After two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing beside the Nile,
Joseph is already supreme in the narrow sphere of the prison: "all was committed to his hand." The narrow sphere prepares him for the wider. The spiritual supremacy has now to be revealed. "Do not interpretations belong to God?" The dreams are partly of man and partly of. God. Each man dreamed of things connected with his life. The butler of the wine coming from the grape-clusters, pressed into Pharaoh's cup, given into his hand. The baker of the white baskets and bakemeats, plucked from him while upon his head by the birds of prey. To a certain extent the interpretation was natural, but as at once communicated to Joseph it was inspired. The sphere of inspiration is concentric with the sphere of the natural intelligence and wisdom, but goes beyond it. The request of Joseph, that his spiritual superiority should be recognized and rewarded, was not fulfilled by the ungrateful man; but, as an act of obedience to the Spirit of God, it was committed to him who seeth in secret and rewardeth openly. Joseph is still being tried by the word of God. It is committed to him as a messenger and witness for the covenant people. It tries his faith and patience. The whole is a parable, setting forth -
1. The order of the world, as resting on the Divine foreknowledge and appointment in connection with the elect instrumentalities, bringing the things of Egypt under the dominion of the kingdom of God.
2. The providential hiding of gracious purposes. Joseph the seer in the prison, waiting for the hour of redemption, sending forth messages of truth to do their errands.
3. Invisible links between the rulers of this world and the representatives of the kingdom of God to be revealed in due time.
4. Discipline in the lives of God's people fruitful in blessed results, both for them and for all. - R.
Imperfect as human monarchs are, and sometimes corrupt, they are beneficial to society. A government must be very rotten if it is not better than anarchy. Hence, for the most part, God designs to act through kings, and permits them to be His ministers. God has a secret to make known to Egypt, viz., tidings of approaching scarcity; and since Pharaoh is on the throne, the communication shall be made to him.
Pharaoh dreamed. I.
THAT APPARENTLY INSIGNIFICANT EVENTS MAY OFTEN GROW INTO AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE WORLD'S HISTORY.
II. THAT GOD CHOOSES THE INSTRUMENTS OF REVELATION ACCORDING TO HIS OWN GOOD PLEASURE.
III. THAT GOD CAN SUDDENLY ARREST THE ATTENTION OF THOSE WHO ARE THE FARTHEST REMOVED FROM EVERY EARTHLY FEAR.
THE SUMMONING OF JOSEPH TO INTERPRET PHARAOH'S DREAM.
1. The long waiting of Joseph before he attained his emancipation.
2. The wisdom of this delay in respect of Joseph's circumstances.
3. Pharaoh's prophetic dream.
4. The chief butler's forgetfulness.
II. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE DREAM.
1. The graceful way in which Joseph refers all to God.
2. Joseph's calmness, produced by the consciousness of God's presence.
3. Joseph's plan in the interpretation of the dream. It was simply a providential foresight for the future.
The dream was formed of elements with which the dreamer was somewhat familiar.
2. The dream was a Divine communication to the mind of a heathen.
3. The dream brought trouble into the heart of a monarch.
4. The dream could only be interpreted by a devout Theist.
I. THE REVOLUTIONS OF PROVIDENCE. Alternations mark the earthly history of the human world.
1. They tend to promote our spiritual discipline.
2. They remind us of the activity of God.
3. They tend to inspire us with a sense of our dependence upon Him.
4. This method tends, moreover, to give a meaning to the Bible.
5. This method often prepares the mind to receive the truths of the Bible.
II. THE ADVANTAGES OF WISDOM.
1. It invested Joseph with a chastened humility of soul.
2. It enabled Joseph to solve the distressing inquiries of the monarch.
3. It exalted Joseph to supremacy in the kingdom.
III. THE DUTY OF RULERS. They should be —
1. How great is the Governor of the world.
2. How worthless the world is without religion.
3. How important to be in fellowship with the great God.
I. A MAN-MADE KING IS, AT THE BEST, IMPOTENT.
1. A dream is enough to terrify him. Yet is not this cowardly? Why should the great Pharaoh be alarmed by a night-vision? Has he not an enormous army at his back? Ah, verily, there is another Power, active, mightier, more august, hedging him on every side! What if this strange Power should be unfriendly! No wonder that Pharaoh's knees tremble. He is like a fly upon the unseen mechanism of the universe. He is but a waif upon the stormy Atlantic. What is this all-surrounding Power? Possibly it may be God!
2. Further, he is a very dependent man. He cannot do without astrologers, magicians, butlers, and bakers. No; it would not do for the king to be independent. The temptation to play the tyrant would be irresistible. He is only one part of the social system, though it may be the most prominent.
3. The king is dependent upon the most obscure in his kingdom. On an imprisoned slave Pharaoh and all Egypt have to depend. Verily nobleness and worth may be found in the lowliest lot!
II. THE RING IS AN ALLY OF GOD.
1. Joseph's first utterance was to acknowledge God. In substance he says, "I am powerless; God can meet the case." Hers was a great opportunity for ostentation, self-display. His bearing is calm, princely, royal. Of himself he can do nothing; but he has brought the true God into court, and "with God nothing is impossible."
2. This was an act of heroic faith. Joseph stood alone in that awestruck assembly. Magnates, officers, stewards, magicians, all were worshippers of Egypt's countless idols. To disparage the ancient idols, powerful for long ages, were perilous to a young man and a foreigner.
III. THE REAL KING IS TRAINED IN ADVERSITY.
1. It is clear that Joseph was master of the situation. Etymologically, the word king means "the man that knows." It was this that made Elijah great and powerful in the face of idolatrous Israel. This gave Daniel sovereign influence in the Chaldean court. This made Luther a monarch among men. "Them that honour Me, I will honour."
2. For this royal position Joseph had been skilfully trained.
IV. THE REAL KING IS SUPREME IN EVERY EMERGENCY. Most sailors can steer the ship in fine weather; it requires a real pilot to steer safely through a storm. Pharaoh might do well enough at the helm of affairs, so long as harvests were copious, and the nation was well fed. But in presence of a night-vision, Pharaoh lost his balance; in presence of a famine, Pharaoh was staggered.
()I. THE VICISSITUDES OF LIFE. Prosperity and adversity succeed each other. Life generally is as variable as an April day. If a man has seven years of uninterrupted happiness, he must not expect that it will continue much longer. The most prosperous men are liable to surprises. Families that have for years been free from sickness or bereavemant may suddenly be overshadowed by the angel of death. Hopes may be blighted when they are near fulfilment, and pleasure may be followed by severe and protracted trial.
II. THE OVER-RULING PROVIDENCE OF GOD. Whatever may be the opinions held by some, we say unhesitatingly that God has the affairs of all nations and of all men under His immediate control; that He gives or withholds, as seemeth good unto Him, but always in a way consistent with human freedom. And He invites our confidence.
III. THE DUTY OF USING THE PRESENT WELL. Although we are not to be overanxious about the future, we are not to disregard it altogether. We cannot tell what demands may be made upon our resources. We must provide, as far as possible, against sickness and adversity. We must not ignore the claims of others.
()This dream will appear to many but a jumble of incoherent ideas, which no wise man would retain in his memory. What other man ever thought, even in a dream, of kine, or of ears of corn, eating one another? Yet it is certain that this dream came from God, and that it was an intimation of future events, of exceedingly important consequence, both to the Egyptian nation, and to all the neighboring nations, and even to the church of God. "God's ways are not as our ways," nor ought we to measure His providential administration by our own rules. He discovers His mind in the manner best fitted to serve His purpose. It was not the will of God that Pharaoh should understand his own dream, till it was explained by a heaven-taught interpreter. If the meaning had been so plain, that it could have been explained by the wise men of Egypt, the design for which it was sent to Pharaoh would not have been gained. It was for Joseph's sake, and for the sake of his father's house, that Pharaoh dreamed, and that his dream required such an interpreter as Joseph. There are dreams and visions recorded in many places of the Bible, that appear to our narrow minds as dark as this dream of Pharaoh. God hath His reasons for choosing to deliver many parts of his mind in dark figures, which we would need a Joseph to interpret. But to allege that any part of Scripture ought to have been plainer than it is, would be daringly presumptuous. Every part of it was dictated to the holy men of God by that wisdom which cannot err. Every censure of the Divine wisdom must he folly and blasphemy. The darkest portion of Scripture was not written in vain.
()It cannot be surprising that men in all ages and countries should have attached a great importance to dreams. When the functions of the soul seem fettered, and the images of the mind appear dissolved in floating phantoms, it was thought that the direct interference of the Deity alone could give strength and direction to the relaxed faculties; that if in such a state distinct and clearly circumscribed forms were perceived, they must have a higher tendency; and that their meaning is as mysterious as their origin is supernatural. Eastern nations especially, endowed as they are with a luxurious imagination, and carried away by a love of symbolism, searched the import of dreams with eager and serious anxiety. The Egyptians and Chaldeans were foremost in the cultivation of this branch of knowledge; they developed the explanation of dreams into a complete science; the interpreters of dreams were held in the most distinguished honour; they were regarded as being favoured with the highest order of wisdom, and even with divine inspiration; they surrounded the throne of the king, accompanied the expedition of the general, and often exercised a decisive influence in the most important deliberations. But the Greeks and Romans were not less scrupulous in this respect. That dreams come from Jupiter, is a maxim already pronounced by Homer; but they were considered significant only if occurring in the last third of the night, when dawn is near; persons in distress or difficulties slept in temples, in the hope of obtaining prophetic dreams which might indicate the means of rescue; men afflicted with illness especially resorted to this expedient, in the belief that AEsculapius would reveal to them the proper remedies; and Alexander the Great actually fancied he saw, in a dream, the herb which cured the wound of Ptolemy, his friend and relation. But how deeply the faith in the reality of dreams were rooted among the ancient nations is manifest from She views entertained by the Hebrews on this subject. Dreams grew in importance among the Hebrews in the course of centuries, and after the Babylonian captivity they were classified in a complete system; they were regarded either as auspicious or ominous; harassing or frightful visions were expiated by fasts and prayer; and Philo wrote an elaborate treatise, in two books, to prove that dreams are sent by God. It could not fail, that these decided notions, on a subject so vague and uncertain, caused serious abuses, chiefly from two sides; from weak-minded dreamers, who were often tortured by visionary misfortunes, and from cunning interpreters, who knew how to take advantages of such imbecility; but sometimes, also, from wicked schemers, who made real or pretended dreams the pretext of base and selfish plans; as Flavius Josephus did, when, by treachery and cowardice, he saved his life by passing over into the camp of the enemies. Jesus Sirach, therefore, though acknowledging that some dreams are sent by God, censured severely the folly of attributing weight to all; he impressed upon his readers that many dreams are idle and empty, like the wind and the shadow, a delusion to the fool, and a phantom of deceitful hope; just as Artabanus had, long before, said to king Xerxes: " The visions of dreams are not Divine; they most commonly hover around men respecting things which engaged their thoughts during the day"; although the superstition of his time is reflected in the legend which he narrated, how he yet was forced to acknowledge the awful sanctity of dreams. Nor has the interest in dreams ceased since that time; they have occupied the pen of many a modern psychologist; they have given rise to some of the most beautiful works, replete with profound thought and shrewd observation; and the peculiar mystery which surrounds those remarkable phenomena, too aerial to permit of the rigid analysis of the philosopher or the man of science, will always exercise an excusable charm over the human mind.
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