“Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said about you that you can hear a dream and interpret it.’ ‘I am not able to,’ Joseph answered Pharaoh. ‘It is God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’” Genesis 41:15-16
I believe some clarification may be needed to help us appreciate the dynamics of this verbal exchange between Joseph and Pharaoh. First, in Egyptian culture, Pharaoh was considered to be a god. Not only was he thought to be a god among gods, but it was also assumed he was the central deity, the “God of gods,” so to speak.
It was uncommon for a prisoner/slave to exchange words with this “man/deity” yet notice Joseph’s casual banter. He is essentially schooling Pharaoh. Joseph’s message that God would provide the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream indirectly exposed something maybe only Pharaoh himself knew: Pharaoh was no god. If Pharaoh was “God above all gods,” why couldn’t he interpret his own dreams? Furthermore, wouldn’t any other “god” whom Pharaoh consulted immediately assume authority over him…proving he wasn’t the “God of gods”?
We live in an era where image is everything. The basic celebrity promotions game is summed up like this: Spotlight the good and conceal the bad. Joseph deflected praise that would have elevated his image in the eyes of the Egyptians. Perhaps, he learned a lesson from his brother’s response to the coat of many colors. Joseph understood that image only gets you so far. But the Lord can exalt and sustain a man beyond human circumstances.
Eventually, all men must produce results to back up their images, and it is possible for a man’s charisma to garner them access to places where his character cannot keep him. Put another way: talk is cheap. Joseph knew that men were unable to interpret prophetic dreams. Only God can explain the prophecy because only God gives true prophetic messages.
What can we learn from Joseph today? 1) God has a plan for you, which may involve unjust opposition and suffering. 2) Despite our circumstances, we are still required to act with humility, wisdom, and integrity. 3) Never assume that God will respond to your requests in any particular way, even when you entreat Him wholeheartedly.
We can only assume the facts: God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and His character never changes. When we commit to putting that knowledge into our operational theology, only then will we learn the secret of contentment.
“I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13
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