God often seems to get things backwards. It would be so much easier for us to follow Him if He explained where He was taking us right at the start. Instead, He expects us to obey a simple direction, take a meandering journey, and only find out why when we arrive at the destination. Now what’s the sense in that!
Joseph arrived at a strange place in his journey. There he was, facing pharaoh who, like him, had dreamed two similar dreams. Pharaoh was troubled; none of his magicians could interpret the dreams. However, God gave Joseph the meaning and Joseph made a confident statement: the double dream meant that, “the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.”1 Pharaoh should prepare for a famine.
What went through Joseph’s mind as he spoke so confidently? His own double dream seemed so out of reach. Whether Joseph viewed his dreams with the same confidence or not, he was able to make a strong statement of faith. There are times when words and acts of faith must fly in the face of apparent reality.
Only when ten travel-weary brothers stepped to the front of the grain distribution line and bowed did Joseph catch his breath.2 Perhaps Egypt was not the death of a dream after all; God was at work. But Joseph’s dream featured eleven prostrated brothers. Patiently and wisely, Joseph arranged to have the last brother, Benjamin, brought to Egypt too.
It is easy to think that the realization of God’s plans for our lives will be positive, rewarding, fulfilling, joyful, and exciting. Do any of us see tears in our dreams? Does agonizing over the fate of entire nations feature in our early visions? Selfless service to save a famine-stressed people was Joseph’s lot. My immature interpretations of God’s words placed me in the center of the action and rewarded me with the best prizes. The fulfillment of dreams from God is never about our ego, it is about something much bigger that requires us to share the passions and perspectives of God. It is about God’s kingdom purposes for society through history.
As humans we focus on end results; God cares about character change. From God’s perspective, preserving a people was simple; preparing a Joseph without squashing his free will required a process. If God had explained His goal first, Joseph would probably have become proud and started issuing orders. Instead, Joseph matured as the servant of God’s purposes:
God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Gen. 45:7-8)
Joseph’s dreams really had little to do with the family bowing to him; prostration was merely the sign of fulfillment. God needed a servant in place to preserve the life of the family, the nation, the seed of Abraham, and ultimately the Messiah.
Whose dreams are you dreaming?
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