There are lots of cool things about studying the Bible, but amongst the coolest are those times when a passage that you have read time and again suddenly speaks to you in a fresh way.
In chapter 41 of Genesis, Joseph is standing in front of Pharaoh. He has been taken out of prison, cleaned up and asked to interpret a disturbing dream for the most powerful man in the world at that time. Joseph stands there by the recommendation of the Pharaoh’s own wine attendant, who he had interpreted a dream for two years earlier (see Genesis 40). Joseph makes it clear to Pharaoh that it is not he who has the power to interpret dreams, but that God is the one who interprets dreams and Joseph can only do what God leads him to do (Genesis 41:16).
Pharaoh tells Joseph about his dreams. The first involves 7 emaciated cows swallowing 7 fat cows. The second, 7 thin ears of corn devouring 7 healthy ears of corn. Pharaoh and all of his priests and magicians are stumped by them. It is what Joseph says next that blew me away.
“The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (Genesis 41:32)
It had never occurred to me before but, when Joseph utters these words about God repeating the dream in different forms because God has firmly decided upon it, he is also declaring his faith in another pair of dreams. (Genesis 37:5-9). As a young man, about 15 years earlier, Joseph had had two prophetic dreams of his own. The first about sheaves of corn and the second about the sun, moon and stars. Joseph himself had interpreted their meaning, much to the anger of his brothers, that he would come to rule over all of his family. In fact, it was as a direct result of these dreams that his brothers faked his death and sold him as a slave. Far from ruling, he now stands before Pharaoh as nothing more than a slave-prisoner.
Yet, Joseph declares with faith that Pharaoh’s dreams are true because he has had the same dream twice in different forms. He implies, therefore, that his own dreams were true for the same reason.
It is the steadfast faith of Joseph in the face of 15 years experience (that seems to prove beyond doubt that he would not rule over anyone, let alone his brothers) that blows me away. Even though it appears at that moment that there is no conceivable way for these dreams to ever become a reality for Joseph, he believes that God spoke the truth through those dreams.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
At no point before the interpretation of Joseph’s dream does it seem likely that his situation will change, and yet he has faith in God’s word for him. Joseph believes that God will fulfill Pharaoh’s dream and that God will fulfill Joseph’s dream. He has heard the promises of God, taken them to heart and now stands on them everyday, whether they look possible or not.
The question is this… what are the promises of God for you and I? We need to listen to God, discern His promises and then stand on them by faith. Our world might not look as if the promises of God have any hope of being fulfilled, or are even real, but that is not the point. The point is faith. All that matters is that God has promised and that what God promises, He does.