Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Chief Cupbearer Remembers A Source of Wisdom - Genesis 41:9-13

Then the chief cupbearer spoke to Pharaoh, saying, “I would make mention today of my own offenses. Pharaoh was furious with his servants, and he put me in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, both me and the chief baker. And we had a dream on the same night, he and I; each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now a Hebrew youth was with us there, a servant o the captain of the bodyguard, and we related them to him, and he interpreted our reams for us. To each one he interpreted according to his own dream. And it came about that just as he interpreted for us, so it happened; he restored me in my office, but he hanged him.”

Since no one could comfort the Pharaoh with any reasonable interpretation of his dreams, the cupbearer Pharaoh had restored to his job after throwing him in prison, decided to share his own ‘dream interpretation’ experience with the king. The cupbearer tells Pharaoh how he and the chief baker had had dreams on the same night and how a young Hebrew in jail with them had interpreted them correctly. Three days after the dreams, Pharaoh returned the cupbearer to his role and hung the baker, exactly as young Joseph had interpreted.

Here is the cupbearer taking a risk for several reasons. First, he has the audacity to imply that he knows what the Pharaoh was going through. The idea that a mere servant could possibly understand the mental anguish of a ruler such as the Pharaoh could have been enough to set the monarch off. Secondly, the reminder that Pharaoh had once been angry with his cupbearer could have made him angry again, especially given his current mood. Thirdly, there was the risk of sharing a possible solution that could potentially backfire. What if the king approached Joseph and Joseph’s interpretation was a negative one for the Pharaoh? Then were might the cupbearer end up?

We note that the cupbearer possibly did not even remember Joseph’s name, referring to him only as “a young Hebrew”.

And finally note that the cupbearer did not tell Pharaoh what to do. He did not say, “listen boss, you must get in touch with this young Hebrew lad; he may well be the answer to your needs right now.” No, he simply informed him of his experience.

What can we take from these three simple observations – the risk, the apparent non-remembrance of Joseph personally by name, and the lack of instruction as to what the Pharaoh should do?

Are we prepared to take a risk to share our story with those in need? Are we prepared to tell them what God has done for us? Are we prepared to share what to them may seem so ‘unlikely’? Imagine, a mere Hebrew youth being able to do what all the wise men and magicians of Egypt could not do. What was the chance of Pharaoh accepting that possibility? Yet in man’s deepest needs, the unlikely becomes most probable, as we will see in the text still before us.

Turning our thoughts inwardly, how often do we forget the actual person behind the help we received? Do we remember the ‘person’ that helped us with great advice, or helped us in an emergency, or sacrificed their rights for ours? Often we do well just to remember the deed, never mind the person who performed it. I think we need to stop and reflect more on and about the persons involved in our day-to-day lives. What are their needs, their hurts, their desires and hopes?

Finally, the cupbearer is an excellent example to us of knowing what to say and what not to say in a particular situation. He knew he was sharing something with the Pharaoh. He knew, even though he was the Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and thus close to him in some respects, he had no right to tell him what to do – only to share with him what he himself had experienced. We need to learn from that as we go about our own witnessing. We need to consider both our relationships with others and our positions and then realize that Christ asks us to simply give “testimony” and be a “witness to” what He has done for us. Nothing more, nothing less.

What can a simple cupbearer of an ancient ruler teach us today? I think much. God bless us as we reflect on the need to be courageous and take risks in sharing our experiences, remembering the people behind the deeds that have shaped our lives even in small ways, and knowing what our true Christian obligation to sharing Christ is really about.

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