There are two exceptional people in the Bible known for their dreams. One is the best known dreamer and one the least known dreamer. One had great rewards and the other has no mention in the Bible beyond the fulfilling of his dreams. One saw the full fruition of his dreams and the other didn’t see the fruition of his dreams. One understood the purpose of his dreams and the other obeyed without knowing the full purpose of his dreams.
Both were named Joseph. One was in the Old Testament book of Genesis and the other was in the New Testament Book of Matthew. One preserved the Jewish nation and the other preserved our Savior. And in this case as in the Gospel the lesser Joseph became the greater. And like John the Baptist, although he did no miracles, was credited as the greatest among men, Joseph also is a major player in the redemption story of God.
Joseph – eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob
(Genesis 37:5-8 WEB) 5And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told [it] to his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. 6And he said to them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7For behold, we [were] binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and behold, your sheaves stood around and made obeisance to my sheaf. 8And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? and they hated him yet the more for his dreams and for his words.
From David Ramey DVM (that’s a veterinary) comes this quote “Is it Kind, Necessary, True, and Does It Improve Upon the Silence? And to me the youthful favorite of his father by his favorite wife lacked humility and judgement. Some will say it was God’s purpose for him to have said this. Even if that’s true, we’ll see later in the story that he needed to grow up and learn humility to be useful to God’s purpose. BTW – when is favoritism ever in order? And wasn’t Leah the mother of six of Jacob’s sons and one daughter, the most Godly of Jacob’s four wives?”
(Genesis 37:9-11 WEB) 9And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more: and behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me. 10And he told [it] to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said to him, what [is] this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth? 11And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.
Reuben and Judah
Rueben and Jacob were the first and fourth sons of Leah, wife of Jacob. Reuben saved Joseph by having him cast into an empty cistern. Jacob saved Joseph by selling him to the Ishmaelites (I’m assuming Arabs). Don’t they by their character reveal a little of the influence of the Godly mother?
Joseph in Charge
Joseph went from one bad situation after another. He was sold to Potiphar, the Captain of the Pharaoh’s guard. After being tempted by Potiphar’s wife and refusing Joseph, he ended up in prison. But the irony is that Joseph was respected and put in charge of Potiphar’s house and servants; and when he ended up in prison he ended up in charge of Pharaoh’s prison.
(Genesis 39:3-6 WEB) 3And his master saw that the LORD [was] with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all [that] he had he put into his hand. 5And it came to pass from the time [that] he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake: and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house, and in the field. 6And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not aught he had, save the bread which he ate; and Joseph was [a] goodly [person], and well favored.
(Genesis 39:21-23 WEB) 21But the LORD was with Joseph, and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that [were] in the prison; and whatever they did there, was done by him. 23The keeper of the prison looked not to any thing [that was] under his hand; because the LORD was with him: and [that] which he did the LORD made [it] to prosper.
In both cases Joseph could have become bitter. He was unjustly sold into slavery and unjustly thrown into prison. But he didn’t rebel or just give up in sorrow. He humbly made himself useful and it paid off. And along the way he learned valuable management skills that he would need. And he also learned patience and humility. Can we think of anyone else that comes to mind who was humble and patient, and yet also endured unjust trials?
Joseph Interprets Dreams for Butler and Baker
(Genesis 40:1, 4, 8-9, 12-13, 16, 18-19 WEB) 1And it came to pass after these things, [that] the butler of the king of Egypt and [his] baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. … 4And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; and they continued a season in custody. … 8And they said to him, We have dreamed a dream, and [there is] no interpreter of it. And Joseph said to them, [Do] not interpretations [belong] to God? tell me [them], I pray you. 9And the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, In my dream, behold, a vine [was] before me; … 12And Joseph said to him, This [is] the interpretation of it: The three branches [are] three days; 13Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head, and restore thee to thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. … 16When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, I also [was] in my dream, and behold, [I had] three white baskets on my head: … 18And Joseph answered, and said, This [is] the interpretation of it: The three baskets [are] three days: 19Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.
Joseph correctly interpreted the dreams of the Butler and the Baker. Note that Joseph gave God the credit for being able to interpret dreams. I’m not able to remember my dreams, muchless interpret their meanings. All that we do, should be done unto God. And God should be given the credit. But I can’t always say that about myself. Too much of what little I do currently (hampered by COVID isolation and near term heart surgery) is not done unto God but unto wayocross.
Notice the request that Joseph makes to the Butler, who had a good outcome based on Joseph’s interpretation. It’s almost, but probable, that Joseph expects the Butler to be raised to a higher position than Joseph, even though he would be freed.
(Genesis 40:14-15 WEB) 14But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness to me, I pray thee, and make mention of me to Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: 15For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.
But the problem was that the Butler forgot about Joseph. That’s not surprising because we see others, including ourselves maybe, rejoicing in our good fortune and forgetting who gave us that opportunity.
(Genesis 40:21, 23 WEB) 21And he restored the chief butler to his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand: … 23Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
Joseph Interprets Dreams for the Pharaoh
Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him, but he could find no one to interpret the dreams. Then the Butler remembered Joseph.
(Genesis 41:11-13 WEB) 11And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he: we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. 12And [there was] there with us a young man, a Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he interpreted. 13And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was: me he restored to my office, and him he hanged.
First the Butler identifies Joseph as a Hebrew and then as the former servant of the Captain of Pharaoh’s guard. This was after the Egyptian magicians and wise men were unable to interpret troubling dreams of the Pharaoh.
(Genesis 41:14-16 WEB) 14Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved [himself], and changed his raiment, and came before Pharaoh. 15And Pharaoh said to Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and [there is] none that can interpret it: and I have heard it said of thee, [that] thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. 16And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, [It is] not in me: God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace.
After Joseph was summoned by Pharaoh, Joseph first of all gives credit for his ability to interpret dreams to God, a concept that would have bee foreign to the Egyptians who had many Gods depicted as creatures of creation.
(Genesis 41:25, 29-30, 32 WEB) 25And Joseph said to Pharaoh, The dream of Pharaoh [is] one; God hath showed Pharaoh what he [is] about to do. … 29Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: 30And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; … 32And for that the dream was doubled to Pharaoh twice; [it is] because the thing [is] established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.
Notice Joseph did not know what the Pharaoh’s dreams were until he told Joseph. After explaining their meaning he then tells Pharaoh that the dreams were doubled by God because the plenty followed by scarcity would happen soon.
Joseph Raised to High Office
(Genesis 41:33-34, 37 WEB) 33Now therefore let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh do [this], and let him appoint officers over the land, and take up the fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. … 37And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants.
Then Joseph lays out an outline of how the stores of grain can be used to allocate during the years of scarcity. He is speaking to the most powerful person on Earth at the time he said this. Was he being bold? Did his years as an administrator in Potipharh’s house and Pharaoh’s jail make him think he would now be put in charge? No – I think he had faith that his advice was sound and from God. And he was clearly thinking that Pharaoh would put the task to an experienced Eyptian administrator.
(Genesis 41:38-41 WEB) 38And Pharaoh said to his servants, Can we find [such a man] as this [is], a man in whom the spirit of God [is]? 39And Pharaoh said to Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shown thee all this, [there is] none so discreet and wise as thou [art]: 40Thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. 41And Pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
Joseph – the greater
Now Joseph ends up as second only to Pharaoh throughout all Egypt. His reward was great and he was certainly the most remembered person of his time. And notice that Pharaoh sees that Joseph is imbued with the spirit of God.
So this is the Joseph who:
1. is the best known dreamer
2. had great rewards
3. saw the full fruition of his dreams
4. understood the purpose of his dreams
Joseph – Husband of Mary Mother of Jesus
(Matthew 1:18-19 WEB) 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this manner: When his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child by the Holy Spirit. 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a public example, purposed to put her away privately.
Joseph’s character stands out that he was faithful to the Jewish law about adultery and yet compassionate enough to save Mary from disgrace.
(Matthew 1:20-21 WEB) 20But while he thought on these things, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take to thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. 21And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
In Joseph’s sleep the Lord told Joseph to take Mary for his wife. Then the Lord explains that she is pregnant by the agency of the Holy Spirit and that the child shall be named Jesus.
(Matthew 1:24-25 WEB) 24Then Joseph, being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took to him his wife: 25And knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son: and he called his name JESUS.
Joseph did as the Lord instructed him in the dream. At the same time a Census was called and Joseph and Mary traveled from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem which was the birthplace of King David from whom Joseph was descended. There was no one there with wagging tongues to count the months of her pregnancy before Jesus was born.
(Luke 2:1, 3-5 WEB) 1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. … 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
Wise men came to Jerusalem looking for the Christ child. Herod consulted the chief priests and scribes who identified the place of Jesus’ birth being in Bethlehem. When the wise men arrived in Bethlehem nearly two years after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were living in a house.
(Matthew 2:1, 10-12 WEB) 1Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, … 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12And being warned by God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
The wise men also received a dream from God to go home a different route thereby avoiding King Herod, whose intention was to have Jesus killed. Joseph also gets a warning.
(Matthew 2:13-15 WEB) 13And when they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken from the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Joseph gets another dream about Herod’s death. He was instructed to return to Israel. Perhaps Joseph looked to return to Bethlehem.
(Matthew 2:19-21 WEB) 19But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead who sought the young child’s life. 21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Joseph is initially hesitant about doing this, but in a dream receives confirmation and is instructed to go to Galilee which included Nazareth where Jesus had grown up.
(Matthew 2:22-23 WEB) 22But when he heard that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.
There were no wagging tongues in Nazareth about Joseph not being the natural father of Jesus, since they had left there before anyone would know she was pregnant at the time.
Joseph – the lesser
Joseph receives no more mention in the Bible except for the incident where Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem to converse with the scholars at the temple.
So this is the Joseph who is:
1. the least known dreamer.
2. has no mention in the Bible beyond the fulfilling of his dreams.
3. didn’t see the fruition of his dreams.
4. obeyed without knowing the full purpose of his dreams.
Purpose for Ministry
When we act in the service of our Lord Jesus do we expect appreciation or even admiration? Does our attitude affect the sincerity and quality of our service? Are we willing to serve even if no one notices?
(Matthew 6:1-4 WEB) 1Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen by them: otherwise ye have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2Therefore, when thou doest [thy] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Verily, I say to you, they have their reward. 3But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4That thy alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself will reward thee openly.
Lesser is Greater
To me I think the miraculous is less significant than obedience. Just as I believe God’s Word is more important than the miraculous. The person we are to highlight is Jesus and not ourselves. And it’s much easier to mentor someone one-on-one than in a group or public place where we can be seen. If I mentor someone and they come to saving grace, then the spotlight belongs on them.
Work hard in ministry – but do as much in the background as possible. Believe in the miraculous – but excel in obedience. People are saved one at a time and not by miracles, eloquent speakers, or church programs. Keep to the basics of the Gospel. Support each other, hold them tight, love and admonish, don’t back down, focus on saving souls.
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