Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dreamers don't get the job: Genesis 41

Yes, the title is intended to burst your bubble a little bit. As we look at Genesis 41 (link), I hope to explain what I mean. So, progressing through the whole Bible, here we go:

The story recap: Joseph is still in prison. Well, that makes it almost sound nice. He's in a dungeon. That sounds better. Whatever you might see on an investigative journalism piece, there is no comparison between any modern American prison and 4000 years ago in Egypt. In an Egyptian prison is just not where you want to be.

Last chapter was approximately two years ago. Remember last chapter? Joseph interpreted the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker. The cupbearer was supposed to mention Joseph's ability to interpret dreams when he was restored to his position. The cupbearer forgot that little detail until Pharaoh had a dream two years later, and that dream has Pharaoh troubled.

Joseph interprets Pharaoh's dreams of fat and skinny cows, fat and skinny ears of corn. The dreams are a warning of the coming famine in Egypt and that warning has a seven-year preparation time. Pharaoh now sees the impending crisis and recognizes the need to prepare for the worst and avert the destruction of his people.

So, since Pharaoh had a dream and Pharaoh is the leader in the situation, Pharaoh takes charge and saves the people, right?

Wrong. Pharaoh looks at his court, his advisors, his nobles---and promptly gives the freshly-shaved Hebrew prison slave a job somewhere between Secretary of Agriculture and Grand Vizier. Possibly even as high as Great Grand Poo-bah or Illustrious Potentate, it's hard to say. The text gives us that Joseph is second only to Pharaoh, but it's possible that this is only in the matter of preparing for the famine.

Let's examine that thought for a moment. Pharaoh could have decided to take the job into his own hands. Pharaohs usually had some self-aggrandizing plan and building huge storehouses to save the people would have made good political capital for him. Certainly better than going down as Ozymandias, at the least.

But Pharaoh does not take the job.

Meanwhile, the scene is set here against a backdrop of the best and the brightest of Egypt. We should at least be able to assume that most of the nobles and court attendees were considered at that level. Yet none of them get the job either.

The job goes to Joseph. Why? Well, ultimately because this is how God is working out His purposes on earth. However, history is the study of secondary causes: how did God work out His purposes is the question we try to answer.

The job goes to Joseph because he had the insight to understand the dream, the character to handle the job, and no expected agenda in doing the job. The insight was from God, the character was his own work, and the lack of agenda was a side-effect of his circumstances.

The job goes to Joseph. Not because of his breeding, not because of his education, not because of his good looks. Not because of a bribe or a payback or a promise. Not even because it was his dream.

It was Pharaoh's dream, after all, was it not? It was. Yet Joseph is the best man to fulfill that dream.

That's a consideration for us today. It may be that our purpose in life is not to fulfill all of our own dreams. We may be the best people to fulfill the dreams of others. Another side is this: just because someone is a great dreamer does not mean that person is the best option to get the dream fulfilled!

Often visionaries and dreamers cannot get the work done to fill out their dreams. Pharaoh might have had no idea how to feed his people through a seven-year famine. Joseph did.

The ones that can be trusted to put a dream together are the ones who, like Joseph, have insight, character, and integrity in the situation. The ones who have wisdom from God, commitment to their tasks, and the experiences to sharpen their skills. These apply whether you are seeking to fill out your own dream, considering whether or not someone will be able to fulfill their dream, or you are looking for help to fulfill yours.

Worth remembering is this: sometimes, getting the dream fulfilled is more important than being the one to fulfill it.

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