From Dreams to Reality Pt IV
This morning I’d like us to take a dive into one of the most iconic dreams in the Old Testament and tease out a number of truths and lessons that we can apply in our own lives around the outworking of the dreams that God has for each of us.
We’re going to look at the life of Joseph which we pick up in Genesis Chapter 30.
Joseph was born into a blended family. His father Jacob had 2 wives, Leah and Rachel, who just happened to be sisters. He had 11 brothers and 1 sister. Whilst they all had the same father; besides Leah and Rachel, there were two other mums added into the mix. Rachel’s servant Bilhah and Leah’s servant Zilpah.
The term dysfunctional, could very well have been defined by his family situation. The relationship between Jacob’s two wives was difficult at best and downright hostile at worst. They used their children to point score against each other. Joseph’s mother was Racheal who just so happened to be his father’s favourite wife even though she had difficulty conceiving children, a point that her sister constantly brought up.
To make matters worse, Jacob made it obvious that he favoured Joseph over his brothers because he was the first born of his favourite wife Rachel. He made for him a brightly coloured robe that caused a huge rift between Joesph and his brothers.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
You can imagine what Joseph’s childhood was like. But then in the midst of all of this, Joseph had a dream, a dream that would change his world and the world of his family for the better. However at first, you could be forgiven in thinking that his dream was simply a juvenile attempt to get back at his family and their treatment of him.
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
Shortly after this, events took a sinister turn. Joesph was sent by his father to check up on his brothers as they looked after the families sheep and when he was still a distance away, his brothers noticed him and started talking about killing him. Not just about beating him up, but getting rid of him permanently.
Verses 17-20 So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him. “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
Reuben his older brother, tried to save Joseph by telling his brothers not to kill him at first but instead toss him into a nearby cistern like they had schemed. He planned to come back later and let him out.
Whilst Reuben was off doing something else a caravan of Ishmaelites came past and the other brothers took Joseph out of the cistern and sold him to the caravan as a slave.
Joseph was taken to Egypt where he was then sold to one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of his guard, Potiphar.
Now even though Joseph was in a bad place, God was still with him.
The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Even though Joseph was in a bad situation God’s favour was on him and he caused those around him to look favourably upon him.
That didn’t stop more bad things happening though.
His masters wife wanted to have an affair with him and when he rejected her she accused him of trying to rape her. He was then thrown into prison. From the outside it looked so very unjust and unfair however he wasn’t put to death which would have been the normal response to a slave who had tried to rape his masters wife.
Once again God’s hand was on him and he rose to favour in the prison. Whilst in prison he met two of Pharaoh’s servants who had displeased Pharaoh and ended up incarcerated with him. Both had dreams which Joseph interpreted for them. His interpretations came to pass. Pharaoh’s cup bearer was released and restored to his previous position whilst Pharaohs baker was executed just as Joseph had predicted.
2 years passed and Pharaoh had a dream. His cup bearer remembered the promise he had made to Joseph when he was in prison with him and mentioned him to Pharaoh.
When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”
So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Something had changed during the previous years whilst Joseph had been enslaved and imprisoned. His focus had shifted from himself and the high opinion he once had of his own abilities. He had come to the realisation that only God could deliver him and it came out in the way he spoke to Pharaoh.
Joseph then interpreted Pharaoh’s dream saying that God was warning Pharaoh that they would experience 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine that would be so severe, it would completely wipe out the 7 years of plenty. Pharaoh was so impressed that he made Joseph the second most important person in the land after himself and placed him in charge of storing up food during the 7 years of plenty so that Egypt wouldn’t starve during the 7 years of drought.
To cut a long story short Joseph is eventually reunited with his Father and brothers when they come to Egypt to buy food during the famine and the dream he originally had of them bowing down to him takes place in front of his eyes as they had no idea initially, that the Egyptian in charge of the distribution of food was Joseph. Joseph is able to see that God had a hand in everything that had happened and forgave his brothers and eventually his entire family moved to Egypt to escape the famine that is devastating the region.
Observations and lessons learnt from Joseph’s story
Joseph’s family background didn’t disqualify him and prevent God from giving him a dream for his future .
Joseph wasn’t very smart relationally when he was young but it didn’t stop God from choosing him for a great purpose.
Joseph’s dream was initially rejected by his family.
The process that saw his dream move from his imagination to reality seemed the exact opposite of what you would expect.
The reason that this is so important to note is that the greatest threat to any dream is a loss of hope. Don’t allow your circumstances to give you a false picture of Gods intention.
In the unfolding of his dream, bad circumstances and evil intentions by others actually ended up producing good in his life and in the lives of his family and the fledgling nation of Israel.
There were signs of God’s favour all along his path.
His dream wasn’t accomplished alone, there were others who had significant parts to play.
General lessons regarding dreams
Human nature will often mean we will try and interpret our dreams through the screen of our own self interest at first, but the dream that’s from God always involves far more than just us.
If you’re to see your dream come to pass you have to move from self dependancy to God dependancy. Whilst ever you want to take credit for your dream’s fulfilment, you’ll always struggle to see it come to pass.
Rather than picturing yourself as a mighty tree filling the earth it’s far better for you to think of yourself as a branch being swept downstream in the river of God.
Keep serving God faithfully through every reversal that life throws at you and you will eventually see His purpose prevail.
The end will always be far greater than anything you could imagine when you first start off.
It’s like the difference between imagining a visit to a waterfall on a hot summers day and actually visiting the waterfall in real life.