I don’t dream very often anymore. If I do, I don’t remember what I’ve dreamt about when I wake up in the morning. But many years ago, when I was a child, I used to have bad nightmares. They would wake me up in the middle of the night sweating and terrified. As an example, there was a streetlight outside my window that I used to dream about coming alive and chasing after me. Anyway, I prayed for many years that I’d stop having dreams altogether, and eventually God granted my request.
This morning we are going to read about and discuss dreams. Joseph has been called “The Prince of Dreams” because he both had dreams and interpreted them for others. In an upcoming message, we will see how God uses Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams as the means of freeing him from prison. Today however, we will see him interpret the dreams of his fellow inmates.
I. WE EACH HAD A DREAM (v1-8)
Joseph had likely been incarcerated for a while before he was given authority by the chief jailer to oversee the prisoners - perhaps a few years. At some point, 2 of Pharaoh's servants (his cupbearer and head baker) offended and infuriated the king. He subsequently placed them in prison - in the same facility where Joseph was confined. The cupbearer and head baker were added to those under Joseph’s charge, and he took care of them.
One night, both of Pharaoh’s servants had a dream. Their dreams were different from one another, but both were perplexing. The next morning, Joseph noticed that both men seemed distressed. He asked them why they were so sad and upset. The cupbearer and head baker explained that they’d each had a troubling dream, and knew of no one who could interpret them. Joseph stated that interpretations belong to God and asked them to tell their dreams to him.
Several years earlier, when Joseph was just a boy, he himself had 2 God-given dreams about the future. In the first, his brothers’ sheaths bowed down before his. In the second, the sun, moon, and 11 stars bowed down before him. Both of his childhood dreams predicted that someday Joseph would rule over his own family members (Genesis 37:5-11). Now Joseph was placed in the position of interpreting someone else’s dreams.
There are numerous examples in the Bible of people having dreams and visions. God frequently used them to communicate truths to people many years ago. Now that the Bible is complete, we have easy access to the written Word of God which includes His teachings, prophecies, and so forth. Therefore, dreams and visions are no longer as necessary as they once were. God can still use them, especially in places where the gospel is scarce, but we should rely on the full and final revelation of Scripture. Not all dreams and visions are of God, which can cause them to be misleading and harmful.
II. WHAT DO THEY MEAN? (v9-19)
The cupbearer began by describing his dream to Joseph. In it, he had seen a vine with 3 branches. He watched as the branches budded, blossomed, and produced clusters of ripe grapes. He took some of these grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup which he was holding, and placed it in Pharaoh’s hand. Upon hearing the dream, Joseph explained that the branches represented days. He predicted that in 3 days, the cupbearer would be released from prison and restored to his former office. Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him and plead on his behalf once he was released.
The head baker went next. He shared his dream with Joseph. In it, there were 3 baskets of white bread stacked on the baker’s head. In the top basket were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh and the birds above were eating out of it. Upon hearing the dream, Joseph explained that the baskets represented days. He predicted that in 3 days, Pharaoh would hang the baker’s body from a tree and the birds would scavenge his corpse.
In the Bible, God would often enable prophets to make predictions about the immediate future. When these prophecies came true, it would bolster their credibility in the minds of their listeners. This would make their longer term prophecies more believable and trustworthy. Now that we have the Bible, the reliability and truthfulness of preachers and teachers should be measured against their strict adherence to Scripture.
III. DREAMS DO COME TRUE (v20-23)
3 days later, everything happened just as Joseph had predicted. It was Pharaoh’s birthday and there was a huge party for all his servants. During the celebration, Pharaoh brought the cupbearer and head baker out from prison and stood them before everyone. He then reinstated the cupbearer to his former position and had the head baker hanged.
Though the cupbearer once again enjoyed the audience of Pharaoh and served him regularly, he forgot to mention how Joseph had been unfairly accused and unjustly imprisoned. Joseph had hoped that the cupbearer would convince Pharaoh to release him from jail. Unfortunately, the cupbearer didn’t speak to Pharaoh about it at all. So Joseph remained in prison, serving hard time for a crime he didn’t commit.
Do you ever feel forgotten or overlooked? Perhaps you’ve done something kind or generous for someone and they’ve failed to remember it or acknowledge it. Feeling this way can often lead to discouragement or despair. It can make you feel alone or unappreciated. But don’t fret… though people might forget about the good things you’ve done (oftentimes unintentionally) God does not. He will never forget those who faithfully serve Him and minister in His name to others (Hebrews 6:10).
Joseph is the most famous dreamer and interpreter of dreams in the Bible. During the Patriarchal Age, God gifted Him with this special ability. That was then, and this is now. I personally believe that such dreams and visions are rightly compared with the “cessation gifts” of miracles, healings, and tongues. Let me explain...
Cessationism teaches that certain spiritual gifts, referred to as the sign gifts, which were common in Biblical times have all but ceased to exist today. God granted these gifts to prophets and apostles centuries ago as a means of establishing their identity and authority. They were tools that helped accomplish His purposes. Since the end of the apolostolic age however, these particular gifts are no longer given to individual believers. God can and still performs miracles today, but not through supernaturally empowered healers, dreamers, and so on.
I will close today’s message with a quote that my wife shared on Facebook a few weeks ago. When I read it, it left a strong impression. It is attributed to Dustin Benge, a prominent Baptist theologian, professor, and author. He said:
“The Bible is better than visions, more reliable than emotions, greater than miracles, more trustworthy than experience, stronger than tradition. Do you want to know God? Do you want to hear God? Read the Bible.”