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Dreams and More Dreams
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Scripture: Genesis 40:1-41:37; Psalm 27:13-14

Subject: What happens to Joseph during his extended stay in prison?

Complement: The LORD is with him, showing favor to him and giving him the ability to interpret dreams.

Exegetical Idea: During Joseph’s extended stay in prison, the LORD is with him, showing favor to him and giving him the ability to interpret dreams.

Homiletical Idea: Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.

Purpose: To encourage my hearers to hold on to the Lord no matter what circumstances they find themselves in, with the assurance that the Lord is holding on to them.

Note: You are free to edit this MS Word file and make it your own. Download

The key thought of this message from the life of Joseph is expressed in an ancient Scripture song, written 3,000 years ago. Listen to the words, and then listen to Joseph’s story.

I would have lost heart unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD
I would have lost heart unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD, be of good courage
And He shall strengthen your heart.
Wait on the LORD, be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart.
Wait, I say, on the LORD, wait, I say, on the LORD.

Joseph was at risk of losing heart. He had just been falsely accused and thrown into prison. Well, perhaps to be more accurate, Potiphar had escorted him to the prison where the king’s prisoners were kept. It was obvious to Joseph that Potiphar didn’t believe the lying accusations of his promiscuous wife, but Joseph was still in prison, and though the Egyptian prison didn’t resemble the dry cistern outside of Dothan, the feelings were the same. Joseph felt abandoned again. Rejected again. “Where are you, Lord? Deliver me from this place!

Joseph had to learn to wait on the Lord, and he soon discovered that just as the Lord was with him when he served in Potiphar’s house, so the Lord was with him in the prison. We would still see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

We read in Genesis 39:20-23, “Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined. But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”

That’s certainly an encouraging report, but even though Joseph prospered in that Egyptian prison, I have no doubt that day after day Joseph cried out to God, “Lord, deliver me from this place!”

We’re not told how much time passed, perhaps weeks or months, but Joseph was soon promoted to a position of responsibility in that Egyptian prison. One day some special “guests” arrived. We can read the inspired account in Genesis chapter 40, beginning with verse 1-3. “Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined.”

We are left with a lot of questions about what exactly happened in Pharaoh’s court. Why was the Pharaoh angry with his cupbearer and his baker? If they had committed a terrible crime, why weren’t they put to death? We’ll learn in a few minutes that Pharaoh was about to celebrate his birthday. Was his anger related to the preparation for his upcoming birthday celebration? We don’t know for sure.

And then there is this term “captain of the guard” in Genesis 40:3. Do you recognize that term from someone else in the story of Joseph? Yes! That is the same term used at the beginning of Genesis 39 for Potiphar. It seems that this prison where the king’s prisoners were confined was actually connected to Potiphar’s house.

That raises another question in my mind. Did Joseph continue to see Potiphar’s wife walking around while he was confined in a prison on the same property? How would that make you feel? The wicked prosper and those who live with integrity suffer. No wonder that Joseph cried out to the Lord, day after day: “Lord, deliver me from this place!”

But now some distinguished “guests” have arrived at the king’s prison, and Scripture records that Joseph was charged by the captain of the guard to care for them. Again, I’m wondering if this is a reference to Potiphar. Was Potiphar hoping that a connection with these two officials might lead to Joseph finding favor in the eyes of the Pharaoh?

The story continues in Genesis 40:5-8. “each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?" "We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them." Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams”

There is no evidence up to this point in the story that Joseph has been given a special prophetic gift from God. Either he is praying while he is speaking or he surprises himself by his own words! Genesis 40:9-13:

“So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, 'In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand.' 'This is what it means,' Joseph said to him. 'The three branches are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.'”

I want you to notice Joseph’s plea after he interprets the cupbearer’s dream. The plea is recorded in Genesis 40:14-15. “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon."

In his mind, Joseph might be thinking, “I’ve been crying out to the Lord to deliver me from this place, and I’m still here. Maybe I can plead with Pharaoh’s official to ask Pharaoh to get me out of this place!

The Pharaoh’s baker is encouraged by the favorable interpretation of his colleagues dream, and so he shares his dream with Joseph. Genesis 40:16-17. "When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread. In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head."

We can’t see Joseph’s facial expressions as he hears the baker’s dream, but I wonder if he was reticent to give the interpretation. Nevertheless, Joseph answered and said, recorded in Genesis 40:18-19, “This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh.”

Now anyone can speculate about the meaning of a dream, but the events that occurred 3 days later confirmed that Joseph had been given a special prophetic gift by God. Genesis 40:20-22 “Now the third day was Pharaoh's birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh's hand, but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.”

And then comes that tragic comment in Genesis 40:23, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”

Have you ever felt totally forgotten, not only by people, but also by God? You cry out day after day and God seems very slow to respond to your prayer? Two full years pass. More than 700 sunrises and sunsets, and Joseph is still confined in prison.

Genesis 41:1-8: “When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.

"He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.

"In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.”


Then the cupbearer said to the Pharaoh, “Oops! I forget to mention something to you two years ago!” Well, that’s my dynamic paraphrase of Genesis 41:9. “Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, 'Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.'”

The cupbearer continues in Genesis 41:10-13: “Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.”

I’m puzzled by the change of pronouns in v.13 of Genesis 41. Instead of saying “You restored me…” the cupbearer says, “He restored me…” It’s almost as if the cupbearer is addressing all of the wise men and magicians who are gathered there in Pharaoh’s court.

Pharaoh’s response is immediate. Genesis 41:14. “So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.”

Was Joseph told why he was being summoned? I can only assume that the captain of the guard, Potiphar, was involved in the transfer of the prisoner from the king’s prison to the court of the Pharaoh. One has to wonder what conversation occurred during that trip; perhaps no words at all, but silent messages.

I imagine that Joseph is praying. Remember his earlier confession: “Interpretations belong to God.” Perhaps instead of just praying “Lord deliver me from this place, “Joseph prays, “Lord, use me in this place!”

When he stood before the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh said to Joseph, recorded in Genesis 41:15, “Pharaoh said to Joseph, "I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

And I want you to notice Joseph’s response. Genesis 41:16 “'I cannot do it,' Joseph replied to Pharaoh, 'but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.'” Joseph chooses to publically honor the God of heaven, regardless of the outcome of this meeting. That, my friends, is living with integrity!

The Pharaoh continues, recorded in Genesis 41:17-24, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.'”

Joseph’s response demonstrated the calm assurance that the Lord was with him in the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. Genesis 41:25-32 “Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, 'The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

 "It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.”

And Joseph doesn’t stop with the interpretation of the dream. Inspired by the Spirit of God, Joseph gives the following counsel to the Pharaoh, recorded in Genesis 41:33-36. “And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine."

And Scripture in Genesis 41:37, “The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials.”

Joseph has chosen to boldly speak for God regardless of the consequence. Yes, he would like to be delivered from that prison. But more important than the prayer, “Lord deliver me from this place” is the prayer “Lord, use me in this place!”

Some of you are thinking, “Read on, Pastor Derek! This is where the story gets really good. Joseph gets his big promotion!” But Joseph doesn’t know that yet. He just knows that he has chosen to believe that He will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. He has chosen to wait on the Lord and be of good courage, knowing that the Lord will strengthen his heart. He’s still a prisoner. He still doesn’t know what the future holds. But this much is certain. The Lord is with him. Joseph has chosen to wait on the Lord!

That’s a lesson that we all need to learn. In whatever situation we find ourselves, wait on the Lord! Listen again to that ancient Scripture song and make its promise your own:

I would have lost heart unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD
I would have lost heart unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait on the LORD, be of good courage
And He shall strengthen your heart.
Wait on the LORD, be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart.
Wait, I say, on the LORD, wait, I say, on the LORD.

Someone of you would have lost heart, given up, if you didn’t know that the Lord was with you, wouldn’t you? You would have lost heart if you didn’t believe that you would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, whether during this life or on the earth made new.

Life can be hard, unfair, brutal, but you have chosen to live a life that honors God, to live with integrity, to hold on to the Lord with the assurance that He is holding on to you. And I’m here to tell you today that He will strengthen your heart. Now, in whatever situation you find yourself, instead of simply saying, “Lord, deliver me from this place,” you can pray, “Lord, use me in this place.”

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By Derek Morris, Pastor of the Forest Lake Church in Apopka, FL. Better Sermons © 2005-2009. Click here for usage guidelines.



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