Introduction: In this week’s notes we see the busy world of men – so heedless of God and proud in self-reliance – brought to its knees by the God who reveals Himself through dreams and comes unbidden right into the very bedrooms of the greatest men on the earth, like Pharaoh. May our hearts rise with joy this week and next as we see God move kingdoms and kings like mere pawns in order to save one of his suffering saints, Joseph, forgotten in prison.
Monday: read Genesis 41:1-8. Dreams once again figure prominently in the kingdom of Egypt. This time two dreams are sent, bearing all the marks of Divine origin: especially in the powerful effect which they had on Pharaoh. As Gen. 41:8 says, he woke up and “in the morning his mind was troubled.” The word there translated “troubled” comes from the root, “to strike or beat” and in noun form can mean an “anvil” or “bell,” as in something that one strikes. Pharaoh’s mind, we conclude, was “hammered.” He had been struck down by God through his dreams. In this way God shows His power to influence and overrule the affairs of even the most mighty of men.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His power to use even small things like dreams as ‘hammers’ to bring the most mighty down to their knees. If God could use a donkey to stop Balaam, then He can use even the dreams of Pharaoh to hammer him into submission. Celebrate this Divine power over the minds and souls of all men in the words of Hymn # 27 from our Trinity Hymnal (vv. 1 & 4):
“Great God, how infinite art thou! How poor and weak are we!
Let the whole race of creatures bow, and pay their praise to thee.”
“Our lives through various scenes are drawn, and vexed with trifling cares;
While thine eternal thought moves on, thine undisturbed affairs.”
(Isaac Watts, 1707)
Tuesday: read Genesis 41:1-8. Dreams such as Pharaoh’s show us much about God’s power and man’s weakness. Consider for example how impotent Pharaoh is to control either the act of dreaming or the times at which these dreams come to him. Though he was the absolute leader of the most efficient and sizeable government machine of his day, he lies prostrate, unable to stop the dreams and awaken until each of them was concluded. Between the dreams, God apparently wakes him up and then causes him to sleep again. I wonder if, after the first terrible dream about emaciated cows devouring their own kind, Pharaoh might have turned over, resolving never to dream again? But God once again was able to touch him at the deepest level of consciousness. Pharaoh’s life was an open book to the Eye of God!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His power to reach directly into the consciences of men, no matter how many barriers and obstacles they put in the way. As Psalm 139, put to music in Hymn # 36 (verses 1, 3 & 5) of our hymnal, says:
“Lord, thou hast searched me, and dost know where’er I rest, where’er I go;
Thou knowest all that I have planned, and all my ways are in thy hand.”
“Where can I go apart from thee, or whither from thy presence flee?
In heav’n – it is thy dwelling fair; in death’s abode? – lo, thou are there.”
“If deepest darkness cover me, the darkness hideth not from thee; to thee both night and day are bright, the darkness shineth as the light.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 41:1-8 & 17-27. It is well known that the Egyptians worshipped the River Nile in order to guarantee successful planting and harvests – so much so that in their writings (and in the writings of Moses here in Genesis who was trained as the son of an Egyptian Princess) it is referred to simply as “The River.” Indeed, in Gen. 41:1 the word “Nile” does not actually appear. It is simply ‘The River,” the Divine source of life and agricultural richness. Each spring its rising waters would flood countless farmers’ fields in the Nile Delta bringing rich organic material over the land. No wonder Pharaoh is so troubled after his dream! According to Joseph’s interpretation in Gen. 41:25-27, the Nile, though the source of life, was now going to bring forth famished cows which would devour everything healthy before them! Years of famine would come which not even their worship of the Nile could prevent! Just as when Moses came, blood turned their beloved River red, so here God comes to Pharaoh in his dream, promising 7 terrible years of drought and famine arising from the River’s inability to sustain life.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the honesty and clarity of His revelations to mankind throughout history. World leaders promise prosperity and unbounded, continual growth – and litter the past with such broken “fair-weather” predictions. But God is straight with us, reminding us through His Son that “in this world we would have trouble” (John 16:33). Moreover, He is especially direct with those whose hearts follow idols: whatever we worship apart from the One, True God, will become to us like a bloody Nile River which produces diseased and famished cows! Rejoice, dear believer! God will not allow the idols of this world to sweep us away in a ‘river’ of spiritual pollution. As Jesus concluded in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Thursday: read Genesis 41:8-16. How complete is the humbling of Egypt under the Hand of God here in Genesis! Not only does the revered Nile River become associated with famine, even their wise men are completely stumped by the dreams God sends in Gen. 41:8! Moreover, Egypt’s exalted “cup-bearer to the King” is also shamed when he realizes in Gen. 41:9 that a full two years (Gen. 41:1) have passed in which he has completely forgotten that noble interpreter of dreams, the imprisoned Joseph.
Well then, how do you think the soon-to-be-vindicated Joseph would respond when he is finally shaved and changed in order to appear before Pharaoh in Gen. 41:14-16? Would he seek to “put his best foot forward,” “marketing himself” to Pharaoh, touting his special gift of wisdom? No – he is content to give all the glory for revealing dreams to God alone (Gen. 41:16) – even if that means being sent back to prison again! Praise God for working such faith in Joseph that he is willing to abandon himself in God’s Hands. “Let God give Pharaoh the answer… I am only the mouthpiece!”
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to help you more and more to learn this cardinal quality of Faith. Faith is not merely believing a certain set of propositions about God. It is a “hearty trust,” by which we move out from under our own protections and way of living to stand on Christ alone. We take refuge in Him, abandoning all other kinds of refuge, in order to say with David: “It is the Lord, let Him do what seems best to Him.”
“Rock of Ages, cleft to me, let me hide myself in thee; let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.”
Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.”
(Augustus Toplady, 1776 – Hymn # 499 Trinity Hymnal)
Friday: read Genesis 41:15-37 & 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. We pause here to ask the question: “Do we have loved ones or neighbors far from Christ who seem impenetrable to the Truth of God and their need for a Savior?” Be encouraged here in Genesis as we see God determined to reach the deepest recesses of unbelievers’ consciousness in whatever dreams, visions or words necessary to do the job! Though Pharaoh ruled Egypt for years heedless of the God of Abraham, when God decided to open this king’s eyes to the truth, all matters of state and world history changed according to what God had “firmly decided” (Gen. 41:32). Moreover, Pharaoh for the first time believed what God said, along with “all his officials” (Gen. 41:37). God’s Word proves effective in whatever way He sends it.
In the Old Testament God typically sent His Word in one of three ways: by dreams, visions or direct conversation: each method designed to meet the weakness and spiritual blindness of men in a special way. In dreams, such as the one given to Pharaoh (Gen. 41), there is an emphasis on the sovereignty of God and the passivity of man. Men “fall into a deep sleep,” powerless to control events themselves. At the same time in those dreams, God declares how He alone will dispose events in Egypt or throughout the world. Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt? God declares it in a dream to Abram, and sure enough, it happens (Gen. 15:12-18). Seven years of plenty and then seven of want? God declares it to Pharaoh and it happens, “just as Joseph said” (Gen. 41:53-54). In visions also, God reveals His plans to the prophets in such a way as they become “eye-witnesses” to what will surely come to pass.
But God’s highest form of revelation to prophets (especially Moses, see Numbers 12:6-8) is to speak to them “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). But this was very rare with other prophets. It is poignant to realize that we have no evidence that God ever spoke this directly to Joseph, mighty Dream Revealer as he was. Such face-to-face communication would have to wait for Heaven for him.
Meditate and Pray: How privileged we are to live in the full midday revelation of the Gospel of God “in the face of Jesus Christ.” What was rare in Moses’ day and even rarer in Joseph’s, when prophets and angels longed to understand more clearly what they prophesied of the future, has become the privilege of every believer. As Paul wrote about our direct encounter with the Lord in the Gospel,
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
Closing Prayer: “Lord, this world is so insensitive to your Truth and even more blind to the “face-to-face” friendship which all who come to God by faith can enjoy with you through the mediation of Christ. Help us as Christians to treasure more and more our unfettered access to your Throne of Grace. Help us never to lose sight of the friendly welcome which you always give those who come into your Throne-room, led by the nail-pierced hand of your Son. Hear then our prayers for the Pharaohs of this world, and for the Egypts of this world, which surely face years of want and famine ahead until they repent and turn back to you.” Amen.