In reading today’s chapter, I was reminded of a facet of God’s sovereignty that is often overlooked - the truth that, along with trials, circumstances and opportunities, God also sovereignly uses people in His redemptive plan for me and through me.
In Chapter 40, once again the plan of God is, from a human perspective, in trouble. Joseph has been removed from his position of power and influence; and with it his ability to affect the deliverance of his family from the famine that will come. So God arranges to have Joseph imprisoned with men who once served in the courts of power and gives them disturbing dreams by which Joseph, through God given interpretations, is eventually freed and exalted to the second highest positon in Egypt. Natural eyes see this as coincidence but eyes of faith see the hand of God, once again, moving pieces (people) into place to frustrate the plans of evil men (and women) and use them for His pleasure and plans. Consider this:
- If Joseph’s brothers don’t sell him into slavery, he never goes to Egypt.
- If Joseph never goes to Egypt, he is never sold to Potiphar.
- If Joseph is never falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, he never goes to prison.
- If Joseph never goes to prison, he never meets Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer.
- If Joseph doesn’t meet the baker and cupbearer, he never gets to interpret their dreams.
- If Joseph doesn’t get to interpret their dreams, he doesn’t get to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.
- If Joseph doesn’t get to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, he is not made prime minister of Egypt.
- If Joseph is never made prime minister, then he does not deliver his family through the famine.
- If the family of Jacob, especially the clan of Judah, perishes in the famine, then the line through which Messiah must come forth (Gen 49:10) is cut off…
…and we are all lost in our sin.
Yet, I also see that if Joseph were not the extraordinary individual that he was, he very well might have missed the appointment that God had ordained. Remember, Joseph was imprisoned by false accusation and by no fault of his own. If anyone had a right to be bitter, it was Joseph. Bitter people are self-centered people who dwell on the (real or perceived) injustice of their situation and are too busy focusing on their own pity party to notice those around them. But here we see Joseph not only recognizing the downcast faces of his cell mates but also possessing enough genuine concern for their sadness to ask the reason for their “long faces”. In showing concern born out of true compassion Joseph has opened up the emotional and spiritual doors that will eventually lead to the opening of the prison doors.
What a lesson for us to apply to our lives when we allow our world and point of view to grow so small as to only include three people – me, myself and I. I wonder how many divine opportunities I have missed by being spiritually myopic as I walk through the days of my life and amongst people that Jesus loves dearly and for whom He died. ((Shudder)).
One last thought. There is no doubt that God has and does speak to his people through dreams (Joel 2:28, 2 Cor 12:1, Hebrews 1:1) as well as through other means (creation, His word, the voice of the Holy Spirit, the Body, circumstances, etc.). Yet, along with this truth, God’s word offers caution when considering dreams as a revelation and communication from God. Consider these verses of wisdom and warning…
A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool…Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer.
“I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.
With dreams and visions, as with any sense of the Lord’s extra-biblical communication, let us boldly accept and follow all that the Lord says to us as long as (and only if) it is in agreement with and confirmed by a correct interpretation of His word and the prayerful confirmation and counsel of trusted elders and leaders.