April 12, 2015 Genesis 40
Series: Divine Hope for Dysfunctional Families Today’s Message: “When Dreams Disappoint”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“Hope deferred makes the heart sad” Proverbs 13:12.
Who do you focus on when you’re hurting? Who do you think about when you’re in the pits? Who gets your attention when you’ve been forgotten by others?
Let’s be honest: when you’re down, you mostly concentrate on yourself, right?
You want others to show you compassion and to agree that you’ve had it rough. You want the conversation to center around you and your needs. You want a pity party for yourself.
If you agree that this is usually how you deal with struggles and disappointments, then I urge you to learn from the grace that God gave to Joseph, here is Genesis 40.
Here we read of more dreams, this time from two of Pharaoh’s officials who are in prison with Joseph. Think about it: a pair of dreams put Joseph into a pit, back in Genesis 37, and now Joseph hopes that this pair of dreams will get him out of prison. Yet… the chapter ends where it begins, with Joseph still waiting on God, and others, in prison. It won’t be until two more years have passed that Joseph will be released.
We see God’s grace at work in Joseph in at least three ways here:
First, God gave Joseph a compassionate love.
Though Joseph himself is unfairly languishing in prison, he shows sympathy and compassion for his fellow prisoners. Verse 6-7: “When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?”
Joseph is concerned about these two men. Just because he was suffering unjustly did not mean that he stopped caring about others. In fact, I think it is fair to surmise that God was using Joseph’s own suffering and time in prison to make him more caring and compassionate to the needs and hurts of others.
But what about you? How often your suffering turns you in on yourself, right? Think about your situation: when you’ve been a victim, when you’ll dealing with pain and fear and anger, do you care a whole lot about what others are going through? The temptation is to think about myself, right? In our complaining, even in our confessing of our faults, it’s often still “all about me,” isn’t it? I want to be the center of attention!
But God gave Joseph the grace to love others, even when he was not being loved. Jesus did the same, in greater way, when on the cross, in His suffering, He cared for those around Him: His mother, the thief next to Him, and even those who had put Him on the cross!
So… who do you care about? Who do you love?
Second, God gave Joseph a tenacious faith
Consider that at this point, the two dreams that God had given to Joseph 11 years ago weren’t working out very well at all, were they? Therefore He could have been cynical about God’s dreams, and tempted to say to the cupbearer and baker, “Forget about your dreams: God doesn’t make them come true!” Yet, in spite of how Joseph’s life was going, he still had faith in God and his goodness.
Note in v. 8 that Joseph is still trusting that all dreams and all their interpretations belong to God: Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” He still has faith that God is at work.
What about you? If you feel that God has dealt you a poor hand, are you still trusting in Him and His goodness?
I know I have a tendency to get frustrated (angry?) when my hopes and expectations have been smashed, and little seems to be working out the way I hoped it would. At times like that, I become self-centered and I can retreat into my shell of self-pity. I can resent other people and I can even resent God for what He has or has not given me. And I’m not thinking about loving and serving other people at those times!
But those are the times when my true heart is revealed. It is in those trying circumstances that I see my functional theology. How about you?
But let’s not stay there in the pits, in our self-made prison of self-pity. Let’s use those times to own up to our sinful hearts, to repent, and to cry out to the Lord for forgiveness, for transformation, and for a new beginning. Let us stop looking at ourselves, and instead, by His grace, look to God and look to help others. Ask God for a tenacious faith, for the grace to trust in His precious promises, even when they take decades to be fulfilled!
Third, God gave Joseph a persevering hope
The cupbearer and the baker tell their dreams to Joseph and by God’s power he is able to interpret their meanings. (vv. 9-19).
There are similarities in both dreams: the three days, the images related to their work (vines, bread and cakes), and the lifting up of their heads. Note that “To lift up someone’s head” usually means to single out an individual for honor or for pardon, since in the king’s presence, everyone had to bow their heads to the ground, out of respect.
However there is one very big difference: The cupbearer’s head will be lifted up in honor, while the baker’s head will be lifted up in death, through being hanged or impaled! While the Pharaoh would restore the cupbearer to his former position, the exact opposite would happen to the baker. Not only would he be hung or impaled on a pole, but the vultures would eat his dead body, and this was the ultimate horror for Egyptians, who obsessed over the proper care of dead bodies.
At this point we might raise the question: Why was this horrible dream included in the dreams that Joseph interpreted? We understand how Joseph hoped that helping the cupbearer might benefit Joseph, when he remembered him before Pharaoh, but what good was it to tell the baker that he was about to die and cruel death? Hold on to that question!
Joseph asks the cupbearer to remember him, in v. 14. So when the cupbearer was restored to his position by Pharaoh, Joseph must have thought, “Yes. Any day now, I will be released from prison, for the cupbearer will use his influence at the king’s court to get me out of here.”
But when there was no word, no release, day after day, week after week, month after month, there must have come the slow, awful realization that the cupbearer had forgotten him. There was no hesed for him. No release from the pit. We read in v. 23 that “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”
Not only had the cupbearer forgotten Joseph; perhaps God has also forgotten him? Did Joseph struggle with that?
Imagine how you would have felt if that was you in prison. “Lord, It’s not fair! Again, I’ve done what it right; I’ve shown compassionate love to my fellow prisoners; but I’m still here!”
But did Joseph cry out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” No. God seems to have given Joseph a persevering hope, a long-suffering anticipation, that God would in His way, in His time, fulfill the dreams He had given to Joseph years ago.
Let’s ask a question: “Is God’s timing always perfect?” Theologically we answer, “Yes, of course. God is always on time.” But in our hearts we wrestle with His timetable, don’t we? He seems to take too long to answer prayer for healing or relief, and He often ends good times much sooner than we would want Him to.
But with Joseph’s story, we have the benefit of seeing the whole game plan of God. We can see that if Joseph had been released too soon, things were not yet ready for his role as “savior of the world.” Judah still needed more time to get him where God wanted him to be (See the 20+ years of Gen. 38, going on at the same time.)
Or if God had waited longer to release Joseph, it would have been too late.
But Joseph couldn’t see that, and we can’t see God’s perfect timing when we are in the midst of our waiting and suffering. We need the grace of persevering hope in God and His promises.
Personal illustration: Before I became a follower of Jesus Christ, I dated a number of girls in high school. But after God gave me a new heart, I felt like I was a monk! I didn’t have a girlfriend for the next 3 years, and I was complaining to God about that.
But looking back, I can see God’s perfect timing. When I started at college as a new believer, He probably was saying something like, “Lou, you’re going to be very busy for the next 3-4 years. You’ve got a demanding engineering major. You’re going to be very active in Christian ministry on campus. So… you don’t have time for a girlfriend. Besides, I’ve got just the perfect one picked out for you. And when the two of you see that you are right for each other and that you can serve me more effectively together than you can as singles…. Well, it’s going to be hard enough for you to wait to get married. So I’m really doing you a big favor by holding off on a girlfriend for you right now. Don’t worry: my timing will be perfect.” And it was!
Fourth, God gives us an amazing Savior.
Let me return to the question of why the baker’s dream and story are included in this narrative. One reason is that we all deserve the fate of the baker, not the blessing of the cupbearer. We have all sinned against and offended our master, our King, and deserve death, as the wages of our sin.
Iain Duguid comments: “In the ultimate twist of providence, the One to whom we appeal for such remembrance was not merely sold, abused, and wrongly imprisoned; his body was hung upon a tree, under a curse, even though He has committed no crime. Why should my Lord be so cruelly treated, when He exhibited such perfect love toward those around Him?
The One to whom we cry, “Remember me!” is the very One we ourselves have pierced. Yet this Jesus promises to remember us and to lift up our heads when He comes in His kingdom! What amazing grace and love!”
But not only do we ask Jesus to remember us; He also asks us to remember Him: “Do this in remembrance of me,” (1 Cor. 11:24-25), He tells us to do this, because He knows that it is precisely as we remember Him, and especially as we remember His sufferings and His glory that we find help to wait in hope with full confidence in His love and care for us.”
Is that true for you today? Are you in awe of such love and grace and mercy?