered as a credible interpreter of dreams by Pharaoh’s cupbearer and then giving to Pharaoh what Pharaoh believes to be credible interpretations to his dreams.
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?
• Time. Time is everything is seems, even two more years for Joseph. Of course it’s all God’s time and plans to begin with. But can we wait? Can we havee confidence in our cause, our innocence as Job was, and wait…wait for God’s deliverance? Or as we like to say around here, “Justice delayed is not Justice denied.” Time. Time with God. Time serving; redeeming time…still making a difference…waiting for God’s redemption…God’s purposes, God’s salvation. It’s everything for God’s children. Time.
• As Joseph correctly noted, God can be the author of dreams which he then can use to predict or communicate what is still in the moment to God because he is not bound by time and space–but rather he is the Creator of time and space, and thus is the ever present for him–but can be past or future for us. This is why Moses could see and describe Creation although he was not there and why Joseph, the prophets, Jesus and his disciples could see the future. The Spirit, unbound by time and space and perhaps much like an electrical circuit, connects different two points, people or events of God’s created timeline continuum, be it a straight line or circle continuum, allowing one to see or witness a different time and place on the continuum as if watching it on television or hearing music or being there in person. Amazing.
• The cupbearer did the right thing. He admitted his offense and spoke up the truth. He did not remain silent.
• As Joseph predicts in his dream, life is quite often cyclical, with good and hard times alternating. The reason for this could be weather or planet-related in this case, or also in this case, can be accentuated by humans’ response to both good and bad times. In other words, humans can tend to be very short-sighted. When times are good, it is hard to imagine them ending, but they will, as had in more modern times. For several decades the world economies boomed. Then they busted. Lending institutions over-lent, and when people could not afford to pay and a great sell-off was initiated and everything collapsed. In fact, it happened in 2001 with 911 and the bursting of internet stock bubble and again in 2008 with the home mortgage collapse. In fact, it took seven years to rebuild and fall again. Now we are into our sixth year of this latest economic downturn, and the world is still struggling to make ends meet. What’s the bottom line? As humans, we can’t see the future. Our tendency is see now and project now, rather than realize markets, times, companies, nations and world economies all have their rises and falls, and if they survive, their cycles. Nothing can go up forever. We await Christ’s return for that, and nothing will go down forever. Again we await his return to remedy a super-economic/moral collapse someday. What’s the point? Shoot for the middle, I suppose. Assume collapse someday, and prepare accordingly. Don’t live in fear, but be wise. And yet still, ironically, even if you live wise, which you should do, others will not. So will you help them?
Praise… After another winter storm, we have once again survived, and Spring is coming. In addition, Rhonda and I get to see our kids and some of our dearest, oldest friends this upcoming week. And in a five and a half marathon session, I got to witness some incredible truth-telling, listening, understanding, empathy healing, tears, grieving, the beginning of reconciliation and forgiveness and some real-life and crucial problem solving last week. Amazing. And the central core. For the second time in my life, I saw an incredibly courageous turning of the other cheek in the heat of battle. It was a thing of outstanding courage and beauty. The last time I witnessed this, it was about six years ago, and much like Joseph, it took some time, but I have seen the cheek-turner incredibly and faithfully rewarded. It really works, and I look forward to witnessing what God will do with this latest act. Amazing.
Struggle… Though it has not been the case as it has in earlier times in my life and I am not really sure why, but trusting God in this latest adventure. I have done my homework to the best reasonableness that I could, spoken or shared my truth and now lay myself open to anything from utter rejection or reborn vision. Does God’s grace cover my mistakes? I sure hope so. Now I must live and trust, shoving the rebar of Christ as Lord of my heart down my cognitive-emotional-willful-moral-Spiritual-biblical spine (1 Peter 3:14-15).
Truth… Our day will come; redemption from the curse of our own sins…our parents’ sins, the world’s sins, our ancestors, including Adam and Eve’s sins will someday come. In the mean time, Christ through his Spirit seeks to redeem us everyday, if we are open and willing to it. Through truth, through his Words, through prayer; through the Body of Christ; through wisely-evaluated experiences; through angels, both human and divine…even through dreams or the ability to interpret dreams or whatever other gifts and abilities God has naturally or supernaturally granted us. Not only are we saved through Christ’s blood or sacrifice, we are being saved…as we will be saved. Joseph’s story is one of time-tested divine redemption, salvation and a saving stewardship for he is about to use his divine gifts to save both Egypt and Israel from a severe famine.
Application… Go see our kids. Go see our friends. Love, serve, listen, pray, think, observe, ask question, minister, love, be thoughtful…not just here everyday, but even on the road with others who mean so much to us. And as we go, trust. Trust, despite our immaturity and many mistakes, as well as our children’s immaturity and many mistakes, that with God’s grace, we have raised our children, both physically and Spiritually, the best we knew how. Now let them function; let them live; let them wrestle and choose. Buoyed by God’s amazing grace, it’s a time for trusting God and reaping what we have Spiritually sown, both good, bad and in between. We are in your hands, O Lord. Our lives, our destinies, our ministries, our service. We and all we love, live with and touch…belongs to you and is for your truth and glory. Amen.
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 took; in there 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).