Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joseph Intrepets Pharaoh’s Dreams - Genesis 41:17-32


So Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, . . . (and Pharaoh shares his dreams with Joseph). . . Then I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me." Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, "Pharaoh's dreams are one and the same; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one and the same. The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven thin ears scorched by the east wind will be seven years of famine. It is as I have spoken to Pharaoh: God has shown to Pharaoh what He is about to do. Behold, seven years of great abundance are coming in all the land of Egypt; and after them seven years of famine will come, and all the abundance will be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine will ravage the land. So the abundance will be unknown in the land because of that subsequent famine; for it will be very severe. Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined by God, and God will quickly bring it about.”

Pharaoh retells his dreams, this time to Joseph, and points out that there was no one who could explain them. He had tried everyone else, but got no satisfactory answer from any. How typical that is of the way so many pursue answers to life these days. We’ll try anything and anyone and not even consider the very Giver of life as One Who can and would answer us with truth and love.

And in Pharaoh’s case, God was going to do that through Joseph. The young Hebrew is quick with the responses – “Both dreams tell the same message; God is telling Pharaoh what He is about to do.” How does that happen? How could Joseph speak so boldly and so emphatically and so quickly? You may have your own answers to those questions, but I believe, from my own experience, that as we commit our day and our challenges and opportunities to God; as we ask for His direction and guidance in every step of the way; and as we are aware of His very presence with us – then indeed, all that we say and do can be, and most often is, from God. It is for these or similar reasons that Joseph could declare without hesitation that the dreams were one and the same and God was actually showing His care for Pharaoh by giving him a heads up.

Joseph tells the Egyptian ruler that there will come seven years of plenty with respect to harvest and they will be followed by seven more years of sheer land devastation with absolutely nothing growing. In fact things would be so bad in Egypt those second seven years that people would not even be able to remember the great abundances of the first seven. People all over will be desperate for food.

Could it get any worse than that? Could Joseph have given Pharaoh any more grave news? Boy, was the cupbearer who recommended Joseph ever so wrong about him giving Pharaoh an interpretation that would be ‘favorable’. And Joseph says, “there’s more.” The fact that God gave Pharaoh that dream twice means “it’s a done deal and God will make it happen quickly; you don’t have much time to think about this Pharaoh.” There was no avoiding it and Joseph told Pharaoh he was convinced of it.

Imagine having such a relationship with God and being so committed to being used by Him so as to be able to speak so convincingly for God. Yet we see that time and time again throughout the Scriptures. I believe it is still possible today. However, let me qualify that by saying that I do not believe it happens as often as everyone claims it happens, especially through themselves. It does not happen as often as anyone who has a social media account declares, “God has spoken to me and this is what He wants me to tell you.” That just is not usually the case. And let me explain why.

I believe those of us living today, both believers and unbelievers are, and rightly so, more skeptical and/or cautious of what and who we trust. There has been just too much that has happened in the name of God or Christianity that just is not of God or His Son. We not only have a right to be cautious, but as true believers a responsibility to discern what is truly of God and what is merely of man. So how do we do that?

I have used four criteria so far to try and properly assess any such actions or declarations.

1. What is being said or proposed must not in any way be contrary to scripture. Can there be new revelation? Probably. But it will never contradict Scripture.
2. Does the person making the declaration or proposal have a proven track record, as Joseph did? Is he/she a man/woman who has consistently demonstrated God’s love and truth in his/her life, especially since they became a Christian? This does not mean that they have never failed or sinned – we all do. But it means that generally speaking the person shows evidence of growing in the Spirit and in his/her relationship with God.
3. What is God telling other mature believers about this declaration or proposal? As much as I would like to think (probably due to my own pride) that God is speaking to me and telling me “What John Doe has to say is from Me” I still have to rely on the fact that God would not be telling other mature Christians something totally opposite. If there is no consensus among God’s people that you have come to trust and rely on for additional verification of issues in the past, then chances are this new declaration or proposal is not of Him.
4. Does what this person is saying or proposing sit ‘perfectly’ well in my spirit, in my conscience, and in my gut? God uses all three – our spirits, our minds, and our feelings, to communicate with us. If any inkling of doubt lies in any of these on a particular matter or new “word from above”, than for now, I must pass on it.

If what I hear can pass those tests, I am prepared to seriously consider it. For not doing so, may mean I am missing out on what God is saying to His people today. That we be able to discern God’s “interpretation” from that of man’s is my desire for all of us.

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