GENESIS 41:1-16

FEBRUARY 1, 2009


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Do you recall this song?  Some of you danced to it in the early ‘60's.  The lyrics were haunting and went straight to the heart.  They went,


Re-me-me, re-me-me-member

Re-me-me, re-me-me-member

Re-me-me, re-me-me-member

When, when, remember when.


So sang The Earls in 1963, and I begin with this golden oldie from the past because that is where we left Joseph last week – asking the cupbearer to remember him to the Pharaoh when the cupbearer was released from prison.  Now, two years have passed and the cupbearer finally remembers to put in a good word for Joseph.

What jogged the cupbearer’s memory was a problem the Pharaoh was having with a couple of dreams.  When the cupbearer heard about the Pharaoh’s difficulty and distress of not making heads or tails out of his dreams, the cupbearer remembered being in a similar situation a couple of years prior and how a fellow prisoner, a young Hebrew named Joseph had helped him interpret his dream.

Ever have that happen?  You have the best intentions of passing along some information but it slips your mind?  Whew – I do that much too often.  If you ever call me at home or at the office and you want me to pass along a message to Trudy, insist I write it down.  Do not worry about hurting my feelings.  Just ask me, “Did you write that down?”  I bet I forget to pass along a couple of messages a month and then its, “Oh, by the way, Trudy, so and so called last night and wanted you to call her back.” And that doesn’t go over too well in our home, but even though I can be pretty bad in passing along messages, I do not think I have ever done this poorly.  By that I mean, two years had gone by before the cupbearer remembered what he had told Joseph he would do.

If you were here last week, you might remember how two officials in Pharaoh’s court, the cupbearer whose job it was to taste everything before the Pharaoh consumed it to make sure it wasn’t poisoned or spoiled, and the chief baker had been thrown into prison for having offended the Pharaoh.  And remember from last week, we were not told what they had done to trigger the Pharaoh’s ire.  We speculated that the Pharaoh probably got sick one night on pineapple upside down cake and so, he sent them both to prison.

Anyway, these two guys – the cupbearer and the baker – had dreams while in prison and they could not figure out what they meant, and it was a big deal in Egypt to figure out your dreams for the Egyptians believed that the gods used dreams as the primary way to communicate with people, and these two guys were distraught because they couldn’t figure out the meanings of their dreams, but then we saw last week how Joseph came to the rescue and interpreted their dreams and how he said to the cupbearer, “Remember me to the Pharoah when you get out of here, so that I might get out as well.”

Well, the cupbearer forgot to mention him to Pharaoh, but then the Pharaoh has a dream which no one can interpret and the cupbearer remembers Joseph and how he had interpreted his dream, so Joseph is summoned from prison and with the help of God, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams telling him that his dreams were prophetic in nature and how they point to a time in the future when seven years of great abundance will be followed by seven years of extreme famine.  And not only does Joseph interpret the dream, but he also recommends a plan of action to get the Pharaoh and his country through the lean years.

As you read through the rest of the chapter on your own you will see Joseph encouraging the Pharaoh to hire a manager to develop and implement an emergency economic plan which involved the storing of food during bumper crop years so that Egypt could survive the seven lean years.  And as the sun sinks slowly in the west, the 41st chapter concludes with the Pharaoh being so taken with Joseph that he hires Joseph to oversee the economic plan.  In fact, the Pharaoh is so impressed with Joseph he makes him second in command in all of Egypt.  So the chapter begins with Joseph as a prisoner and ends with him as the prime minister – certainly one of the better days in Joseph’s life!

Next week we will observe Joseph in his new position, but for today I want us to look at the ways in which God chooses to communicate to us.  Ever wonder how God breaks through to us and tries to make his will known to us?  Have you ever wondered, “If I wanted to communicate with God, where do I go?  What do I do?”

Well, this morning I want to explore the top ten ways God chooses to break through to us.  Two of these ways come from our passage for today.  The other eight do not exhaust all the ways God speaks to us, but I thought a ten-point sermon sounded long enough, so let’s explore what I consider to be the ten most common ways that God talks to us, and we’ll begin with the two mentioned in our chapter.

The first way is through dreams.  What happened to the cupbearer and the baker and the Pharaoh is not just peculiar to ancient Egyptians.  No, throughout scripture God uses dreams to communicate to people.  We saw God doing this with Jacob in his dream about a ladder reaching to heaven.  We saw this with Joseph when Joseph was a teenager and he had that dream about his family bowing down to him, and we will see it in the future in the Book of Daniel with Daniel interpreting dreams for Nebuchadnezzar, and we’ll see it in the New Testament with Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, being warned by God in a dream about an impending attack from Herod and the need to flee to Egypt.  Numerous times in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, God communicates to people through dreams.

Now, God uses dreams in a couple of ways.   One type of dream is prophetic, and another  type of dream is revelatory.  In a prophetic dream, God gives us a glimpse into the future as God did with the Pharaoh.  In fact, there is increasing evidence that what we experience as deja vu is actually the fulfillment of a prophetic dream.

The other type of God-given dream is revelatory.  In this type of dream, God gives us insights into ourselves, reveals things about ourselves – what we fear, what we enjoy.  In fact, many of the crazy things we dream are but symbols for emotions we are feeling or beliefs we are holding.  For example, I regularly have dreams about someone chasing me but I can’t run fast enough; and dreams about being back in school and taking a test and not being prepared for the exam; and the one I have all the time is I am speaking to you and you aren’t listening and the sermon is boring and you start walking out.  All these dreams help me to know I need therapy!!!  No, these dreams give me insights into current emotions that get stuffed during the day, but have the freedom to surface from my unconscious while I sleep thus revealing what I am thinking and feeling deep in my soul.

So number one, God communicates to us through dreams.  Second, God communicates to us what I would call the charismata, that is the discovery and use of our spiritual gifts.  We see this in our text.  One of Joseph’s charismata, one of Joseph’s gifts, was the gift of dream interpretation, and God communicated to Joseph through the exercise of his gift.  The same applies to us.  That’s why it is important to discover and use the gifts God has given us, for when we do so, others are blessed and God speaks to us.  If we are not exercising our gifts and talents, then we are missing one of the primary ways God visits us.

Now, moving away from our text to other ways God communicates to us, we come to number 3, the Scriptures.  This is an oversimplification, but there were two major influences in my coming to know Jesus Christ.  One was an impact player named Lloyd White, my supervisor when I worked for the YMCA, and the other was the Bible.  When I began working with the YMCA I coached a fourth grade flag football team.  Since the Glendale YMCA was a Christian YMCA they told me that before every practice, I needed to read a about Jesus to the boys.  Well, I had never cracked a bible, and so I took a New Testament with me, a Good News for Modern Man translation of the Bible and read it through, and six months after reading through the New Testament, I gave all I knew of myself to all I knew of Jesus Christ. 

God continues to meet me in the Scriptures.  I learn all sorts of things about God by reading the Bible.  I learn all sorts of things about myself reading the Bible.  If I stopped reading the Bible, I would lose a lot of contact with God.

Number four, God talks to us through prayer.  Reading the Bible has taught me two things about prayer.  One, God wants us to pray, and two, God answers prayers – not always as we might want our expect, but God answers prayer.

R.A. Torrey put it this way. He said, “Prayer is the key that unlocks all the storehouses of God’s infinite grace and power.  All that God is, and all that God has, is at the disposal of prayer.”  Torrey also said of prayer, “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power.” 

Number five is nature.  God talks to us through God’s created order and many of us have experienced a certain closeness to God at the seashore, in the mountains, during a sunset, at a birth.  As the psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

Number six is silence.  Thomas Merton said, “When your tongue is silent you can rest in the silence of the forest.  When your imagination is silent, the forest speaks to you, tells you of its reality and of the reality of God.  But when your mind is silent, then the forest suddenly becomes magnificently real and blazes transparently with the reality of God.”  The psalmist said if even more succinctly, “Be still and know that I am God.”  If we can slow down, if we can put ourselves in neutral from time to time, we are likely to hear God in the midst of the silence.

Number seven is worship.  Now worship is not for the timid or the comfortable.  Worship involves opening ourselves to the dangerous life of the Spirit.

Do you know why a number of people do not worship?  There are two main reasons.  One, many have made worship incredibly boring, and so I don’t blame people for not coming to worship.  The other reason touches the other extreme.  A lot of folk do not worship because God is present, and God desires change, and most of us do not want to change.  Worship is offering ourselves to the dangerous life of the Spirit and a lot of us do not want to be opened.

Number eight is music.  I cannot tell you the number of times that the choir or the praise team or a soloist or the orchestra or the congregational singing has brought me right to God’s front door, and so it is no wonder that again and again we are told to praise God with trumpet, with lyre, with harp, with drum, with song.  The psalmist recommends these things because they usher us into God’s presence and if I were to change one thing about worship, I would have us sing more, and preach less.

Number nine is spontaneous experiences.  By that I mean, we are not doing anything “spiritual” and God breaks through to us.  It happened to the Apostle Paul on the Damascus Road and to Moses while he was tending sheep and it happened to me was when I was on the golf course and I was playing the best round of golf I had ever played – I had a chance to shoot in the 80's for the first time in my life – and I hit a tee shot that was slicing out of bounds but there was this one tree on the fairway on the edge of the out of bounds, a small tree, with a trunk barely a foot in diameter, and my ball on the way out of bounds hit that lone tree and bounced back into the middle of the fairway.  And I can tell you that story because it didn’t happen on a Sunday morning and it was as if God was winking at me and saying, “OK, Meyer, you owe me one,” and I went on to break 90 for the first time in my life.  Now, you might think God has more important things to do than hang around golf courses.  Maybe so, but I still saw God wink.

Number ten fellowship.  Jesus promised, “Wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, there I will be in your midst.”  In other words, Jesus promised to be with us in a way he is not with us at other times.  When we gather in small group fellowships –  praying, sharing and supporting one another God pays us a visit.  

Well, even though I mentioned what I consider to be the ten primary ways God breaks through to us, there are many others as well.  In fact, let me mention a chapter of a book to you.  It’s Companions on the Inner Way, and in the book the author Morton Kelsey lists thirty ways in which we can get in touch with God.  Not ten, but thirty.  If you are interested in the book, I’ll leave it up here, and you can jot down the pertinent information so that you can get a copy for yourself.  Let’s pray.