by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Title: Dream, But Don’t Make Dreams Your Master
Text: "Here comes that master-dreamer," they exclaimed. (Genesis 37:19).
Scripture Reading: Gen 37:1-28 (Living)
Joseph, like Jacob, stands out as one of the most delightful and exciting characters in the Old Testament. All but one of Joseph’s brothers was born of different mothers, making for a diversity of interest and an intensely competitive spirit among the brothers and ultimately leading to hostility. The tension between Joseph and his brothers is reminiscent of the conflict between Jacob and Esau. But even though Jacob and Esau had their differences, in the end they seem to have been reconciled to the point that they did not seek to harm one another.
Joseph, on the other hand, remained a possible threat to his brothers, at least in their own minds, until the very end. Although he had forgiven them and given them positions of privilege in Egypt, they feared that after their father died Joseph would retaliate for the evil they had done to him. Today’s message concerns Joseph’s early years.
God had given him many meaningful dreams, and he rather brashly reported them to his family. Even though we recognize that Joseph was chosen by God for a great mission, he was still a human being, and we are not irreverent to point out certain signs of his immaturity.
There are three components to our Bible study; I want you to see first that DREAMS ARE IMPORTANT.
Joseph’s story begins this way:
“So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived” (v. 1).
Apparently Jacob has moved south of Bethlehem and settled in a place near Hebron. This is the place where Abraham had made his home. It is the place of fellowship, of communion with God.
“Jacob's son Joseph was now seventeen years old. His job, along with his half brothers, the sons of his father's wives Bilhah and Zilpah, was to shepherd his father's flocks. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things they were doing” (v. 2).
We can see that the bunch of boys Jacob had, were real problem children (with the exception of Joseph and Benjamin). It took these men a long time to learn the lessons God would teach them.
Joseph was only seventeen, just a teenager, when this incident took place. He brought a bad report to his father about the other boys. Of course they didn’t like it. I’m sure they called him a tattletale or worse.
Next we read:
“Now as it happened, Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, because Joseph was born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob gave him a special gift--a brightly colored coat” (v. 3).
Jacob should have learned a lesson from his experiences as a young man. He knew that to play favorites would cause trouble in a family. His own father had favored his older brother Esau, and Jacob knew what it was like to be discriminated against. But here he practices the very same thing. We can understand his feelings, knowing that Rachel was the wife whom he really loved—she was the one fine thing in his life—and Joseph her son is really a fine boy, and Jacob loved him dearly. While all this is true, it still is not an excuse. He should not have made him that brightly colored coat.
“His brothers of course noticed their father's partiality, and consequently hated Joseph; they couldn't say a kind word to him” (v. 4).
Naturally, the brothers hated him for being the favorite of his father. They couldn’t even speak peaceably to him. So here we can see strife in this family. I tell you, I don’t care whose family it is, sin will ruin it. Sin ruins lives, and sin ruins families; sin ruins communities and it ruins nations. This is the problem with our families and cities and nations today. There is just one cause: God calls it sin. So here we find that this boy Joseph is the object of discrimination. His father discriminates in his love for him. The brothers discriminate in their hatred against him.
The prophet Joel said that young men would, “see visions.” Youth is the time when we perceive with piercing clarity because our sense of vision is fresh. The true test of our ability to cope with life is our vision. People live by visions. Foolish people laugh at ideas they cannot understand, but dreams are not, as they have been called, “the vaguest things we know.” They represent ideas, and we cannot dismiss a matter by saying, “That’s a nice idea, but it’s only an ideal.” The world owes much to good people who have dreamed and then worked hard to make their dreams come true.
Joseph was such a dreamer, but sometimes DREAMS CAN BE DANGEROUS.
“One night Joseph had a dream and promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing even deeper hatred. "Listen to this," he proudly announced” (vs. 5 & 6).
How can we explain his conduct here? Why would he go to his father and tattle on his brothers in the first place when he knew it would incur their hatred; and why would he describe this dream to his brothers when he should have known it would make them angry? Well, I think he just didn’t know just how bad this world can be. He had no idea how bad his brothers were. I am of the opinion that he was a rather gullible boy at this time. It took him a long time to find out the ways of the world, but he certainly did learn. Eventually he probably knew as much about the world and the wickedness of man to man as anyone. But that was later on, not now.
You can just imagine how Joseph has been protected. His father centered all his affection on Rachel. He had fallen in love with her at first sight and had worked fourteen years for her. Then many years went by before she bore him a child. Finally Joseph was born. What a delight that must have been for Jacob. But now Rachel is gone; so he centers his affection on this boy. He shouldn’t have done that—he had other sons to raise—but that is what he has done. Joseph has been loved and protected. Here’s how he described his dream to his brothers.
"We were out in the field binding sheaves, and my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves all gathered around it and bowed low before it!" "So you want to be our king, do you?" his brothers derided. And they hated him both for the dream and for his cocky attitude” (vs. 7 & 8).
Can’t you imagine how they sneered? I’m sure they were sarcastic. They didn’t really believe that he would rule over them. Yet, they hated him because he had this dream. That doesn’t end the dreams though.
“Then he had another dream and told it to his brothers. "Listen to my latest dream," he boasted. "The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!" This time he told his father as well as his brothers; but his father rebuked him. "What is this?" he asked. "Shall I indeed, and your mother and brothers come and bow before you?" His brothers were fit to be tied concerning this affair, but his father gave it quite a bit of thought and wondered what it all meant” (VS. 9-11).
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