What they intended for evil, the LORD intended for good… for the saving of many lives. -Gen. 50:20
The LORD continued to bless Joseph, even while he was a prisoner. Knowing my son was innocent of any crime; the LORD brought him to the attention of the warden as someone who could be trusted with responsibility. Soon Joseph was second in command of the prison, handling all the warden’s routine administrative matters.
Some time later, two members of Pharaoh’s court, officials who had upset him and were also languishing in prison as a result, had unusual dreams on the same night. Looking around among the inmates for someone to interpret them, they asked Joseph. “Interpretation of dreams is something only God can do,” he replied, “but tell me about them.”
The former Chief Cupbearer went first. In his dream there was a grape vine with three branches. The branches blossomed and budded and their clusters immediately ripened into grapes. He had Pharaoh’s cup in his hand and squeezed the grapes into it. Then he handed the cup to Pharaoh.
The LORD gave the interpretation to Joseph. The three branches stood for three days, after which Pharaoh would release the Chief Cupbearer from prison and reinstate him to his former position.
This was good news and the other official, the former Chief Baker, couldn’t wait to tell of his dream. “On my head were three baskets of bread. The top basket was full of all kinds of bread I had baked for Pharaoh, but the birds kept flying down and eating it.”
Again the LORD told Joseph what it meant. The three baskets were three days, but the birds eating the bread meant that in three days Pharaoh would have the baker beheaded and his body hung on a tree.
Joseph made each one promise to tell Pharaoh who had interpreted the dream for them and sent them away.
Three days later was Pharaoh’s birthday, and during the festivities he sent for his two officials, restoring the Chief Cupbearer, but executing the Chief Baker just as Joseph had predicted. In his joy, the Chief Cupbearer forgot all about Joseph.
Those of you with New Testament backgrounds will see something here that none of us in my day could have picked up on. I’m talking about the incredible symbolism of these two dreams.
The Cupbearer was languishing in prison, as good as dead for all he knew. The wine in his dream was an indication that he was going to be released from bondage, brought back to life, if you will, and into the presence of Pharaoh. Now think of your communion service. The wine stands for the Blood of Christ, shed for the remission of sin. It releases us from the bondage of our sins, restores life to those who are as good as dead for lack of a Savior, and brings us into the presence of our King.
The Baker’s body was broken and he was hung on a tree, just like his dream had foretold. The night before He was hung on Calvary’s tree, Jesus took bread and broke it saying, “This bread is my body which is given for you.” He had to die to give us life.
And just as these two prisoners experienced the fulfillment of their dreams on the third day after learning their meanings, so the believer received the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise on the third day after He spoke it. For three days after his body was broken and His blood was shed, He arose from the dead to eternal life, proof that all who believed in Him would do likewise.
Two years later, Pharaoh had a couple of strange dreams that no one at court could explain, and finally the Chief Cupbearer remembered Joseph. Hustling him out of prison and into Pharaoh’s presence, the officials asked Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. Again Joseph said that interpretations belong to God alone, but agreed to hear the dreams and explain their meaning.
In the first one Pharaoh was standing by the Nile when seven fat and sleek cows came up out of the water and grazed among the reeds. Then seven skinny ugly cows also came out of the water and ate up the seven fat cows. But after doing so they were as skinny and ugly as before. Pharaoh woke up for a while, but after going to sleep again dreamed about seven heads of grain all full and ripe. But they were also eaten up by seven other heads of grain, scorched and withered by the East Wind.
Joseph told Pharaoh that the two dreams were one and the same. Seven years of abundance in Egypt would be followed by seven years of extreme famine. The famine would be so severe that it would consume all the abundance and more, and the people would forget all about the abundance because of the severity of the famine. The dream was given in two forms to show Pharaoh that the matter was settled in God’s mind and would surely come to pass soon.
Joseph then suggested that Pharaoh appoint a wise and powerful man to make sure that as much of the abundance as possible would be stored up during the seven years of plenty, so there would be enough to see them through the famine. He recommended that 20% of each harvest be placed in storage for the next seven years.
Seeing Joseph’s wisdom and agreeing with his recommendation, Pharaoh appointed him to the job, describing him as one in whom “the Spirit of God dwells.” As for his power, Pharaoh decreed that in all of Egypt, only he would be superior to Joseph.
And so my beloved son, having been rejected and betrayed by his brothers, cast into a pit, sold as a slave into Egypt and reported to me as dead, falsely accused and wrongly convicted, has come out of his prison to become the second most powerful man in the known world, responsible alone for saving it from certain destruction. The world’s first super hero. More next time.