Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Genesis 41:1-37 #eebc2018

Joseph is still in prison. It's been two years, and he's still in prison. (A minor note: figure the "years" in Egypt are based on astronomical observations, so it's a fairly precise "year." Other cultures used a lunar year, which did not sync up perfectly and required adjustment. So there's a reason it's wise to avoid nailing a year number to the text.)

How long have you been in prison? How long have you been serving where you never wanted to go? Are you ready for a breakthrough into something different?

Are you prepared for it to be a disaster of major proportion for you to get it? Let's not get too caught up in the "Be Like Joseph" rhetoric as we read this: be faithful where you are, but realize that Joseph's ascension to great renown required a pretty harsh event for others. Do not be so convinced of your own delusions of grandeur that you require others to suffer for your sake.

And that is how this chapter unfolds: Pharaoh has a couple of dreams. He cannot understand his dreams, but no one could find an interpretation for him. (Another minor note: there's no future in being a dream interpreter in the Bible. The only folks who do it well actually get pulled from other jobs to give God's words, and then go on to other jobs...)

At this point, the chief cupbearer brings Joseph to the attention of Pharaoh. Interestingly enough, Joseph remains the only named individual in the story. Joseph is pulled from the prison, cleaned up, and set before Pharaoh to interpret the dreams.

Which Joseph promptly tells Pharaoh that he cannot do.

Think through this: Joseph stands before a man with the power of life and death over him. All Joseph needs to do is present Pharaoh with a plausible dream interpretation, say a few nice things, and hopefully Pharaoh lets him out of prison and out of the country. He can go home.

Instead, Joseph points out that only God can give Pharaoh any clarity about his dream. Joseph's first action is to point Pharaoh to the One True God. After this, Pharaoh shares his dreams with Joseph, of seven fat and seven skinny cows, of seven great ears of corn and seven lousy ones.

The meaning is made clear through Joseph: disaster is coming. There will be seven good years, but soon seven bad ones will come and destroy the results. The options? Joseph proposes a stern taxation plan, matched with a tight hand on the budget. Food must be stored for the bad years, Egypt must make itself ready.

While the next reading will cement this: Joseph is the one who will be put in charge of this task. Joseph was faithful as a slave, faithful as a prisoner, and now will have to be faithful when in power. It is, perhaps, a harder temptation.


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