Sunday, January 28, 2018

THE DREAMER

Many of the stories of the Bible include accounts of God communicating with his people through dreams. These seem to be largely night dreams, as we all experience every night, or they may have been visions given to people during times of meditation.

In some Biblical accounts, the dreams were given by God as a means of giving instructions to the dreamer as to what he or she should do. Joseph, the husband of Mary, received a number of these types of dreams to tell him to take Mary as his wife, and also then to instruct him as to when he should relocate his young family of Mary and Jesus to avoid danger. Even the Magi received a dream to tell them not to reveal to King Herod the whereabouts of the child Jesus.

In other Biblical accounts, the dreams given by God often provided a vision to the dreamer of something that was going to take place in the future. The entire book of Revelation is the account of several of these visions that were given to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos. 

The Dreamer
It is this second type of dream that is the subject of this post. These are the dreams that give a foreshadowing of events that will take place in the future. The dreams in the Bible story that we are going to look at here were either given to, or interpreted by a man who was even called “the dreamer” by his brothers, albeit not in a complimentary fashion.



The man is Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob. Jacob, despite some significant spiritual strides that he had made in his life, never seemed to come to the point of learning the lesson that showing favoritism in the family can be very destructive. True to form, it certainly was in the case his obvious favoritism of Joseph over his other sons.

Jacob had twelve sons in all. The primary reason that Jacob preferred Joseph over his other sons was no doubt because Joseph was the long awaited son of Jacob’s favorite wife. Jacob had two wives—Leah and Rachel. Rachel was the favorite, and Jacob was not timid about letting that fact be known. The two women lived in constant and open competition for the affections of their husband.

Added to that underlying tension of favoritism in the family, Jacob exacerbates the situation by deciding to make a special coat for his favorite son. We commonly know this as “a coat of many colors,” which it possibly was, although the text is not explicit on this detail. Nevertheless, whether the coat was variegated or not, it was in some way very distinct in a way that showed favoritism. One perhaps cannot fault the brothers of Joseph too much for the resentment that they felt toward their little brother.

It did not help this relationship when Joseph returned home one day after spending time with his brothers tending to their father’s flocks and giving to their father a “bad report” about his brothers. We are not told what the source of this infraction by the brothers had been, but no brother appreciates a younger brother snitching on him. If Joseph had been a small child, perhaps the brothers would not have thought too much of it, but Joseph was seventeen years old at the time.

Unfortunately, Joseph again contributes to this resentment by his brothers when one day he told them of a dream that he had. 

The Dreams of the Dreamer
“We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field,” Joseph said to his brothers. “Suddenly, my sheaf rose and stood upright. Then, your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

This was not something that any ten older brothers in any family would like to hear, but this was especially the case for these brothers. These brothers had been brought up in a household with an atmosphere of constant competition. Even their own mothers lived in this manner, largely put into this position by their own common husband.

That husband, as I said, was Jacob, the father of all these boys. He had created a toxic atmosphere in the home by placing his sons in much the same position as their mothers by showing his obvious favoritism to Joseph over all of his other sons.

“Do you actually think that you will reign over us and rule us?” the ten brothers responded to Joseph after he had told them his dream. They already had an underlying hatred for their younger brother, but now they hated him more.

Then Joseph had another dream. “The sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me,” he reported this time.

To make matters even worse in the family relationships, Joseph told this dream not only to his brothers, but also to his father.

“Do you actually think that your mother and I and your brothers will come and bow down to the ground before you?” his father asked.

This is how Jacob responded to the dream of his son. He rebuffed his him. Nevertheless, there was part of him that actually believed that the dream perhaps had a bit of truth in it. The text tells us that, despite what he said to his son, Jacob “kept this matter in mind.” 

Pondering the Saying
It reminds me of the response of Mary, the mother of Jesus, when she heard the things that the shepherds told her that the angels had said about her infant Christ child. The report of the shepherds was too much to comprehend. So great were the sayings that it would be difficult to instantly believe them all to be true without question.


Everyone was amazed about what the shepherds said about what they had seen. There probably was a wide variety of responses to these things among the people—responses that ranged from utter disbelief in any of it, to thinking it was all just some ramblings of a few overenthusiastic shepherds who perhaps had had too much to drink that night.

But Mary did not brush off what the shepherds said. It was true that what they reported was difficult to simply accept without wondering what it could all possibly mean, but even if Mary could not take it all in right at that moment, we are told that she “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

I think that it was much the same for Jacob, the father of Joseph. Hearing what his son said about the dream of bowing down to him…well these words are simply too much to take at face value. Still…“Perhaps they are worth consideration. I had better file this one away,” Jacob said to himself.

I think that the brothers also began to wonder about these dreams. Upon hearing this second dream, their response was not exactly the same as it had been when Joseph had told them the first dream. Their reaction after the first dream was that it only increased their hatred for the boy. But after this second dream, their response was a bit different.

I am sure hatred was still a big component of their range of emotion, but the text tells us that they also began to look upon their youngest brother with “envy” and “jealousy.” These are not emotions that are based upon something that you know not to be true. We can only be envious of something that we at least have a hunch may be correct.

But the brothers did not “treasure these things in their hearts.” They instead began to look for a way to put an end to these dreams. Their opportunity came one day when Joseph was sent out to the pastures to see how the brothers were doing with the flocks of animals. 

The Plot
The pasture where the brothers were at the time was located a very long way from the house. When they saw Joseph coming from a distance, they began to come up with a plan to rid themselves of their spoiled younger brother. They had seen a cistern in that area, but when they went to it to see if there was water in it for their animals, they discovered that it was dry.

Their first plan was to kill this dreamer half-brother of theirs outright, and then throw him into the cistern. They thought that they would just tell their father that Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal.

But the oldest brother, Reuben, did not like this idea. He did not want to shed any blood. He convinced the other brothers to throw Joseph into the cistern alive. I am not sure what he told them about the next part of his plan, and how he was able to convince them, but his own personal idea was that he would rescue Joseph when he had the opportunity, and take him back to their father.

With this in mind, the brothers stripped Joseph of that special robe that they so much despised, and threw him into the cistern. 

The Sale of a Slave
But Reuben was not present with the rest of the brothers when soon after, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite merchants coming their way. The Ishmaelites were on a trading expedition and on their way to Egypt. The brother named Judah had an idea:

“What will we gain if we simply kill Joseph?” he asked the others. “Why not just sell him to these merchants? That way we will also gain a little profit from him.”

Judah even appealed to any sense of false decency any of them might be feeling about killing Joseph. “After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood,” Judah pointed out.
He must have thought himself very noble.

The deal was made. Joseph was hoisted from the pit and restrained for the long trip to Egypt. When Reuben returned, he found out what happened, but now it was too late to do anything about it.

“Where can I turn now?” Reuben asked in dismay.

The brothers took the coat of Joseph, smeared it with the blood of a goat that they had slaughtered, and brought the coat to their father. They said nothing except that they had found the coat, and let their father draw his own conclusions.

“Surely my son has been torn to pieces and devoured by wild beasts,” Jacob lamented.

All of Jacob’s children tried to comfort their father over the loss of Joseph, but Jacob would not be comforted. “I will go to my grave mourning my son,” he said.

It seems that the dreams of Joseph had also died that day. The sheaves of grain, the sun, moon and eleven stars—they had all been wrong. There would be no bowing down.

***************
But Joseph, as we know, had not been killed. The brothers also knew this, but to them, he was as good as dead. They thought that their younger brother was out of their lives forever. But they were wrong. As we know, many years later they would again meet Joseph. It would be in a much different setting. 

In Egypt
The Ishmaelites made a good sale of Joseph. They sold him to a wealthy Egyptian to be his household slave. It went well at first, both for the Egyptian and for Joseph. The Lord not only protected Joseph in Egypt, but blessed everything with which he was involved. He was eventually put in charge not only of the entire house of the Egyptian, but also over everything that the wealthy man owned. This involved quite a large estate.

But when Joseph was falsely accused of rape by the Egyptian’s wife, Joseph’s situation abruptly changed. It had actually been the wife who had been trying to begin the affair, and she had become angered when Joseph refused.

“How could I do this great evil and sin against God?” Joseph told her.

The wife of the Egyptian felt rejected and got even by coming up with a story of how she fought off the advances of this brash young Hebrew. Joseph was quickly thrown into prison. 

Even in prison, Joseph’s skills as an administrator soon became evident, and he was put in charge of all the prisoners. It seemed that in every circumstance where he found himself, Joseph flourished. It was because, as the text tells us, the Lord made everything he did prosper. 

Dreams in the Pit
We are not told if in all this time Joseph had more dreams, but in prison, the subject of dreams did again come about. Two of the prisoners had dreams. Both of them were deeply troubled by their dreams, as if they knew that they were dreams of significance. The two men were troubled because they did not know what the dreams meant.

The first to tell his dream to Joseph was the chief cupbearer for the king. This man had been imprisoned sometime earlier because he had offended the Pharaoh in some way. In his dream, he saw a vine with three branches. He saw the branches budding, the blossoms coming out, and as he watched, the vines began producing grapes, ripening before his eyes.

In the dream, he was holding the Pharaoh’s cup. The cupbearer reached out his hand and squeezed the grapes so that the juice ran into the cup. He then brought this cup and gave it to the Pharaoh.

“Here is the significance of the dream,” Joseph told the cupbearer. The three branches are three days. In three days the Pharaoh will be over his anger. He will release you from prison and again reinstate you to your position as the chief cupbearer. You will again serve the king his wine.”

Joseph only asked of the cupbearer that when he was released, that he appeal the case of Joseph to the Pharaoh. “I am a kidnapped Hebrew and have done nothing wrong, that I should be placed here in this pit.”

The other prisoner who had had the dream that night was the chief baker. When he heard the favorable interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, he was eager to tell his.

“In my dream, I had three baskets on my head,” he told Joseph.

I do not know how these three baskets were positioned so that he could carry them all on his head, but in dreams, you can do anything. It seems that these were stacked, one on top of the other.

The chief baker continued: “In the baskets were all sorts of baked goods for the Pharaoh, but the birds kept swooping down and snatching pieces from the top basket.”

The chief baker stopped, eagerly awaiting the interpretation, which he thought surely must be that he also would be released in three days.

“I’m afraid not,” Joseph told him. “In this case the three baskets do mean three days, but on the third day your head will be lifted from you and your body hung on a tree. The birds will come and eat your flesh off of your bones.”

I am sure at that moment, the prison fell silent. However, in three days, all that Joseph had said turned out to be exactly correct. The chief cupbearer was restored to his post, but the chief baker was beheaded. The only thing that did not happen was that the cupbearer, upon his release, did not take the case of Joseph before the Pharaoh to secure his release. He forgot about his fellow prisoner. 

Dreams in the Palace
For two more years Joseph remained in prison. Hopes of the chief cupbearer securing his release were long forgotten. Then suddenly, one morning, dreams again came into the picture. This time it was the Pharaoh himself who had a pair of dreams. The dreams were troubling him, and he was anxious to know if they had meaning. Here are the dreams:

The first was of seven fat and healthy looking cows that were grazing on the fresh marsh grass of the Nile River (I think that they must have been like my highlander cattle). Pharaoh watched as they grazed contently. Suddenly, before the dreaming eyes of the Pharaoh, seven other cows, these ugly and gaunt, came out of the river and ate up the seven fat cows. But even after eating the fat cows, the seven ugly cows remained as thin as before.

Pharaoh woke up, troubled by this dream. But after a time, he was able to return to sleep. He then dreamed again.

The second dream was this: The Pharaoh saw seven ears of grain, each one plump and full, and growing on a single stalk. But as he watched, seven other ears appeared, these thin and poor, and scorched by an east wind. These seven thin ears then proceeded to swallow up the seven plump ears.

The Pharaoh woke again and was greatly troubled by these two dreams. In the morning, he called all of his wise men to give him an interpretation. None of them could.

However, the chief cupbearer overheard the dreams. Finally, after two years, he remembered Joseph. He told Pharaoh of the experience that he and the chief baker had had in the prison. Upon hearing this, the Pharaoh called for Joseph to appear before him.

After being properly bathed and shaved, Joseph stood before the throne. Joseph was thirty years old by this time.

“The two dreams are the same,” he said to Pharaoh. “The seven fat cows and the seven plump ears of grain are seven good years of crop harvest. This is what you can expect in the seven years to come. However, the seven thin and ugly cows and the seven thin ears of grain are also the same. They are seven years of severe famine caused by a dry east wind that will sweep upon the land.” 

Once Upon a Time…
The story continues from there. Like in a fairy tale, Pharaoh could see no better person to put in charge of all his lands than this kidnapped Hebrew from Canaan. As the events unfolded just as the dreams had predicted, the seven good years were followed by the seven years of drought. The drought affected even the land from where Joseph had come. Back home in Canaan, his father Jacob and the entire family were suffering the effects of the drought.

Somewhere in those seven years of drought, it was decided that the brothers of Joseph should make a trip to Egypt to see if they could purchase some food. Some days after this decision, the brothers appeared before the throne that had been given to Joseph. They bowed before him and asked if he could sell them some food for their starving families back in their homeland.

The ten brothers did not recognize Joseph. After all, this was several years after they saw him being carted off by the Ishmaelites, and Joseph was now no doubt also dressed not as a Hebrew, but as Egyptian royalty. If they would have recognized him, they perhaps would have remembered Joseph’s dream of the sheaves of grain.

As the story of Joseph and his reuniting with his family unfolds, it becomes very dramatic and even charged with emotion, but it eventually involved a second and then a third trip to Egypt by the family. Joseph had set up a program of storage for the grain of the seven good years so that he had grain to sell in the drought years.

In the end, the entire family, including the father Jacob, all arrived to live in Egypt. When Jacob saw the throne of Joseph, I am quite certain that he must have remembered the dream of Joseph of the sun, moon and eleven stars bowing down to him.

The dream had turned out to be a reality, except for one detail Joseph’s mother Rachel had died in childbirth. Joseph’s only full brother was named Benjamin, born some years after Joseph. Their mother had died shortly after Benjamin was delivered. The moon did not appear before the throne of Joseph. 

Before We Look to Dreams…
In the story of Joseph, the subject of dreams plays a very significant role. And, as we know, the story of Joseph is not unique in this regard. I mentioned how dreams also had a major role in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. There are many other Biblical stories as well when God spoke to his people and even to others through dreams.

Does God still speak to us through dreams?

Before continuing, let me say two things. The first is that it is my personal opinion that God spoke more often in Bible times through dreams than he does now, because today we have his written word. The words of the Scriptures give us direction in living more than many people care to accept. My first advice is that we read the words of Scriptures for personal direction in living.

The Holy Spirit is also our helper. Do you remember that shortly before Jesus left his disciples, he promised that the Holy Spirit would come to help them in their understanding? We also have the Holy Spirit to give us guidance (Acts 1:8).

That is the first thing that I want to say. The second is this:

Even though it is true that we have the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, and that these are our main source of guidance, God certainly still can, and sometimes does speak to us through dreams.

I say this with caution, because this whole subject is rife with charlatans who claim to have the “keys” to dream interpretation. You can buy many books and pay expensive prices to go to seminars that claim to teach you the meaning of dreams.

But as Joseph said to the two men in the Egyptian prison who had troubling dreams, “Do not all interpretations belong to God?”

Nevertheless, the fact that God still may use dreams to speak to us is very real, and it seems that it will increasingly be so as we grow closer to the end of days.

Peter tells us this: “‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’” (Acts 2:17 NIV; see also Joel 2:28) 

The Purpose of Dreams
Having said those things, how then are we to approach the subject of our dreams? I can only tell you my opinions on this, and you can take what I say as good advice, or you can discard it as nonsense.

We all have many dreams every night. Most of our dreams we do not remember, but many we do. Some of our dreams are reoccurring in one way or another. I myself have a few reoccurring dreams. One of them is where I am in a very pleasant place of great natural beauty. In this dream, there are high hills and forests and meadows. Even when I am dreaming it, I realize that I am dreaming, but it does not matter to me. I just enjoy it.

“I remember this place,” I say to myself in the dream. “I am back here.”

I have been there so often in my dreams I almost know my way around the area.

I also very often am able to fly in my dreams. Sometimes I am flying around the farm where I grew up, and sometimes I fly around the farm were we are living now. But my favorite is when I am flying around the special place of my dream, the place of great beauty.

I don’t think that these dreams have a lot of significance. They are fun for me and probably little else. Sometimes I wonder if the favorite place of my dreams has something to do with heaven, and perhaps so, but I don’t know. I only know that I like it there.

But I have also had dreams that, when I woke up, I felt that there is something here that requires some consideration. I may not know the meaning of the dream, but I feel as did Jacob upon hearing of Joseph’s dream. “I need to keep this one in mind.” 

God Wants to Reach Through to You
Some of the things that the friends of the man Job of the Bible told him when Job was going through his time of severe suffering are not worth considering, but here is something that one of them told him that deserves some thought: 


For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it.
He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds.He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.He makes them turn from doing wrong; he keeps them from pride.He protects them from the grave, from crossing over the river of death. (Job 33:14-18 NLT)

King David also has some words on the subject of dreams: 

I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will dwell securely (Psalm 16:7-9 NAS) You have tried my heart; You have visited me by night; You have tested me and You find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress (Psalm 17:3 NAS) 

My mouth will praise you with joyful lips when I remember you upon my bed and when I meditate on you in the watches of the night. For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you and your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:5-8) 

“Hello…is there Anyone Home?”
What I have to say about dreams is the same thing that I say about most circumstances in which we find ourselves. Sometimes, when we are facing an especially challenging time in our lives, perhaps concerning a health crisis or a sudden disaster, we wonder if there is any meaning in these things. “Is God trying to get my attention?”

My short answer to this is “YES!”

I will say that in everything that happens to us, God is trying to get our attention. He is trying to reach through to us by any means possible to tell us to take time to consider the direction of our lives, and to give thought to what is truly important in life.

Like the dreams that come to us, we may not be able to discern exactly why we are going through what is happening to us, or what is the purpose of it all, but it is wise to file these experiences away. Like Mary did concerning the things the shepherds told her, we need to ponder some of these things in our hearts. When the time is right, God will give us more understanding.

God may be trying to say something to you right at this moment. That noise that you hear in your head may not simply be a sudden difficulty or an unexpected new situation. That noise in your head may not simply be a strange dream that you had.

It may just possibly be that the noise you are hearing is a phone ringing. Some of us are so thick-skulled that we do not even think of asking God about what is going on.

God is calling us. “Hello…is anyone home?”

My advice to you is what the high priest Eli said to the young boy Samuel:

“If he calls you, say to him, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” (1 Samuel 3:9)      

3 comments:

  1. Be encouraged you two. s&d

    Helen Rosaveare PRIVILEGE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQFNPKMYSJY

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, great truth HE is through out Genesis. Thanks for sharing your study. sw

    ReplyDelete