Scripture Genesis 40
JOSEPH'S STORY Chapter 3
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
"What will come of your dreams - Dreamer!"
For days, weeks, months, years, the question - the taunt pressed on Joseph's mind. The iron prison collar around his neck scrapped his skin and made it difficult to sleep. The chains around his ankles made it impossible to run. Trapped in Potiphar's dungeon, all by himself in that stinking room - the only thing that Joseph could do was think - think about the past - his family, how his brother's envy had betrayed him and sold him for 20 pieces of silver, how, it seemed by chance that one of the most powerful men in Egypt had bought him, how this man's wife had lied and falsely accused him - now he was in the slammer. He felt anger and bitterness like a snake trying to creep into his mind - he fought it and fought it and fought it - it was not easy.
He remembered his dreams - they were still fresh in his mind. He remembered one dream in particular. In it they had been gathering the harvest - and Joseph dreamt that the grain he gathered suddenly stood up and all the sheaves of grain that his brothers gathered bowed down to his. He could remember it so clearly. And then he had another dream - that the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to him. He remembered that dream to, as if he had it just last night. As he sat in his dungeon cell - he felt the dream was true, even though right now the dirt was his bed and his food unfit for pigs.
"Why do I remember it so clearly?" he asked himself. He could only think of one answer. God must be behind the dream. God must be telling me that sometime, I will be a prince - and my brothers, even nations will do what I tell them. His life had already taken so many twists and turns - by now anything was possible. Thinking about his dreams though, made him long to get out of this prison - but his longing was not hopeless - the more he thought about it - the more hope he had - because, he felt certain now, that his dreams were from God. And if God gave dreams, certainly (he didn't know how) they would come true. Hope made him a little happier - and as the days and weeks went by, as the Warden notice that what he did, he did well, his freedom in the prison grew - and so did his happiness.
Eleven long years had past since Joseph had been sold as a slave into Egypt. Some of those years he worked as a slave, several of those years were years in prison now. He was already 28 years old - if it were not for his dreams, he would have had no hope at all. Still, his brother's taunt hurt "What will come of your dreams now - Dreamer?"
One day there was a commotion outside of his prison cell. He looked out the little hole in the large wooden door - to his surprise - there were two very well known men being thrown in prison - the Cupbearer and the Chief Baker - both of them were friends of Pharaoh - men that Pharaoh trusted. He trusted them with his life.
(Demonstrate with wine and bread of communion.)
His Cupbearer was supposed to make sure that everything Pharaoh got to drink was safe - to be sure, the Cupbearer would make Pharaoh's wine himself - and test it first. If it made him sick, it would not get to Pharaoh. And the Baker - he was personally responsible not only to make good food - he was especially responsible to make safe food for Pharaoh. Pharaoh could demand at any time before he had supper that both these men come out and sample his food first.
Joseph pondered what happened - he found out a few days later - Pharaoh had gotten very sick one evening after supper - he didn't know why - but he thought it must be something he ate or drank - maybe his trusted friends were trying to poison him - he could never be sure - a lot of people would have wanted Pharaoh's job.
Because the Warden trusted Joseph, he made Joseph responsible for these two new prisoners. He was taking good care of them when one morning, they both woke up sad and depressed - because they each had a dream - and they did not understand what the dreams meant.
After years of thinking about his own, Joseph knew two things - he knew first of all that dreams were from God, and second, he had developed the gift of understanding dreams.
"Interpretations come from God, guys." Joseph reminded them. "Why don't you tell me your dreams - my God, who gives dreams knows their meaning?"
So the man who at one time made all of Pharaoh's juice told his dream. He said
"In my dream I saw a grape vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it's flowers budded, it blossomed, and instantly the flowers formed into big clusters of ripened grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed the juice out of them into Pharaoh's cup and then, right away, I put the cup in his hand."
Even as he heard it - Joseph understood it.
"This is what it means," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will make you his cupbearer again. He will restore your position and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer."
Even as he gave the interpretation, the cupbearer's eyes brightened up - hope returned. He was absolutely delighted and thankful to hear the interpretation.
"How can I thank you enough for the hope you have given me?" he asked Joseph. Joseph was hoping he would ask...
"In three days, when the dream comes true, remember what I have done for you, mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I don't belong here. I am a Jew, not a slave and I have never done anything to deserve being put in a dungeon."
As the cupbearer was agreeing to repay Joseph in this way, the Chief Baker was watching carefully out of the corner of his eye. He too had had a dream that troubled him because he did not understand it. But it seemed so much like the Cupbearer's dream - maybe his dream would be good news too. He turned to Joseph:
"I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head."
Joseph recognized immediately that the dream was way different. Instead of returning with the bread to give it to Pharaoh, the bread was taken away by birds...
"What have you done sir? Did you try poison Pharaoh?" Joseph asked "This is what it means. The three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh."
The Chief Baker snarled at Joseph, a knowing guilty snarl, - when he got out, he was going to get Joseph back for that bad interpretation.
Three days passed. The Cupbearer started the third day with hope - hope that Joseph was good at interpreting dreams. The Chief Baker, however, started that day, hoping that Joseph was just another fool who thought he knew all about dreams.
Suddenly in the morning, Potiphar's guards came into the dungeon - they ordered the Cupbearer and the Chief Baker to wash up, shave their heads and get dressed once again in their many coloured coats - King Pharaoh wanted them to come to his birthday party tonight, his special guests. The Cupbearer's eyes were filled with joy. The Bakers eyes became bright with power and victory.
"To Pharaoh's party eh?" It could only mean good things - probably a promotion.
As they left the prison for the last time - Joseph said to the Cupbearer - "Remember me. (I don't belong here)"
The Cupbearer and the Chief Baker were led to the birthday party. The hall was wonderfully decorated. Great leaders of the land of Egypt sat at every table. The room was filled with colour - colourful coats decorated with jewelry and shining buttons - the rich were all there, the powerful, the princes of Egypt sat down to have a feast.
King Pharaoh arose from the feast and said with his powerful booming voice.
"Honoured worshipers of mine - welcome to my party. Your worship is appreciated." (People worshiped Pharaoh - they thought he was next to god.) "We have with us today two honoured guests - I have invited my Chief Baker and Cupbearer to attend."
They both arose and bowed to the thunderous clapping of everyone in the hall.
"As you all know, I was sick last week. So we had our slaves taste of the royal menu. I am delighted to announce on this day that we have discovered the reason for my illness. The slaves who ate of my bread became sick. Chief Baker - what did you put in my bread?"
The hall fell silent. The Chief Baker protested - after all he was not the only one doing the cooking in the kitchen. But the more he made excuses, the redder Pharaoh's face became. Having heard more than he wanted, Pharaoh called Potiphar to his side, whispered something in his ear. Seconds later, guards came in and dragged the Baker out of the hall to the gallows to be hanged.
Pharaoh turned once again to speak.
"Cupbearer, trusted friend, you are welcome back in my service. Give me the drink of the gods for you have served me well." Again the hall thundered with applause as the Cupbearer went once again to sit beside King Pharaoh. Officials on every side pressed in to shake his hand and welcome him back to the service. The party continued. The evening was filled with fun and entertainment. And in the process, the Cupbearer quickly forgot about his short stay in prison, quickly forgot about his dream, and quickly forgot about Joseph - the young man who gave him its meaning. That just seemed to slip from his mind.
Joseph, stuck in the dungeon, with the iron collar around his neck heard the next day what had happened - the Baker hanged, the Cupbearer once again serving Pharaoh - so he waited expecting to hear that Pharaoh wanted to see him - because certainly the Cupbearer would remember him.
He waited, and waited, and waited...month after month - two years he waited.
No one came.
"What will come of your dreams now - you Dreamer?"
Again, his brother's question rolled through his mind. But Joseph knew now - that no matter how long it took, his dreams would come to something. God who was with him in the dungeon had a plan. It was just a matter of when - God who was with him would make sure of it.
Help us to dream - dreams from you - sons and daughters.
Help us to hope - even when hope seems impossible.
Help us to wait - because you in your time will bless your children.
Help us to be faithful in the small things - because in so doing, you are preparing us for the big things.