He Dreamed a Dream (Joseph #2)

Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers, and they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 for behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves came around, and bowed down to my sheaf.”

8 His brothers asked him, “Will you indeed reign over us? Will you indeed have dominion over us?” They hated him all the more for his dreams and for his words. 9 He dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed yet another dream: and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.” 10 He told it to his father and to his brothers. His father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Will I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves down to the earth before you?” 11 His brothers envied him, but his father kept this saying in mind.

Genesis 37:5-11 (WEB)

Read part one of this series on Joseph here – Joseph’s Beginnings

Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brothers. Many will question the wisdom of doing this in the generations since he had this dream. Before we even find out its contents, we learn that his brothers hated him all the more.

We learned in the previous post, and the earlier part of the chapter, that Joseph’s brothers hated him. This was largely down to his father’s favouritism causing them to feel like second-class sons. Joseph had also brought a bad report about them to his father, which did not exactly endear them to him. We now find out that Joseph shared the contents of a dream with them, escalating matters further.

The first dream

In this dream, Joseph describes how they were all binding sheaves in the field. This would have been an activity familiar to them all, but then the sheaves take on a life of their own and Joseph’s one stands upright. The other sheaves, representing the brothers then gather around and bow down to Joseph and his sheaf.

You do not need to be a master interpreter of dreams to figure out what this meant. Having lived in Joseph’s shadow for years, the brothers already believing their father thought them inferior to him, now hear Joseph himself saying that he is superior. This kind of dream would have been thought of as prophetic, and that he was proclaiming to them that they would one day bow before him.

Verse 8 again reiterates their hatred for him. In only a few short verses, we’ve been told a number of times of their hatred for him, which underlines the strength of their feelings. It also shows that they hated him not only for the dream itself, but also his words.

This is a point of debate. Should Joseph have told them? Let’s discuss that at the end.

The second dream

Joseph dreams a second dream, and again decides to share. This dream is similar, but instead of sheaves this time, it is heavenly lights. The sun, moon and eleven stars bow down before Joseph’s star. This dream, as before, is not difficult to interpret.

The distinction here is that it is not merely the eleven brothers who would bow down to him, but the “sun and moon” also. Jacob, in his rebuke of Joseph (which may have been long overdue), interprets these two things for us. Clearly, the sun and moon refer to Joseph’s father and mother. It is now not just the brother who would bow, but Joseph’s parents too. This is indeed a bold claim, as parental authority was very important in those days (and arguably should be no less so now).

After Joseph has shared both dreams with his family, their response is the same. They both question him, saying “Will we really?” I hear the sarcasm in their tone here, and yet the Bible does not record Joseph responding to either time of questioning. Is that because the answer is plain? At no point are we told that Joseph even questioned the dreams.

And this leads us on to the question I posed above – should he have told them?

Humility

To stand before a group of your peers, friends or family and say that one day they will all bow down before me does not scream “humility” does it? In fact, we might label it as arrogance or pride.

Yet, what is humility? It certainly isn’t the opposite of arrogance as we know it. An arrogant person, in our vernacular, is someone who displays an almost offensive level of self-importance – “self” is a key word here.

The opposite, as we know it, is humility. I think, however, we wrongly define it. We believe that a humble person is the opposite of arrogant. It is someone who is perhaps shy, or timid, or who fades into the background not wishing to speak up or be seen. This kind of extremity is not humility in my mind, and actually as someone who is naturally quite shy (and many will laugh at that very idea), I can say that shyness is not humility. A shy person is just as much focussed on themselves as the arrogant person. While an arrogant person promotes themselves and how wonderful they are, a shy person may lack self-esteem to the point where they do not speak up for fear of what others may think. Their attention is on themselves and how they are perceived.

Humility does not focus on self; not in the negative or in the positive. Humility is not self-centred, but God-centred.

Joseph was, believe it or not, very humble to stand before his family and say such things. God put these dreams in his mind, and he was so excited about what God had said to him, he just shared it. Were they truly loving or humble themselves, they would have been excited for him too.

How do you react when someone excitedly tells you they have been blessed with something you’ve been praying for (for yourself) for years? Are you excited for them, or are you jealous? Do you ask yourself what they’ve done to deserve it, or think in your heart – “I’m a more spiritual Christian than they, I read the Bible, I pray, I give, I… I… I…”

They knew the truth

Verse 11 closes out this passage by saying that the brothers were envious of Joseph, and that Jacob kept these things in his mind.

You cannot truly love someone you are envious of. To be envious is to say that you want what they have, or worse, that you believe you are more deserving of it than they are. That is not love. Love wants what’s best for them, and takes no account of what we do or don’t have.

The other thing that envy points out is that they believed it. Had they dismissed it as the fantasies of a daydreamer, then they would have had little need to be envious. The envy shows that they, in their hearts, did believe one day he would rise up above them.

Jacob, likewise, stored up these things in his heart. He kept them in mind, and also knew that these things would come to pass one day.

As I close, I realise I have not directly answered the question: should Joseph have told them? Perhaps, perhaps not. It shows some naivety on his part to think they, who already hated him, would somehow be pleased to hear this. We have no indication that God instructed him to share this with them. The things that God reveals to us are often deeply personal and should not be lightly shared with others.

Joseph was an inexperienced young man who was no doubt excited by what God had revealed to him. All of us would have felt the desire to share the good news with our loved ones, but let us not forget that not everyone will see God’s vision for our lives.

As I close, we will go on next to see what their intense hatred of Joseph leads his brothers to do. Had he not told them these dreams, would they have still done it? We don’t know. But we do know that God’s plan and purpose would have come to pass.

What has God revealed to you? What is His plan and purpose for your life? Don’t just let life unfold before you, seek God’s will and live for Him today and every day.

The Isolation Test

Every Christian can act like one when they are home alone. But when we are trapped in the same four walls with our close family, not able to go out as we wish, it can be a lot harder to be a good witness for Christ. 

How are you coping with the Isolation Test?

I’m not quite sure how long we have been in lockdown now, but I know it has been over a month since I was last in a moving vehicle. I have not left the house since the weekend, and then only to walk our two dogs around the village where I live. My four children are fed up with being cooped up and all they want to do is run around.

For us, the sounds of children bickering about their latest make-believe game may be grating, but for those who live alone it would be a welcome noise.

How are you coping with the extended lockdown period? I call it the “Isolation Test”. And some days I’ve not doing a great job of passing it!

I saw on the news this morning that a charity in the UK are saying that as many as 1 in 6 relationships could break down as a result of this extended lockdown period. Those couples who thought they were in good shape have been shaken or broken by this strange time. We all need space at times, and even our closest friend or spouse can be a source of irritation if we indulge our selfish side.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIVUK)

Paul has some very challenging words to say about love in these verses. Love is not easy, and especially so right now.

Love is patient

They say that patience is a virtue. I say it is a critical Fruit of the Spirit which we all need to live a successful Christian walk. You cannot defeat a patient person.

My own patience has been somewhat lacking in recent days. Working from home with childcare and all social events cancelled has made it much harder to bear this fruit. Yet, we are in a very blessed position compared to many, and my focus should be on that fact and not on what I feel I am missing out on.

It is all too easy to fall into the temptation to be impatient. Impatient with children. Impatient with spouses. Impatient with technology, supermarket staff or social media. We all need a healthy dose of patience right now, and we can only find it in walking close with the Lord.

Love is kind

Kindness is another fruit we need right now. It is so easy to forget others and focus on our own circumstances. Alongside all of the bad news stories we hear, I’m so pleased to hear of other stories of kindness. Kindness to key workers. Kindness to neighbours. Kindness to those in desperate need.

Be kind to those you live with. They are likely finding it just as difficult as you are. Go the extra mile and do it even when you really don’t feel like it. Ask God to give you ideas about innovative kindness.

Love is not self-seeking

Love is not self-seeking. This statement alone stops me in my tracks. Love – God’s kind of love – is not about serving ourselves. Love is outward facing. It focuses on other people and sometimes doesn’t even consider itself.

When I lose my temper, it is nearly always because something or someone is getting in the way of what “I” want to do. While this is understandable at times, it is very humbling for me. I clearly have a long way to go in crucifying my flesh and dealing with my pride. I tend to fail the isolation test when I don’t put others before myself. I am guessing that I am not alone in this.

Selfishness is an ugly thing, and one we do not like to talk about or focus on. Yet it is something which affects us all to some degree. The more we deal with our selfishness and pride, the more loving we will be.

How do we do that though?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Matthew 16:24 (NIVUK)


 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:24 (NIVUK)

Crucifying the flesh means putting it to death. It means that each and every day we deny its desires and wants, and we put love first. Every time we feel that temper rise, we deny it and put the needs of others first. It is hard, but will only get harder if we choose not to do it. Likewise, the more we do it, the easier it will become.

There are no miracles or shortcuts to cure selfishness. It is a step-by-step, day-by-day process. We will only conquer it by consistently putting it down over and over again. And we will all have to do that for the rest of our lives.

Testing times

There is much more we could say about the words from 1 Corinthians on love. In fact, we could do a whole series of studies on it. For today, suffice it to say that passing the Isolation Test will be in no small part to do with how loving we can be to others.

It is an extremely hard time for many people, and so I do not write this to condemn you or make you feel worse than you perhaps already do. I have found it hard to be a good witness during the last few weeks, but that conviction drives me onward to want to do better.

I cannot behave better just because I want to, as my own strength of will isn’t enough and is too easily swayed by circumstances. I need the guiding hand of God to bring about lasting change in my life. I must renew my mind in His Word and allow Him to do the work of crucifying the flesh. Every moment of every day i must surrender to Him. It’s not easy, but God loves us.

I pray that you are able to not just survive this time of social distancing and isolation, but that you can bless others while you do.

Humble Pie (PoW#21)

Pearl of Wisdom #21

Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, rather it is thinking of yourself less.

Humility isn’t exactly something we celebrate much in our culture. When we look to celebrities, we offer see arrogance, selfishness and pride.

Many of us misunderstand what true humility is. We believe that a humble person is someone who beats themselves up constantly, who treads themselves down and thinks very little of themselves.

That is not biblical humility.

Humility is not about mistreating ourselves, instead it’s about moving ourselves out of the way and keeping God in His proper place in our lives.

A humble person is someone who is totally reliant on Jesus. They don’t think of themselves more or less than they ought, and instead keep their minds on Christ.

Pride can be seen in arrogance of course, but it can also be seen in self-loathing. Pride is simply putting the emphasis on “us” rather than God.

Try to be humble this week. Don’t loathe yourself, love Jesus!

Pearl of Wisdom #12

Beating yourself up is a symptom of pride.

In the past, when I made a mistake I would tend to beat myself up about it. The length and severity of my “self-beating” would depend on how serious I perceived the mistake to be.

And let’s call it what it is – not a mistake, but a sin. A falling short of God’s standards.

I’d think to myself, “How could I have done such a thing? I’m supposed to be a Christian! I’m better than that, and I shouldn’t be doing such things! I’m so unworthy. I just can’t do anything right!” And so on and so forth.

Read back what I used to say to myself again. How many times did I use the term “I” or something similar to it?

Answer: a lot.

How could I have done such a thing? Well, because I’m only human, I’m not perfect and I’m still on a journey with Jesus. As long as I live and breath, I’ll never be perfect in and of myself, only in Christ.

It is a symptom of pride. Believing we are above sin or simple mistakes indicates that we have a proud heart.

Often we think that beating ourselves up is a humble thing to do – far from it. In fact, it is suggestive that we don’t think Christ’s punishment was enough, and that we somehow need to add to it.

If you sin this week, don’t spend any time beating yourself up. It’s a waste of time. Just accept Christ’s work and forgiveness and move on.