Joseph had a dream… Then Joseph had another dream. -Genesis 37:5 & 9
Joseph dreamed two big dreams that foretold the future. He shared his dreams with his brothers. His brothers already hated him. Hearing his dreams caused them to hate him more. His brothers got what the dream meant and didn’t like it.
His brothers were set on killing him. After one brother intervened on Joseph’s behalf, his brothers instead sold him for 20 shekels of silver. Things got a little better when he was placed as a house servant, but then Joseph was falsely accused and went to prison.
Joseph was placed in deplorable, offensive conditions. Yet, in all his suffering, in all the injustice, we do not have a record of Joseph being bitter, having self-pity, being disabled with depression, or taking offense. We do know that the Lord was with him in a special way that, showing him loyalty, mercy, and kindness; which gave him favor with some of those around him (Gen. 39:2, 21).
Psalm 105:18-19 tells us: “They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.”
After Joseph’s dream came true and he was reconciled with his brothers, he told them: “You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today.” -Gen. 50:20
Joseph was born into a very special family, special in many ways. Joseph had 10 older half brothers who had the same dad, Jacob, but different mom’s than Joseph; who’s mom was his dad’s favorite wife, Rachel. Jacob and Rachel have their own special story or trials and joy in getting together. Jacob had to wait 14 years to marry Rachel, after falling deeply in love with her, because of the challenges that Rachel’s father, Laban imposed upon them.
When Rachel and Jacob finally got married, they where tried by many years of infertility that was heartbreaking for her. Finally, Rachel was able to conceive and Joseph was born. When Joseph was seven, his mom bore another son; but Rachel died during childbirth. So, Joseph lost his mom when he was only seven.
With this as the back drop, you might not be surprised to learn that Jacob’s favoritism towards Rachel, compared to his several other wives, would be transferred onto Joseph (Gen. 37:3). Joseph was dad’s favorite and his ten older brothers knew it and hated him for it(Gen 37:4). Perhaps Jacob was pretty obvious about his favor towards Joseph. Dad created all the pain and dysfunction by having children with four different ladies, and then treating them differently.
Joseph was put in an awkward position between his dad and brothers (Gen. 37:2) which may have been due to Jacob’s favor on him or his natural gifts and talents in management. Nevertheless, this triangle was toxic and created an icy silence between the older brothers and dad’s favorite.
It has been estimated that 99% of us come from dysfunctional families. You may think that your family background disqualifies you from a blessing. It is not true. God uses people from every background and from every sort of dysfunctional family.
I went into detail about Joseph’s background to encourage you to understand your background as well. Knowing our parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ lives can give us clues as to why our parents and we had issues, dysfunctions, sin-patterns, or addictions. God has always been there, ready and willing to redeem sin; but we have to interact with him. You may be the first one or an exception to the rule of growth avoidance in your family.
In this climate of family dysfunction, Joseph shared his dream of domination over them, to them. Even Jacob was taken aback by the audacity, but Jacob who had his own encounters with God, bore some sort of witness perhaps that these dreams were of importance (Gen 37:11).
We can learn something from Joseph’s perhaps premature or unwise sharing of his dreams. On the one hand, keep it to yourself. Who is safe and unsafe to share your pearl with? Others, even and especially your own family, may not understand. Even Jesus had this issue with his immediate family.
Prophetic dreams or words are going to usually be in stark contrast to today’s reality. God speaks to us in dreams or visions or words about the future and we look a lot better there. Some or many others don’t like this. Envy, jealousy, pride, and hate; are where many unsanctified people are at. You might know the story of the crab that decides to leave the bucket that has no top on it. As the crab reaches up with his powerful arm, to lift himself up to the rim and escape; another crab notices and pulls him back down. That is the way it is too often with people.
But, God used the family dysfunction, the favoritism, the hate, and the evil of a premeditated murder to save the world. Sounds familiar. Like it or not, God intervenes into our human drama. God used Joseph in the context of his dysfunctional family. This is good news.
We don’t have to cloister ourselves on a holy hilltop retreat to receive a word from God. Although getting away to seek God and spend time with God is good. Getting away to hear is a good thing for us all to do, whether it is a prayer closet, special place, or a retreat.
God, being God, can speak to us where we are, in the valley. This is what God did with Joseph. He had dreams while sleeping in the midst of his family who were hostile to him.
After Joseph’s dreams, the opposite happened in his life. Things went from bad to worse when he was falsely accused by his master’s wife. He went from slave to imprisoned slave. Joseph was carrying a massive promise, but had to endure a cross.
We all have a cross to bear. Jesus commands all of us to take up our crosses. We need to lean in to the pain, the hurt, and the sorrow of our cross and let it do it’s work.
After receiving our prophecy comes a time of development. Many times we will think the prophecy is declaring, “now this is you”, and we step out and fail. We are tempted to think we missed it or the person who gave us the word was wrong.
If the word was true, we need development to wear it. God will take us through years usually of development including “on the job training”. Some day, in the future, you will realize you are now living the word that seemed impossible at the time it was given.
You will have small and large crosses bear and sacrifices to offer in the time between the times, but God is making and shaping you. God will refine you. You will be “baffled to fight better”, as Oswald Chambers titled his only book, on the problem of suffering; after Robert Browning’s poem, Asolando, “Epilogue” (1889):
One who never turned his back but marched breast forward,
Never doubted clouds would break,
Never dreamed, though right were worsted, wrong would triumph,
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake.
As illustrated in the book of Job, God never answers the why questions. We get to know the what. The what is God loves me and He loves you. He is worthy to be praised and worshiped no matter what the circumstances. He is good and kind.
When Joseph might have asked, “why is this happening to me?”, he could have come up with a wrong answer. When he asked himself, “what am I going to do with it?”, the right answer was, “I am going to let these circumstances God has allowed: train me, develop me, mature me, and prepare me.” What we do know, is that God was with him and favored him in his circumstances and there was a time until the time of fulfillment.
What are you doing in your time between the times? Redeem the time. Make the most of your time, your time in your prison, if that is you. Time is limited. Many things are unlimited, but not time. Many regrets at the end of life involve time, because time is limited.
Lean into God’s loving kindness (Gen. 39:21), his hesed, God’s Covenant Love for you. Let God develop you as he did Joseph.
Art Credit: Joseph The Dreamer, Carol Racklin-Siegel