20 November 2017Genesis 41:53 – 42:6
“Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” (Genesis 42:6)
Psalm: Psalm 119:161-176
In this passage, we see several prophetic dreams become reality. Joseph's God-given ability to interpret the Pharaoh's dreams about thin cows devouring fat cows and withered ears of corn swallowing up good ears of corn meant that when seven years of famine followed seven years of plenty, there was still bread in Egypt (verse 54). Joseph was only asked to interpret the Pharaoh's dreams because he had already done so, with great accuracy, for two of his fellow inmates in prison (Genesis 40), one of whom was now Pharaoh's chief cupbearer. As a result, a great many people, including Joseph's brothers, flocked to Egypt to buy grain. In a wonderful moment of dramatic irony, Joseph's brothers (who last saw Joseph 20 years earlier being dragged out of a pit and sold into slavery (Genesis 37:19-28)) failed to recognise him and bowed before him with their faces to the ground, in fulfilment of the dream that Joseph (somewhat obnoxiously) related to them in Genesis 37:5-8.
Dreams and night-time visions play a vital role in the Genesis narrative, as one of the key ways in which God speaks to people. In cases such as these, dreams convey a vision of the future that subsequently comes to pass. Perhaps, for the individuals and communities in Genesis, this method of communication was particularly helpful, as it provided reassurance that the future was safe in God's hands and that God's promises for the future (and especially Genesis 12:2-3) would be fulfilled, however difficult the present might be.
Many people understand prophecy to be the God-given ability accurately to predict the future, as Joseph did. But the Old Testament paints a much broader, richer image of prophecy, as the many ways God speaks through people with the courage to carry God's message into the world. Often, the message concerns the present, rather than the future, as God reminds us that we are loved and calls us to live lovingly in response.
- Have you ever experienced a situation in which someone received a message about the future that they believed to be from God? How did it make you feel?
- How do you feel that God speaks most clearly to you? (Perhaps the hymn 'Lord you sometimes speak in whispers' (Singing the Faith 158) can provide some suggestions.)
- What do you think a modern-day prophet might look like? What might they do and say?