As I gallop through the Bible, I came today upon the story of Joseph. Joseph is one of the most written about characters in the Old Testament. He’s also one of my favorites.
In Genesis 37:5, Joseph had a dream. Not that “eating pizza while naked dream” some of you have had. Admit it. No, this was a whopper. Joseph, unable to contain his excitement, tells his brothers: “Listen to this dream. We were out in the field, tying up bundles of grain. Suddenly, my bundle stood up, and your bundles all gathered around and bowed low before mine!” Keep in mind they already despised Joseph because he was Daddy’s favorite, oldest son of his beloved wife. They didn’t appreciate this.
“So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and how the talked about them (37:8).
Perhaps it would have been more discretionary on Joseph’s part to keep the dream to himself, as well as the one where his father and mother bow down to him: “The sun, moon and eleven stars bowed low before me!” His father didn’t appreciate it, either. The Scripture says that his brothers were jealous of Joseph but his father wondered what the dreams meant.
He knew. Jacob, renamed Israel, knew about dreams. He’d had them at Bethel. He had one at Mahanaim. He knew enough not to discount dreams. Sometimes they can reveal what God is doing behind the scenes. As much as the dream made Jacob feel a fool, he knew he could not completely disregard it.
Strangely enough, Joseph never got an interpretation to his dreams. Yet years later, he was able to interpret the dreams of others. Soon after this incident, his brothers plotted to kill him. Instead of doing that, Judah convinced them to sell Joseph to some traders who were passing by. They got their money and Joseph became a slave. Long story short, he ended up in prison on false accusations, despite being a model slave and causing everything in his master’s house to prosper (Genesis 39). While in prison, he worked there, too. He met and befriended the king’s ex-baker and the king’s ex-butler.
Chapter 40 tells a disturbing tale. Over the course of time, each of the Pharoah’s exes had vivid dreams. Each dream featured the number three. Since they looked downcast, Joseph asked them to tell him their troubles. The butler, the one who poured the king’s wine, had a dream. Joseph interpreted it as saying that within 3 days, he would be lifted out of prison and restored to his job with Pharaoh. The baker, thinking he’d like a favorable interpretation too, told his dream to Joseph. But it was not a good dream. “Three days from now Pharoah will lift you up and impale your body on a pole. Then birds will come and peck away at your flesh” (40:19). Ouch! It’s important to note that both of these interpretations came true within the three days; Joseph continued to languish in prison, forgotten for years.
It costs to be a dreamer. Our country, all outward back-clapping and rah-rah to people who dream, really don’t care for them. Get back to work. Go to school. Do your homework. Stop making finger puppets out of empty tape dispensers and brush your teeth already! Joseph wasn’t a dreamer in that sense. He was a great administrator and he worked hard. He had a unique blend of creativity and process-flow. He made people uncomfortable, however, and that can be unforgivable in itself. It takes a secure leader to let the dreamer into the mix. Pharoah did it after Joseph interpreted his dream (41). He made him second in the kingdom. His dream interpretation saved Egypt and later it saved Jacob’s family from famine.
Dreamers don’t fit into the regular molds. They think differently. But we need them all the same, to make sense of our dreams. And someday, the dreams dreamers have dreamt come true, too, just like Joseph’s.