by Lois Tverberg
Then Joseph told his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you? – Genesis 37:9-11
God spoke audibly to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but in Joseph’s life, God never spoke aloud, but instead communicated through dreams. The first time was when Joseph was 17 and he dreamed two times that he would rule over his family.
The dreams were probably initially interpreted as Joseph’s belief that he should be the favored “first born” son of the family, who would have been given authority over the family after the father’s death. Of course, the older brothers were jealous and enraged. His second dream was that he would even reign over his parents, which went beyond the idea that he would just receive the blessing from his father, but that he would become a national leader. His brothers were furious.
It surprises us to read that as soon as Joseph had the two dreams, he told his brothers, which caused their extreme anger, which led to his later imprisonment and suffering. Why would he do such a thing, knowing how angry they would get? Some think that Joseph had been spoiled to the point where he was completely insensitive to how his words would affect others. But others point out that in that day, when a person had a clear vision from God, he was expected to share it with others, no matter how it impacted his own life. Joseph had told Pharaoh later when he had two dreams with the same message that “the matter had been firmly decided by God, and God would do it soon” (Genesis 41:32). If Joseph believed that his own two dreams were sure to happen, he probably felt obligated to tell others.
Joseph’s statement to Pharaoh that when one has two dreams, God would be sure to act on on them soon is loaded with irony. At the time Joseph said those words, he had been living in a dungeon for more than two years, and the two dreams in his own life had gone unfulfilled for 13 years. During that time he had been sold into slavery, sent to prison under false charges, and hadn’t seen his family in years. The fact that Joseph could be so sure of God’s answers after years of waiting is a tremendous testimony to his faith. More importantly, if Joseph had given up on God’s answers to dreams during that time, he wouldn’t have interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, and he wouldn’t have been given the authority to rule that finally caused the fulfillment of his own dreams!
It was by being obedient in the face of dashed hopes that God was able to cause Joseph’s greatest hopes to come true. In the same way, often it is only when we keep on in faith, persevering without evidence, that God can finally cause miracles in our lives as well.
Photo: Owen Jones