Food for Thought: A Nightmare that fulfills an earlier dream…
Have you ever had a nightmare? You know the kind where you wake up and are just troubled? If so, you are in good company. Pharaoh was large and in charge. He was the king of Egypt, but one night he has two dreams that cause sheer terror to his mind (41:8). He has a dream of fat cows, coming up out of the Nile and grazing among the reeds. After these seven hefty heifers come up out of the Nile seven other, “ugly and gaunt” cows who take their place next to the seven healthy cows. Only this time the dietary choice of the ugly cows is disturbing, instead of reeds, the seven scary cows ate the seven hefty heifers! Then as if this one dream wasn’t enough, who wants to see herbivores turn into cannibals? Pharaoh dreams of seven heads of grain, growing from a single stalk. This no doubt would have been an abundant harvest. But then, seven other heads of grain sprout up, scorched and thin, and these seven skinny heads of grain devour the seven healthy heads of grain!
The text says that Pharaoh is troubled by his dreams (41:8). But he is also frustrated because when he rounds up his magicians, and wise men of Egypt, not a one could interpret his dreams. You remember Joseph that young Hebrew that was wrongly accused, and falsely imprisoned, and sent to Egypt against his will in the first place, well he is still in prison. But notice how Joseph’s presence in Egypt begin to make sense in 41:9 and following. The chief cupbearer finally holds up his end a 2 year old promise to Joseph to tell Pharaoh about Joseph’s false imprisonment. The cup bearer relays how Joseph had been able to interpret his dreams as well as the chief baker, and how what was shared by Joseph came to pass. Pharaoh is intrigued and calls for Joseph (41:14). Meeting with the Pharaoh is no small matter, Joseph has to clean up, change his clothes and then the big moment comes – the most powerful man on the planet walks into the lobby and asks you to interpret his dreams. There’s a moment of tension in 41:16, when asked to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams Joseph states his inability to meet Pharaoh’s request. You can almost hear Pharaoh grasp. I wonder if he begins to search for the chief cupbearer to plan out his execution. Just before the story spirals out of control, Joseph speaks up and says “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (41:16). Joseph states his inability, but proclaims God’s ability! Pharaoh learns that seven years of plenty are coming, followed by seven devastating years of a terrible famine (41:25-31). Joseph then offers some timely divine aid how to preserve Egypt and unbeknownst to him, how his plan would in essence be a blessing to the world (cf. Gen 12:3). Joseph’s recommendation is for Pharaoh to find a “discerning and wise man” to be put in charge of the land of Egypt (41:33-34). This person’s job would be to collect 1/5 of the harvest over the next seven years to be stored up for when the famine begins to bite (41:34-36). Pharaoh and his officials breathe a sigh of relief, and then Pharaoh offers what I believe to be unexpected job to Joseph (41:39-40). Joseph goes from dreamer, to prisoner, to Egyptian Preservation Coordinator. He will become the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.
Joseph enters Pharaoh’s service at the age of 30 (41:46). If Joseph was 17 at the time of his forced enslavement, he has been away from his home now for 13 years. God was in the details of Joseph’s life, planning his pending arrival to be a blessing to Egypt, Israel and the whole world (41:57). Joseph learns a lesson we all need to be reminded of often, God’s timetable is different than ours. 13 years is a long time to be away from the comforts and familiarity of home. But in those 13 years as an alien in a strange place, God was with Joseph, blessing him, so he in turn could be a blessing to others. We would do well to take cues from the Joseph narrative. God has a plan. His plan may not take us where we think we should go, but God always leads us where He needs us. Right now, God needed Joseph in Egypt!
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?