SERIES: 01 Genesis - 2009
MESSAGE: Genesis 40-41
SPEAKER: Skip Heitzig
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 40-41

In 1939, the groundbreaking movie Wizard of Oz hit the screens. You remember the film, just about everybody knows it. I started seeing it when I was just a wee chap and I remember the scene opening up with Dorothy, Judy Garland playing Dorothy, singing Somewhere over the Rainbow. And the lyrics are classic. Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high, there's a land that I dreamed of, once in a lullaby. Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true. But alas, there is no Wizard of Oz. There is no Emerald City like in the movie. There is no Tin Man who needs a heart, Scarecrow who lacks a brain, talking Lion who's looking for courage. It was a great movie but it was just a tale. But now we turn to a Bible story that is not just a tale--it's a true account. It's an account of a man, a young man, who dreamed dreams. His dreams really did come true. We saw those dreams awhile back when one night he dreamed that eleven sheaves of wheat, representing his brothers, all bowed down and did homage to his single sheaf of wheat. The mistake he made is not getting the dream; that was of God. The mistake, perhaps, he made in naïveté he told his brothers about it the next day expecting them to be all excited. Well of course they wouldn't be. He's already Dad's favorite. Look at the coat he wears. Now this dream. He had another dream. He told his Mom and Dad and brothers and that was a dream that the sun and the moon and the eleven stars all bowed down to his star in the dream. At this point Dad got upset with his son. What kind of a dream is that?! Do you think that your Mother and I also are gonna bow down? Well his dream really did come true. But not in the way that he anticipated it. For he was sold as a slave to Midianite traders going down to Egypt. He went to Potiphar's house but God was with him, gave him great status, so that Potiphar, because of his managerial skills, put him in a high position. It didn't take long till Potiphar's wife noticed the young man and, casting longing eyes at him, tried to get Joseph to commit sexual relations with her. He denied. She accused him of rape. He was placed into prison. That's where we find Joseph tonight: in prison. What an interesting life Joseph had. It seems that Joseph would take two steps forward and three steps backward. One day he's the favorite son of his father, the next day he's sold as a slave into Egypt. One day he's the head of Potiphar's house, the next day he's placed into prison under false accusation. Two steps forward, three steps backward. All the while God is working something very deep in this young man's life and shaping him. And the amazing thing is Joseph seems to be aware that God is doing something, though he certainly doesn't know what. But we never read of him complaining. Now while he was suffering, he was isolated. That is, there were no believers around him. None of his family, none of his friends. He had no copy of the Scriptures--there wasn't one. He had pagans who were watching him. And Dr. F.B. Meyer once said perhaps one of the reasons God calls His child or children to suffer is because onlookers, in viewing the life of a believer, see the reality of his or her faith when they suffer and they're drawn to that kind of a steadfast endurer of trials. I'll tell you what. It makes an impact when an unbeliever watches a Christian suffer and give glory to God and say I see God's plan. I might not see it clearly, but I know it's there. Huge impact. And that's the impact that he has made and will make. But how many sudden reversals happened in his life? Just when he's working his way up in Potiphar's house, now in prison. Just when he gets a dream from heaven, sold as a slave. When our lives have sudden reversals, how do we handle them? Well when they're going good, our lives, we love that. Oh Lord, thank You! I love You! I knew You would come through! Because it's in your favor. You see, the blessing is coming and you feel it, you see it, it's awesome. But what about a reversal, a setback? How do you treat God then? What do you say to God then? When the marriage seems like it's just being restored and then there's a setback, a reversal, so to speak. Just when you're conquering the addiction, it rears its ugly head and you fall or fail. When the cancer was in remission but now it's back. When the child, your child, is starting to grow spiritually and you see signs of hope, then they go off the deep end. Let's see how Joseph handles this. By the way, before we jump into verse 1, there's a key verse of Scripture that sort of gives away why and what accounts for Joseph's good behavior. You'll notice in verse 21 of chapter 39: "But the Lord was with Joseph." He was in prison... but the Lord was with Joseph. You may want to underline that or at least remember that. In verse 23: "The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph's authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper." Now, "It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker" and the candlestick maker, oh that's not there, "the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined." The word baker, we get what a baker is; he bakes bread, he makes food for the king, for the pharaoh, but butler isn't perhaps the best translation. We think of a guy with a little bowtie and a tuxedo opening and closing the door. The NIV translates it cupbearer--a better translation. He was the ancient equivalent of secret service agent making sure that whatever went into the king's presence was secure. That his food or drink wasn't poisoned, so he would taste it first. Nehemiah had that position in the Persian court of Artaxerxes. Something happened in this court of Pharaoh. We don't exactly know what it was. Something bothered him and so these guys are thrown in jail but not by accident--by appointment--because we see in verse 4, "the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them." Joseph is now in charge at prison. What a guy! You know, give this guy any mundane task and he'll say, I'm up for it, I'll be faithful at that. He won't say well that's not my job description. You're a slave. Then I'll be the best slave there is. You're a prisoner. I'll be the best prisoner you got. So everywhere he goes, whether a slave in Potiphar's house, Potiphar says this guy's so trustworthy, so faithful, I've had my eye on him, give him more, until he's over his house. Now in prison--same thing. He's in charge. And these guys come under his custody and he served them. "So they were in custody for a while. Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man's dream in one night and each man's dream with its own interpretation." In ancient times, especially the countries of Egypt and Babylon, dreams were a huge deal. They were highly significant in their theology and cosmogony. They believed that the gods, the pantheon of gods, communicated with people through dreams. They had a dream in one night. It wasn't the gods communicating--it was God, singular, Joseph's God, communicating. "And Joseph came," verse 6, "to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of the lord's house, saying, "Why do you look so sad today?" Frankly, I'm amazed that Joseph even noticed they were sad. There's an interesting thing about your own personal suffering. Whenever you're suffering, whatever the hardship might be, it tends to be very self-focused. It tends to make a person consumed with it, where you don't really care about much else or anyone else. This is your deal, man. This is your personal suffering. The fact that Joseph noticed it and then, second, the fact that he asked them about it. He didn't say what's up with you? He just noticed and politely said why is it that you are sad? I think there's a principle to be learned here. I think that one of the keys to enduring your own hardship is to push the pause button on your hardship and go find someone who has it worse than you have it and serve that person. You are deliberately now taking the focus off of your own needs, momentarily, to minister to someone else's needs who is in far greater need than you are. And it has amazing results of lifting you out and giving you a fresh perspective in suffering. I had a friend years ago, we went to the same church in California, and this guy was going through a very difficult time in his life. He was a Christian musician and he, very artistic, and he had ups and he had downs and he was going through a very down time. A rough spot. He was dealing with his own depression and he went to one of the assistant pastors at our church. The assistant pastor said Eric, this will cure you. Tomorrow I want to send you to one of the nursing homes that we work with. And he gave a list of the names of the patients I want you to visit and then come back and tell me what the Lord said to you, what He did with you. Eric did it and came back a few days later and he said I'm not feeling like I felt. I'm sort of cured. I ministered to people who are dying. I ministered to people who are in advanced stages of a certain disease and I looked at their problems and I considered my own problems and yeah, I still have them, but it's just like a perspective check--a reality check. That made such an impact on me that some years later when I was here and we just started pastoring, I tried this with a girl who was in a ward in a local hospital, a mental ward, she was on suicide watch, she attempted suicide. And I visited her and I listened to her and she was really down and I said now when you get out of here, there's something I want you to do, but I'm not gonna tell you what it is till you get out. I want you to come and see me. So what I did is I gave her a small task, not much, the only task was you have an appointment with me when you get out. that's all she had to do. But when you're depressed, that's huge. Little tasks become huge tasks. But that was the only task I gave her. And then when she came and saw me, I employed sort of the same thing. I said there's some people I want you to visit. She came to me and she said, she smiled, your strategy worked. She goes I know what you're doing. She's been in those joints enough times. I know what you're doing and it worked. And she goes now I'm helping other people in their depression. So here's Joseph. He's in prison. He's not supposed to be there, falsely accused, and he notices the sadness of prisoners and he stops and he asks them why they're sad. "And they said to him, "We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it." So Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please." Please--how polite. Please to a fellow prisoner. Please. How often does that happen? "Then the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, "Behold, in my dream a vine was before me." Now we would not have fault, we would not find fault with Joseph if he were to say right about here: stop right there. Don't tell me about your dream. It was my dreams that got me into trouble to begin with. I hate dreams. I don't subscribe to dreams. Rather, this statement is an affirmation of faith. As if to say, tell me more because I do believe in dreams. I've had my own dreams. And though they haven't come true, I believe God and I believe they will come true. So tell them to me. It's a very strong affirmation of his faith that God has spoken to him and though he has not seen any sign of its fruition for years, he still trusts in God. So he says tell me. Guy starts to tell him about his dream. "And," verse 10, "in the vine there were three branches; it was as though it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. Then Pharaoh's cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand." And Joseph said to him, "This is the interpretation." He knew it right away. "Three branches are three days. Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler." So the dream is a positive interpretation. It's a good dream. It's a dream of being restored back to the previous place. Your head's gonna be lifted up. That's a biblical idiom of restoration and favor. You may remember Psalm 3: the Lord is the lifter of my head. You're down and you're dejected, like a little kid, head down, the Lord comes and lifts your head up, let's you see things correctly. So you will find favor and you'll be restored back to your former position. "But," he says, "remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house." Joseph saw this not only as a chance to serve the prisoners, but he saw this as the first ray of hope in getting out of prison. This was his get-out-of-jail-free card quite literally. He thought great. I know this is gonna happen and when it happens, if this guy puts in a good word for me to the pharaoh, I might get out. so remember me. Put in a good word for me when you're in the pharaoh's house. "For indeed," verse 15, "I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon. When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, "I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head." The baker's been listening to the butler tell his dream. He didn't speak up first; he's just sort of waiting. He's troubled by his dream. But in hearing the dream and the interpretation, he thinks great! That was a positive outcome. And no doubt he's thinking that Joseph's gonna say well, you're gonna be sprung outta here and serving it up at the pharaoh's table in no time. But his dream turns into a nightmare as he hears the interpretation. Verse 17: "In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head." So Joseph answered and said, "This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you." See what I mean by nightmare? The dream turned into The Nightmare on Pyramid Street. It's not what he expected to hear. He thought it would be favorable like the first guy's. Notice the difference in the dreams? In the first dream, he sees the pharaoh's cup in his hands. The pharaoh's drinking out of his cup. In the second dream, though the bread basket is for Pharaoh, birds are eating out of that basket. Now let me just throw this out at you so you can keep it in your mind. In prophetic Scripture, or in Scripture, parabolic Scripture, prophetic Scripture, birds are often a symbol that portend evil not good. I'll give you a few examples that come to mind--there are more. In Matthew chapter 13 Jesus gave the parable of the sower and the seed. And the seed fell upon rocky soil and the birds of the air came and snatched it up, speaking of how Satan removes the Word of truth from a person's heart as soon as they hear it. Also in Matthew 13, Jesus gave a parable of the mustard seed, that it's the smallest seed in the herb garden but this huge tree grows from it and the birds of the air lodge in its branches. The follow-up parable to that is the parable of the leaven and leaven is a symbol of evil and birds was also a symbol of the evil that would lodge within that organized community throughout church history within the church. Then there's Revelation chapter 18. Mystery Babylon. Babylon is fallen, is fallen, which has become the habitation of every foul bird and unclean bird. So here's another example of how they don't portend good but evil. So yep, three more days, your days are numbered, your head's coming off and you're a dead dude and birds will eat your flesh off of you. Ouch. "Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants." But in two quite different manners. "He restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet," now watch this, "Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." Hey remember me when you get outta here! I shouldn't be here. I didn't commit any crime. Tell Pharaoh. I wanna get outta here. Remember me. But he didn't remember him. He forgot him. There's certain experiences in your life that you cannot control. They happen to you. You wish they wouldn't happen to you. But they happen to you. Jesus said the sun and the rain fall on the just and the unjust. You can't control all the things that happen to you in life. However, you can control your response to all the things that happen to you. That's in your control. How do you take it? What is your response to it? Imagine what it was like for William Sangster, a great preacher in England a century ago. When he went to doctors and the doctors told him that he had a progressive muscular atrophy disease, that his muscles would waste away. Eventually he would lose his voice; even he would be unable to swallow at the latter stages of the disease. That's what he was told. He went home and he wrote down four things he was committed to, four little things that he wrote on his pad. And he kept them to the day of his death. Number one, he said I will never complain. I'm not gonna say poor me, woe is me. I'm gonna trust in God. I'll never complain--number one. Number two, I'm gonna make my home a bright place. Instead of a, you know, sad, horrible, because people would think, kids, grandkids, they're not gonna wanna visit me. I'm gonna make the home a happy and bright place. Number three, he said I'm gonna count my blessings. I'm gonna think of all the things God has done for me, through me, in my life. And fourth and finally, he said I'm gonna try to turn this horrible situation into something good. He knew that he wouldn't always be able to speak and so he took to writing books, articles, pamphlets. He got involved in the British home missionary group which had home fellowships around England and started prayer fellowships around England that prayed for missions and got involved. And to his dying day, he kept those four commitments. You can't control what happens to you. You can control your response. Joseph was hoping that he would hear news any day--disappointment. Look at verse 1 of chapter 41: "Then it came to pass, at the end of two full years. Stop right there. Whoa! Two full years. Can you just picture Joseph? He didn't know what was coming. Three days later after the interpretation was given, he thought he would hear keys clinging down the hallway of the prison, thinking great, this is my great escape. But those days passed and a week passed and another week passed and a month and six months and twelve months and twenty-four long, lonely, uneventful months, two full years pass--nothing happened. If I were to write a proverb, a Scripture at the beginning of chapter 41, I would write Proverbs 21 verse 1. It's that proverb that says the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord. And like the courses of water, He pushes it wherever He wants it to go. God is doing that here. Why did God wait two years? I can't answer that. If I were to give you some fancy theological answer, it'd be so shallow. I don't know why. I think I'm safe, however, in saying God was still, let's say, putting some finishing touches on Joseph. God was working some deep things--a heart of trust. If you remember when Joseph first started, he was pretty brash, naïve, pampered, spoiled. He didn't have to work. He had the coat that says you're the supervisor. You might be the youngest brother, but you're in charge of your brothers--go spy on them for me. Tell me if they're doing something bad. That's the lifestyle he was used to: pampered. God is working something deep in his life. "At the end of two full years, that Pharaoh had a dream; and behold, he stood by the river." Now it's the dream that's gonna call for Joseph's unique skill set in interpreting the dreams. Here's a thought I want you to put in your mind and we'll kinda capitalize on it throughout this study and at the end and probably next week. You have no idea what God is preparing for you right now that won't come to pass for maybe two years. You have no clue. Oh, this is horrible. You don't know what God is preparing you for--what work God is preparing you for. You ever think that way? Do you ever think when you're deep and down in the muck? Wow! God's preparing me for something great! That takes a little bit of foresight by faith to think that way. But how about it? How about that attitude? A.W. Tozer was right, I believe, when he said I doubt that God has ever blessed anyone greatly before He has hurt them greatly. What if Joseph would've just gone from this spoiled kid watching over his brothers, favored boy with the coolest coat in town, to second-in-command over the world? What would his story be? Well, you know, I was always that special child and people saw it in me since I was a kid from my dad all the way up to Pharaoh. Now he has no room to boast. It's all the Lord. So after two full years, Pharaoh had a dream. "Suddenly there came up out of the river seven cows," that's the Nile River, "fine looking and fat; and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river." The river in Pharaoh's dream is the only river in Egypt--the Nile River. The longest river in the world, by the way: 1,640 miles long. 47 miles long. It begins in Equatorial Africa, goes all the way to the Mediterranean, and when it hits the Mediterranean it fans out into this massive delta. And because of that Nile delta with all of the silt and all of the water, it made Egypt the breadbasket of the world. And they capitalized on what was called the flooding of the Nile. Every year in Egypt, from time immemorial, consistently, regularly, every year the Nile floods and they capitalize by diverting the water to different little rivulets, through rivulets like there is in the valley here with the Rio Grande, but on a more massive scale. And cows in Egypt would feed in the river. They would submerge themselves up to their necks to avoid the flies and the searing heat that is in Egypt and feed on the reeds of the river. And so it's not an uncommon sight. Now they're coming out and they're big, fat cows. That's a good sign. But then there's these ugly, ugly, thin-looking, emaciated cows. "And the ugly and gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke." Boy that troubled him. You know dreams are weird, right? You know, there's things in your dreams when if you try to tell it, you think, oh my goodness, this sounds really bad because things don't connect well, they don't connect logically. But it's a dream. It's what your mind is producing, what you're dealing with; in this case what God is speaking to them about. But it was the troublesome dream; it woke him up. Have you ever had one of these dreams, you wake up and you go, man that was a weird dream. I'm gonna go back to sleep. I hope I don't have that dream again--and then you do? And it's worse? I used to have those kind all the time growing up. Well, it gets worse. "He slept and dreamed a second time; and suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stalk, plump and good. Then behold, seven thin heads, blighted by the east wind, sprang up after them. And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed, it was a dream." Can you see him sweating on his bed? Man that was weird. Just a little insight into the topography and geography of the land. See it says blighted by the east wind? There's a phenomena in the near east, in the Middle East, called the humsin or the southeast wind. About every spring this wind blows through and it heats up everything. I have been in those humsins where one day it's cool, the next day it's blistering hot--overnight. It can wither crops overnight. They say that the temperature can go fifty to sixty degrees higher than it was before during a humsin in a few hours. In Egypt, the temperatures in the spring will suddenly rise up to 105 degrees during one of these blighting east winds. And I remember working on a kibbutz and I would say what happened last night? Because you get up in the morning and there's this yellow smog over the earth and bugs everywhere--everywhere. In everything. And they say oh that's the humsin. That's the east wind. It's a regular occurrence during the springtime. He sees that in his dream--wakes up. "Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled, and 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 for Pharaoh." Pharaoh was troubled for a good reason. His dreams focused on the two greatest assets of ancient Egypt: cows and grain. His entire economy supported by the Nile River hinged on those two things. Moreover, the cow, to an ancient Egyptian, was the symbol of the goddess Isis. The goddess of agriculture, of fertility, of the land and the cow symbolized all of the earth. They believed in mother earth. They believed that the earth, symbolized by the goddess herself, gave them all of these things. And now the earth was blighted and that's what this dream is portending. Now we know something. We know that God is orchestrating this. This is all part of God's master plan. Give the pharaoh a dream. Bug the pharaoh with the dream. Have the pharaoh wake up in cold sweats and call everybody saying man I had a bad night's sleep--interpret this dream. And then enter Joseph, who will tell the dream. It brings Joseph into the court of Pharaoh. Why is that good? Because he's gonna bring his family down to Egypt, the children of Israel are gonna grow in a land, fulfilling Genesis chapter 15, for 400 years your nation, this nation, will be down in Egypt and will populate, and then, after that time, send them back to the land of Canaan, giving the Canaanites a chance to repent like God had said earlier in Genesis, and then giving the children of Israel this land, and having it subsidized by the Egyptian government. Now listen to what I just said. God's gonna give them the land of Canaan. He's gonna send them back to the land subsidized by the Egyptian government. They're gonna spoil the Egyptians and take their loot with them when they go. I love God's economy. And I believe God is interested in economy. You know that Paul always wanted to go to Rome, right? He wrote the Romans and said, I'm coming. I'm coming. By God's grace, I'll be there. Well he didn't anticipate how the Lord would arrange for him to be in Rome. How did he get there? He was arrested; he became a prisoner for two years, standing trial before Festus Felix and Agrippa. He finally says I'm done with this nonsense. I appeal to Caesar. And the procurator said you appeal to Caesar, to Caesar you will go. So now Paul is placed on a prison ship, an Egyptian grain ship, hired by the Roman government, paid for by the Roman government. Paul is placed in custody of the Roman government. He gets an all-expense paid trip to Rome. Paid for by the Roman government. He doesn't have to raise missionary support. It allows him to give his defense before the king, King Caesar Nero, strengthen the church in Rome, write letters from the church in Rome, strengthen the churches even to this day. All a part of God's plan. God has an interesting economy. You'll notice in verse 8 that he was troubled but it says no one could interpret these dreams for Pharaoh. Now this is puzzling. It's not puzzling that they couldn't interpret it because it was a dream for God, but you would at least think they would make something up. You know, give it a try. Well yes actually what this means Pharaoh is... just sorta like. I gotta guess because I don't wanna die. Those who interpreted dreams in ancient times were the priestly caste. Now it was believed in ancient Egyptian thinking that the gods gave people dreams but would not give them the interpretation. They had to figure it out. There were clues and so these dream seekers would read the hieroglyphics in tombs and ancient dream literature for keys on dream interpretation. It was quite a science. They couldn't figure it out! It's a set-up. "Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying, "I remember my faults this day." Like, oh yeah! "When Pharaoh was angry with his servants, and put me in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, both me and the chief baker, we each had a dream in one night, he and I. Each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now there was a young Hebrew man with us there, a servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him, and he interpreted our dreams for us; to each man he interpreted according to his own dream. And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him." Now Joseph meanwhile is back in jail. Doesn't know this is happening. His whole world is about to change. You know Joseph got up that morning, maybe looked around at the walls of his cell and thought yep, another day in the dungeon. He had no clue what was coming. Now his story so far has been from riches to rags. Now it turns from rags to riches. "Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh." Now why did he do that? You might say well he just was an upstanding man. He's a man of personal hygiene. He's a prisoner. They don't afford him personal hygiene. They did it because, according to Egyptian custom, men were completely shaven: no beards, no moustaches, no goatees, no soul patches, no hair on the head--completely shaved. Cue ball. Joseph never would've shaved as a Hebrew, as Hebrew custom goes, never would've shaved the corners of his beard or his beard. It was a sign very unique to the Hebrews even according to the Law that will be given later by Moses. But he's in Egypt. And he's a prisoner. And when you're in Egypt, you walk like an Egyptian, you dress like an Egyptian, you kinda do the, he appeared like an Egyptian: clean-shaven. Cue ball. "And Pharaoh said to Joseph, I've dreamed a dream, or "I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that you can understand a dream, to interpret it." Listen to his answer. Joseph answered Pharaoh, "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace." I'm always amazed at Joseph's answers. I'm amazed that the first words of his mouth aren't words of blame. He didn't say first of all, let me tell you, I don't deserve to be here, that Potiphar creep and his wife and then that butler. Ida been here a lot earlier if that butler would've remembered. And the words to Pharaoh are honest but there's a hint of boldness. He's standing before the ruler of the world at that time, and he goes no really, it's not me at all. The Lord. The Lord--this is His gig. Somebody once said if you kneel before God, you can stand before anybody. I think those two years in prison solidified the rock solid trust in God that is exhibited here. He didn't care who Pharaoh is. He cares who God is. He doesn't care what Pharaoh thinks about him. He cares what God thinks about him. It's the same kind of tenacity that John the Baptist had with Herod, same kind of tenacity Paul the apostle had with Felix Festus in Agrippa, same kind of tenacity that Elijah the prophet had with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. If you kneel before God you can stand before anyone. What a great answer. It's not in me--God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace. "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph: "Behold, in my dream I stood on the bank of the river." And he retells the whole story that we just read. Pick it up now in verse 24 at the end: "So I told this to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me." Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do." Pharaoh got two dreams. They meant the same thing. Joseph got two dreams. They meant the same thing. He's on very familiar ground as he's speaking to the pharaoh about this. He said, "The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years; the dreams are one. And the seven thin and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads blighted by the east wind [the heads of grain] are seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken to Pharaoh. God has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. Indeed seven years of great plenty will come throughout all the land of Egypt; but after them seven years of famine will arise, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine will deplete the land. So the plenty will not be known in the land because of the famine following, for it will be very severe. And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass." Now he's gonna give him some helpful advice. Number one, you need good management. "Now therefore, let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint officers over the land, to collect one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt in the seven plentiful years." So it's time to start saving, Pharaoh. Not spending--saving. You need to save because the future looks really bleak. So you need to save 20% and store it up because when this country really goes through an economic downfall, you will have been prepared for it. Good counsel! Good advice. Let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. Then that food shall be as a reserve for the land for the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land may not perish during the famine." So the advice was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants." Joseph is very forthright, very honest, gives the interpretation, and then gives him advice. And it's pretty wonderful advice. The advice he's giving isn't well, you know, have you ever thought, I do have some experience in Potiphar's house and... He never sold himself. A good servant, a good employee, is always thinking of what's best for his boss or the organization, not what's easiest for him. Moreover, there's a great Scriptural principle: if you're faithful in something small that you'll also be faithful in something big and that will be given to you. Luke chapter 16. That's the thought there. The advice is good and in the eyes of the servants. "And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?" Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you." Here's a pagan king who looks at this godly young man and sees something special in him. And is willing at that point, because of the situation and the setup of the dream, the crisis he's facing, maybe at this time he learns a little history on Joseph, is willing to put Joseph in charge. Good strategy because if Joseph is wrong than he's gonna be the first guy that's gonna get ... judged by the pharaoh. Good plan. You're the guy. I employ this strategy. I like it when somebody says I have an idea for our fellowship. How about if we did this or that ministry and I go great! Go do it. Start it. Start organizing it. Get people to pray about it. And if it looks like it's coming together and it keeps the right values, great, then we'll just, we'll announce it, we'll do it. Joseph came up with the interpretation by the Spirit of God so Joseph is put in charge over Egypt. You know I read this and I think the idea of unbelievers looking at believers and saying there's something special in that guy, in that girl. There's something wonderful about that person. I want to entrust more of my business to that person. Quite often, however, unfortunately, it's the opposite. I've had people say I really am not interested in hiring Christians. They always want the bro deal. Hey bro, can I have a special break because I'm your bro? Can I have a special deal? Because, after all, we're brothers and sisters in Christ so treat me specially and differently than anybody else. And they say they take advantage of us. He saw something special in Joseph and must've heard the reports so he's given this place. Now watch what he does. This is incredible. Probably only have time to read a few more verses but... verse 40: "You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you." You are number two to me. "And Pharaoh said to Joseph, "See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt." Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, "Bow the knee!" So he set him over all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh also said to Joseph, "I am Pharaoh, and without your consent no man may lift his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt." It's as if, for all intents and purposes, Pharaoh gave Joseph carte blanche. He had financial control. You're in charge of Egypt. Geographic control--you're in charge of Egypt. Financial control--you're in charge of this plan. The third thing he gave him was an upgraded wardrobe. Fine linen, Egyptian linen, with a little bling--gold. His own private limousine, personalized chariot. Course his license plate would've read Number Two. Pharaoh's would've been Number One. But talk about an upgrade in life. To go from prison to prime minister? Second in command? People have read this and said this is impossible. And here's another reason why many of us intelligent people don't believe the Bible. Because you don't have this sudden elevation of somebody from such a low status. I beg to differ with you. There have been plenty of records in Egyptian papyri and in hieroglyphics found in tombs that give examples of people of low status positioned almost instantaneously to a high position. One was a guy named Psunohae who was a runaway, in exile for a number of years, degraded from the court, was brought back after exile, returned to the throne, brought back into the court, and given a high position. And then people will say well that may be but when that happened those were Egyptians. They weren't of any other race but the Egyptian race. Certainly a Semite like Joseph wouldn't be elevated to this position in a place like Egypt. Again, I beg to differ with you. Some years ago there were some letters found called the Amarna Letters. It was correspondence written by Canaanite scribes about the relations between Canaan and Egypt as far back as the 14th century BC. And one of the letters describes a Semite who was elevated to a high position in Egypt and called the greatest mouth. Closed quote. Quote, unquote "the greatest mouth" or spokesman in all the land of Egypt--in all the world. So given quite a high authority just under Pharaoh. So both in the Bible and outside the Bible, this practice is confirmed. Verse 45. Joseph gets married. Oh, I didn't read verse 44. "Pharaoh also said to Joseph, "I am," oh I did read that. Verse 45: And Pharaoh called Joseph's name. Here's his name: "Zaphnath-Paaneah." That's his new name. Can you say that ten times? I can't even say it once. Zaphnath-Paaneah. I like Joseph better. It is thought to mean savior of the world. Interesting name. Savior of the world. That's one of the interpretations that are given in Egyptian. "And he gave him as a wife Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On. So Joseph went over all the land of Egypt." So he's married into a very high-ranking family of this priest, the priest of On was the priest who was in charge of all the other priests, officiated at all the festivals, and there's a temple, the remains are in Hierapolis even to this day. This priest officiated at that huge temple. So Joseph is married into this family. Now people have objected to this. Why would Joseph do that? He didn't have a choice. This is conscribed to him by the king. It's what he's gonna do. You're in our territory. You're gonna marry this girl. She's your wife. You're given this task. It says, "Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt." Thirty years old. Once a prisoner. Thirty years old. J. Oswald Sanders said very few men can hold this full of a cup and do it well. It's one thing to go through adversity. It's quite another temptation to handle prosperity and not get taken in full of pride because of a sudden elevation. I have watched people put in places of authority or status or sudden wealth. They win the lottery. It ruins them. They can't handle it. They can't hold the full cup steady enough. It gets to them. "Now in the seven plentiful years the ground brought forth abundantly. So he gathered up all the food of the seven years which were in the land of Egypt, and laid up the food in the cities; he laid up in every city the food of the fields which surrounded them." I'm reading fast because the time's almost up. "Joseph gathered very much grain, as the sand of the sea, until he stopped counting, for it was immeasurable. And to Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, whom Asenath, the daughter of Poti-Pherah priest of On, bore to him. Joseph called the name of the firstborn," forgetful, "Manasseh," Manasseh, "For God has made me forget," I love this, "all my toil and all my father's house." Here's a guy, instead of holding on, but I've been slighted and I've been forgotten and my brothers and they, just like forget about it. I'm gonna forget about it. I'm gonna even name my son Forget About It. Forgetful. Manasseh. Or if you like, Amnesia. I've forgotten the bad stuff. "And the name of the second he called Ephraim," which is doubly fruitful or twice fruitful. "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction." This is similar to Paul the apostle. Forgetting those things which are behind, I press forward to those things which are before me. There comes a time when you just gotta let go of the past hurts. Get over it. If you can't learn to get over it, get some help to get over it. But get over it. And like Sangster, count your blessings. This has happened but I'm counting my blessings. God made me fruitful; I'm forgetting the past. So two boys: Amnesia, Ambrosia. "Then the seven years of plenty which were in the land of Egypt ended, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. The famine was in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. So when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread. Then Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph," that's his job, do whatever he says to you, whatever he says to you, do it. "The famine was over all the face of the earth, and Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold to the Egyptians. And the famine became severe in the land of Egypt." Stop for just a moment and consider what Joseph's first order as second-in-command might have been. Well now that I'm in this position as the prime minister, the second-in-command over Egypt, my first command is to bring Potiphar out and his wife who accused me and that idiot butler who forgot me and I'm gonna hang them all. This could've been payback time. Not a word. No pettiness. No bitterness. He has let it go. Can I just say let God handle your butlers, your Potiphars, the people who forget you or people who lie about you or do you... just give it to the Lord. You know that God is better at handling them than you are. He's more effective. There are times when I've been tempted to lash out, do something in vengeance. But I realize that God is so much better. Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord. I will repay. Great! It's Your job. Go for it. I'll just kick back and trust You and forget about the whole situation. Now I've been told this and I believe this: if you want to defend yourself, God will let you. Or you can just say the Lord is my defense. Move on; forget about it. Move forward. And he does that. "So all countries came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain, because the famine was severe in all lands." As we close, I want you to put this thought and walk away with it. put it in your mind, put it in your heart, walk away with it, mull it over. I don't know what you're going through tonight. Some of you I know because of the crowd this size are going through some very difficult waters. You feel forgotten. Maybe Joseph even felt forgotten by God. He could've been tempted, at least, in that regard. Who knows what God is right now preparing for you in the next couple months, in the next few years, and He's using this time to shape you. We all know Romans 8:28: all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. We all know that one. But I wonder how many of us remember Romans 8:29? That we are predestined by God to be conformed to the image of Christ. The reason God allows all of those things is for that shaping, that conforming. Now you know what? As I read it, there's a lot more stuff, trials, shaping, that I'm gonna go through because I'm not yet in the image of Christ. There's a lot of molding and shaping yet to go. But I'm also cognizant that it's all in preparation for something else. I could live with that. I'll go a step further. I can rejoice in that. And you'll never rejoice until you start seeing God's hand and let God handle your Potiphars. Let God handle your butlers and move on.


Genesis 40-41 - Genesis 40-41 |
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