Bible Focus: Genesis 37,39-41
Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guards in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guards assigned Joseph to them as their personal attendant, and they were in custody for some time. The king of Egypt’s cupbearer and baker, who were confined in the prison, each had a dream. Both had a dream on the same night, and each dream had its own meaning. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they looked distraught. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?”
“We had dreams,” they said to him, “but there is no one to interpret them.”
Then Joseph said to them, “Don’t interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”Genesis 40:2-8 CSB
Dreams are funny things. Literal dreams–the dreams we have while sleeping–can be very strange, made up of vivid or murky images that often make no sense. The Bible contains many stories in which God communicated through literal dreams.
I usually don’t remember what I dream. When I do remember a dream, it often seems like I was just working out some inner fear or desire, or maybe the dinner from the previous night. I’m not sure if God has ever spoken to me in a dream; if so, then I guess I missed his message.
Personal dreams–the dreams we have for our future–are less strange, but very powerful. Most of these dreams have common threads, like the desire to belong, to succeed, to be understood, or to be loved. However, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that our dreams can quickly unravel. We can pursue our dreams, but we cannot control how those dreams will play out. And even when we trust in God’s plans for us, this life might unfold in a drastically different way than we envisioned. Ultimately, we have to leave our dreams in the hands of the Lord.
God promised Abraham a son, whom he named Isaac. Isaac’s twin sons were Esau and Jacob; but Jacob was the one who received God’s promises to Abraham. Jacob had twelve sons. Of those sons, Joseph was the eleventh–but he was Jacob’s favorite, because he was the firstborn son of Rachel, his preferred wife. (If that sounds messed up, it was. For more details on the origin of Jacob’s immediate family, read Genesis 29:13 – 30:24.)
Joseph was hated by his brothers because he was his father’s favorite. Joseph also experienced literal dreams that suggested that he would rule over his brothers someday, and when he told them these dreams, they hated him even more. So one day they took revenge on Joseph by selling him to slave traders and deceiving Jacob into thinking that Joseph was dead.
The slave traders carted Joseph to Egypt and sold him to an Egyptian official named Potiphar. Joseph managed Potiphar’s house well, but when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, he refused, saying that he could not betray Potiphar or disobey God. In response, she spread a false accusation of sexual assault that landed Joseph in prison.
Through all this, Joseph kept his faith in God. God watched over him and blessed his work in the prison. One day Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer got thrown in prison with him, and they both had troubling dreams. They told their dreams to Joseph, and he told them God’s interpretation of their dreams. Three days later, the baker was executed and the cupbearer was restored to his position–exactly as Joseph had foretold. Joseph had asked the cupbearer to plead his case to Pharaoh, but after regaining his position, the cupbearer forgot about Joseph.
I wonder if Joseph hit rock bottom in those days. The Bible doesn’t say, but I imagine he waited day after day, hoping for an audience with Pharaoh that never seemed to come.
Two years later, Pharaoh woke up with a troubling dream. The cupbearer remembered Joseph and told Pharaoh; Joseph told Pharaoh’s God’s interpretation of his dream; and Pharaoh promoted Joseph to the highest position in his administration. That day must have seemed unreal to Joseph, like a dream come true. However, God was not surprised. That day was always part of God’s plan, and nothing could stop it.
Here’s the good news: if we have trusted in Jesus, then nothing can stop the plans that he has for us, either. But his plans have little to do with the typical dreams of this world, such as perpetual health, wealth, popularity, or ease. Jesus offers us something immeasurably more valuable: a life forever united with God. Just before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed for his followers in this way:
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”John 17:24-26 CSB
Are we willing to trust in Jesus and believe that God will follow through on his word? Will we continue to follow him even when things are tough? Can we sense God’s love and presence today, no matter what our circumstances? Jesus can give that assurance to us, if we are willing. He died on the cross so that we might never be separated from God again.
Featured image by Aleksandr Barsukov on Unsplash