Genesis 42:25-38

25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey.  After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.”

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 “The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’

33 “Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.’”

35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!”

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.”

38 But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.”
(Genesis 42:25-38 NIV)

My apologies – I somehow skipped this passage last time, and jumped right to Chapter 43!

In the first part of Chapter 42, Joseph recognizes his brothers when they arrive in Egypt to buy grain.  Joseph does not reveal his identity to them, but instead treats them as strangers and questions their motives for being in Egypt by accusing them of being spies.

Joseph inquires about the brothers’ family, and quickly learns that his father is still alive, as well as his younger full blood brother Benjamin.  Joseph devises a plan to make the brothers bring his brother Benjamin to Egypt so he can see him again.  Joseph holds Simeon as hostage until the other brothers bring Benjamin to Egypt.

In today’s passage, Joseph approves the sale of grain to the brothers, gives them provisions for their trip, then sends them on their way.  In his desire to bless his brothers, he has secretly returned each brother’s money in the top of their grain sacks.

One of the brothers discovers the money in his sack when they stop overnight on their way home.  The brothers automatically blame God for their predicament, and wonder what could have brought on this judgment from the Almighty.

The brothers arrive at home and tell all the details to Jacob, their father.  Jacob listens as the brothers recount their stories.  Everything is apparently fine until the brothers pour out the grain in their sacks, and discover that every man’s sack contains their money.

At this point, Jacob blames his sons for all his life’s misfortunes.  Jacob’s assumption is that the brothers will be known as thieves in Egypt, and that he will never see Simeon again, as the brothers could never show their face in Egypt again because of their bad actions.

Reuben tries to console his father, but his offer is no offer at all in Jacob’s eyes and heart.  To lose two sons (Joseph and Simeon) is bad enough; to lose two grandsons on top of his two lost sons is just as bad or worse.

Jacob also makes it clear that there is no way that he will ever allow Benjamin to go to Egypt under the current conditions.  This is the only surviving son (or so he thinks) of his beloved and departed wife Rachel – he will not sacrifice or put Benjamin at risk in any way, shape, or form.

Jacob ends this section by telling his sons that if he were to trust them and send his son (their brother) Benjamin down to Egypt and something were to happen to Benjamin, that it would be like they were sending their father to a living hell (Sheol).

Joseph’s act of kindness (returning the money for each brother) creates a crisis of faith within the brothers and with his father.  Will they trust God, or will they continue to react in fear?

How do we respond when we are faced with our own crisis of faith?

Do we make unholy agreements based only on what we know and respond out of fear or out of natural response?

Or do we go immediately to our Father in Heaven and ask for His assistance to understand, or how to proceed?

May we turn to our Heavenly Father for wisdom and next steps for all of life’s events.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 43:1-15

43 Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”

But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”

Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”

They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. 10 As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

15 So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.
(Genesis 43:1-15 NIV)

In Chapter 42, Jacob sends his sons (minus Benjamin) to Egypt to buy grain, as the famine was over the entire region, not just Egypt.  Joseph recognized his brothers, but did not disclose his identity to them.  Joseph tested his brothers by accusing them of being spies, and required them to bring their brother Benjamin back with them.  Joseph held Simeon and sent the rest of the brothers home to bring back Benjamin.

Joseph also returned the brothers’ money in the sacks of grain he had sold them.  When they returned home, they told their father Jacob about the strange ordeal.  Jacob refused to even consider letting Benjamin go to Egypt.

As we begin Chapter 43, the famine is still raging, and they have consumed all the grain they purchased before.  Jacob tells his sons to go back down to Egypt and buy more grain.  The brothers remind Jacob that they can’t go back without Benjamin.

Judah steps up and personally takes responsibility for Benjamin’s safety on the journey.  This is a surprise, as Judah was the one that had the idea that they should sell Joseph to the traders passing by.  Judah’s heart had undergone a transformation, from profit-seeker to family-protector.

Jacob ridicules his sons for having told the Egyptian ruler about their family and bringing up the point about Benjamin.  Jacob’s sons remind their father that they were being honest , and had no way of knowing that the ruler (Joseph) would require them to bring Benjamin to Egypt.

Finally, Jacob relents and sends his sons (including Benjamin) to Egypt to buy more grain.  Jacob tells his sons to take double the money – returning the original money plus money to buy more grain.  Jacob also tells his sons to bring some of the good produce of the land with them as gifts to the Egyptian ruler.

As we look at the gift list that Jacob recommended, we see that times were indeed hard.  A little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds were all they had to offer.  It was not the cost of the gift or the quantity of the gift – it was the heart attitude reflected by the giving of the gift.

Notice that Jacob counts the cost of sending Benjamin to Egypt.  He puts his son in God’s hands, and leaves the matter with the Lord.  Jacob offers his blessing on his sons, and prays for God’s mercy when the sons meet with the Egyptian ruler this time, asking the Lord to bring back all his sons, including Simeon and Benjamin.

What (or whom) are we willing to entrust into God’s hands?

What circumstances will it take before we entrust that thing or person to the Lord?

May we release our troubles and trials to the Lord, laying them at the foot of the cross.

Blessings,
~kevin

Happy New Year – 2019

In past years, my practice has been to ask the Lord for a word, theme, or phrase for the new year.  This year is no different in that regard.

As I pondered and prayed this year, three words came to mind:

  • Renovation
  • Renewal
  • Restoration

Seeing these three words, I remembered my grandparents talking about the three “R’s” of education a hundred years ago (phonetic “R’s”, of course) – Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  While my three “R’s” this year are certainly educational, they are much more than that – they are spiritual, and deeply personal.

Renovation is the key to these three R’s, as it starts with a new design.  Renovation assumes that something is there already, but needs changed.  To begin the renovation, I need to yield to God’s design for me and my life.  Instead of bringing my plans to Him and asking Him to bless them, I need to bring myself to Him and ask Him where He is working and where He would want me to join Him in what He is already doing.

One new thing this year that the Lord has also shown me is to confess and break any unholy alliances that I may have unknowingly made with the enemy of my soul.  These often come in the form of presuppositions, agreements, or assumptions that I may have made about a given situation or the future as I look at the past and into the new year:

  • “This is going to be a tough year at work”
  • “My calendar for the year is already full”
  • “I don’t know how we’re going to make it financially”
  • “I am stuck in this health rut and can’t get out”
  • “I can’t make new friends or find anyone to talk to about life”

I am not proposing a “prosperity theology” solution, to “name it and claim it”.  Rather, I need to turn my presuppositions into opportunities to yield all of my life to Him – to give Him my work, my calendar, my finances, my health, my relationships – and ask Him what He has in mind for me in each and every area of my life.

Finally, I am reminded to ask the Lord for a promise from His Word that I can depend upon, that I can lean on through good times and hard times alike.

For me, this year’s verse is Revelation 21:5:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:5 ESV)

God has made all things new through Jesus, He is making all things new in me (and you), and He will make all things new when He comes again one day.

That’s a promise you and I can count on we can write it down and depend on it.

What’s the word or phrase the Lord has given you for the new year?

What are the unholy alliances, the assumptions, the agreements with the enemy of your soul that you’ve made and need to confess and give to the Lord?

Have you asked the Lord for a promise from His Word that will carry you through the year?  If so, have you written it down and put it in a place that you will be reminded every day of His goodness and love toward you?

Blessings for your 2019,
~kevin

Christmas 2018

This year’s Christmas posting is a bit late, as the time leading up to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the days after Christmas have been filled with reflections on Jesus’ birth and much travel to spend precious time with family and friends.

Last year’s Christmas theme was laser-focused on one word, one thought, and one Person – “Emmanuel” – God with us – God coming to earth in human form – fully God and fully human – in Jesus.

This year’s Christmas theme has been an interesting journey, filled with a variety of seemingly unrelated topics and things, yet somehow all interconnected:

  • The Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2
  • A full moon this Christmas season
  • A book about experiencing God through desert and mountain landscapes
  • An old Christmas hymn

As I read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2, one verse seemed to jump out at me this year:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
(Luke 2:8 NIV)

Away from Bethlehem, away from the sounds of the city, out in the middle of nowhere, some shepherds were in the hillsides with their sheep, keeping an eye on them overnight from anyone or anything that would harm them or separate them from the flock.  Luke makes no mention of any issues with the shepherds or the sheep that particular night – probably a quiet evening as the sheep calmly grazed or bedded down on the hillside for the evening.

As I ventured outside in the evenings preceding Christmas, I was reminded of what it may have been like that first Christmas night – peace and quiet, a cloudless sky, a full moon giving sight to everyone and everything, the shepherds wrapped up, breathing in the cold, crisp air of the evening, a myriad of stars dotting the sky.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the city are fun and exciting, but the peace that comes from the wide-open spaces transcends understanding and is a healing balm to our souls.  In the open landscape of the wilderness, we experience the vastness of God, inexpressible with words or even thoughts.  In the wilderness and mountains, we come to know the presence of God without all our trappings that we think we need to survive and prosper – truly, being in God’s Presence is enough.  Author Belden Lane expresses this thought well around one aspect of our relating to God – through prayer:

“The desert practice of contemplative prayer abandons, on principle, all experiences of God or the self.  It simply insists that being present before God, in a silence beyond words, is an end in itself.” (The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, p. 12)

I am also reminded that this Christmas is the 200th anniversary of the traditional Christmas hymn “Silent Night”.  Much like the Christmas Story in Luke Chapter 2, the hymn was a culmination of both planning and what seemed like at the time an unfortunate circumstance – a request for a new hymn, and a malfunctioning pipe organ.  Rather than being led by the majestic reverberations of the church organ, this beloved hymn was led with a few simple chords strummed quietly on a guitar.

All four of these seemingly unrelated topics came together – the shepherds in the field in the Christmas story of Luke 2, the full moonlit night, the experience of God in the wide open spaces, and the simple lyrics of Silent Night – all are a reminder of the quiet, unassuming circumstances when our Lord made His way into the world, as a defenseless, helpless baby born to humble parents.

And yet, this was only the beginning of the story – about the Creator entering His creation and showing us how to live as He intended, giving us hope and purpose.

May we never lose sight of God entering into the everyday, both on that first Christmas, and today, right where we are.

May we carry that same reality into 2019.

Merry (Belated) Christmas,
~kevin

 

 

Genesis 42:1-24

42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food.11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”

12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!” 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
(Genesis 42:1-24 NIV)

As we ended Chapter 41, we saw Joseph promoted from prisoner to prime minister, the number two position in all of Egypt.  Joseph had interpreted the king’s dream, then offered a plan to save during the seven good years in order to survive the seven years of famine.  And the famine was not just in Egypt, but throughout the known world.

As we begin Chapter 42, we see the far-reaching effects of the famine – even to Canaan, the promised land where Jacob and his sons lived.  News spread throughout the region that there was food in Egypt, so Jacob sent his sons (minus Benjamin, the youngest) to buy grain so that they would be able to survive.

Because of the famine, Joseph was personally administering the sale of grain.  When Jacob’s sons (Joseph’s brothers) arrived, Joseph knew them immediately.  The last time Joseph had seen his brothers, he was seventeen years old (Genesis 37:2).

Joseph was thirty when the king promoted him, plus the seven prosperous years plus whatever time had elapsed into the seven years of famine.  Now 20-plus years later, Joseph instantly recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him.

Joseph then remembered the dreams the Lord had given him as a seventeen-year-old youth (Genesis 37:5-11).  God’s promise had come true – and was coming true – right in front of him!  Here were his brothers, bowing down before him, begging to buy grain!

Joseph knew that his brothers did not recognize him, so he kept them from recognizing him by speaking harshly to them, accusing them as spies, and speaking through an interpreter.  Joseph was not being mean or vindictive for what his brothers had done to him; he was disguising his identity behind his role as Egyptian official.

The brothers insisted that they were there as honest men, and that they were not spies.  They told their entire family history to Joseph, including their father, their lost brother (whom they were speaking to, but didn’t know it), as well as mentioning their younger brother Benjamin who did not come with them.

Joseph then used the mention of Benjamin as an opportunity to see his only full blood brother.  He told his brothers that they must go back to Canaan and bring back their younger brother as proof that they were not spies.  Initially, Joseph was going to send one brother back for Benjamin and hold the rest in custody, but instead held just one brother (Simeon) and sent the rest back to retrieve their youngest brother.

Throughout this ordeal, Joseph’s brothers came to the conclusion that this was their punishment for selling Joseph into slavery.  Reuben, the oldest brother, did an “I told you so” on his brothers, reminding them that this was their idea, not his, and that he had told them not to harm Joseph.

Hearing all this back story some 20 years later, Joseph had a flood of emotions running through him.  He excused himself and wept privately.  He then composed himself and returned to face his brothers and finish their business.

How do we face those who have hurt us in the past?  Are we vindictive and seek revenge for the wrongs done to us, or are we more like Joseph, with a tender heart toward those who have sinned against us?

May we forgive others as we have been forgiven by the Lord for our sins.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 41:33-57

33 “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”

37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders.Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food.55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”

56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.
(Genesis 41:33-57 NIV)

At the beginning of Chapter 41, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two very disturbing dreams, and none of the wise men of Egypt could provide an interpretation of those dreams.  The king’s cupbearer, whom had been imprisoned briefly, remembered Joseph and mentioned him to the king.  Joseph stood before the king, acknowledged that only God could provide the interpretation of dreams, then told the king what God had shown him about seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine so severe it would wipe out the memory of the years of plenty.

In today’s passage, Joseph does not just finish his interpretation, then walk away.  Rather, Joseph now offers the king his recommendation on how to survive the famine.  The Lord was giving Egypt seven bountiful years prior to seven years of famine, so they had to plan for the future and not live for the moment.

Pharaoh liked Joseph’s plan, and recognized that the plan as well as the interpretation of the dream was from God.  So Pharaoh made Joseph the number two person in all the land of Egypt, in charge of administering the famine plan and everything else in the kingdom.

Pharaoh also gave Joseph a new name, Zaphenath-Paneah.  The exact meaning of this name is not certain, but roughly translated, it means “God speaks, giving life to the world”.  This new name reflected God’s presence in Joseph’s life as well as trust that the king put in God and Joseph to see Egypt through this famine.  The Pharaoh also gave Joseph a wife, and they had two sons prior to the start of the famine years.

Verse 46 notes that Joseph was 30 years old when Pharaoh put him in charge of Egypt.  From our previous study of Joseph’s life, Genesis 37:2 tells us that Joseph was 17 years old when his brothers sold him into slavery.  God had been preparing Joseph through many years of trial and tribulation in order to fulfill this crucial role of seeing an entire country through years of plenty followed by years of famine.

The high rank the Pharaoh gave Joseph did not go to Joseph’s head; he kept his ego in check and faithfully led Egypt through the years of plenty, storing up grain in each community in preparation for the impending famine.

When the seven years of plenty ended, and the famine began, Pharaoh reinforced his earlier decree and pointed all the people to Joseph to meet their needs.

Verse 56 tells us that the famine was across all of Egypt, while verse 57 tells us that that famine was across the entire known world, not just Egypt.  Because Joseph had planned well and the Lord had prospered Joseph and Egypt, Joseph was able to provide food for others beyond the borders of Egypt.

May we be faithful in what God has called us to do, and may we see God’s love and abundance in everything He does in and through us.

May we share with others out of the abundance that God gives us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 41:1-32

41 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. 10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. 11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 12 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. 13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”

14 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.

15 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.”

16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.

22 “In my dream I saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.”

25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

28 “It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
(Genesis 41:1-32 NIV)

As we finished Chapter 40, we saw the king’s cupbearer restored to his former position, and the king’s baker put to death, just as the Lord had revealed to Joseph.  And the cupbearer never mentioned Joseph to the king.

As we begin Chapter 41, two years have elapsed since the cupbearer was restored to his position.  Life is good for the cupbearer, and Joseph is still languishing in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had two disturbing dreams.  In ancient Egyptian culture, dreams were very important.  The Egyptians believed dreams were often the way that their gods communicated with them.

Pharaoh likely had other dreams, but none as improbable as these two.  Pharaoh was troubled, so he gathered all his wise men and magicians to provide the interpretation and meaning of the dreams.  No doubt there were many suggestions offered, as the wise men and magicians wanted to be in the king’s good graces.  But none of the possible explanations provided the king with the answers he longed for.

Consider for a moment the absurdity, from a human standpoint, of the dreams.  Cows eating cows?  Cows are herbivores, not carnivores.  Ears of corn eating other ears of corn?  Plants don’t eat plants, and the fruit of plants don’t eat anything – they are eaten.

And even if cows could eat cows and ears of corn could eat ears of corn, how could this happen with no visible effect?  If you or I were to eat something twice our size, would not our size, our volume change?  And yet, in these dreams, the skinny, malnourished cows and the withered ears of corn looked exactly the same after they ate their well-nourished and plump counterparts.

With no plausible explanations and the king still troubled about the meaning of the dreams, the cupbearer conveniently chose to remember that there was someone that might be able to interpret the king’s dreams.

Make no mistake here – the cupbearer was not confessing wrongdoing before the king, no was he feeling guilt over not mentioning Joseph to the king.  Rather, the cupbearer was in this for himself and his own glory and self-serving nature.

The king sends for Joseph; after Joseph cleans up (having come from the dungeon), he appears before the king.  As an interesting aside, I wonder who the king assigned to get Joseph?  The text does not say… could it have been Potiphar, the very man that had imprisoned Joseph in the first place?

The text says that Joseph shaved and changed clothes.  Hebrew men often kept beards, while Egyptian men were clean-shaven.  Whomever brought Joseph from the prison wanted to be sure that Joseph looked presentable before the king.

Notice Joseph’s response when the king asked if he could interpret his dreams.  Joseph was quick to deny his own powers, but gave all the glory to God.  Joseph was also confident that God would give the king the answer that would satisfy his desire to know and understand the meaning of the dreams.  In a word, the king would have peace in his heart about the meaning of  the dreams.  The king may not like the answer, but there would be no doubt as to the meaning of the dreams.

It is important to look at the word Joseph used for God.  The Hebrew word is Elohim, the plural name of God.  This is clearly in reference to the Hebrew God, not a generic term for any deity, but Joseph’s God.  Joseph did not refer to the Egyptian deities, but to the Triune God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and himself.

After Pharaoh told Joseph his dreams, Joseph shared their meaning – 7 years of great abundance, followed by 7 years of intense famine that would wipe out any memory of the previous abundance.  And this was not something to happen in the long-distant future – this was beginning now.

When you and I are called to stand before others, what is out response?  Do we, like the cupbearer, use the opportunity to talk about ourselves, or do we simply give the glory to God as Joseph did?

May we remain faithful to the Lord, even in our own distresses and situational “jails” that we may be in, just as Joseph did.

May we be quick to give God the glory when we are asked to help others or give an account, just as Joseph did.

Next time, we’ll look at Joseph’s next words of recommendation to the king, and the king’s response.

Blessings,
~kevin