Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Bible and the Supernatural: The Cupbearer and the Baker

 Scripture: Genesis 40:5-22

Background: After Joseph had his two dreams, his brothers’ hatred of him grew so extreme that they planned to murder him. At the last minute, though, they changed their minds and sold him as a slave to Egypt. There Joseph served an Egyptian official until the official’s wife unfairly accused Joseph of rape. So Joseph was thrown into jail. There he eventually met the cupbearer and baker of Pharaoh, imprisoned for making their lord angry. The servants each had a dream, and Joseph ended up interpreting for them.

Observations: Eleven years have passed since Joseph had his own dreams, and since then, he has gone from favored son to Egyptian slave to trusted steward to prisoner to jail supervisor. Hardly the path one would expect to take to reach the lord of one’s brothers. Yet this long, winding, and difficult road has not nullified Joseph’s dreams. Their fulfillment is still coming.

And the cupbearer and the baker are the next piece in that road, providing further insight into the realm of dreams:

1. Dreams are not the exclusive territory of God’s people. Even outsiders can have dreams, some of which may originate from God.

2. Dreams may need interpretation by others. Whereas the meaning of Joseph’s dreams was clear to all around him, both the baker and the cupbearer required outside interpretation. This need for outside interpretation may be necessary for a variety of reasons, but in this case it was especially necessary as neither dreamer knew the true God from whom the dream originated.

3. All true interpretation originates with God. A human agent may be needed to relay the interpretation, a position Joseph fills here, or the interpretation may be clear to the dreamer. Either way, God, as the source of the dream, is also the source of the dream’s meaning, and therefore, the true meaning cannot be discerned apart from Him.

4. Dreams have a variety of uses. God used Joseph’s dreams to get him to Egypt and possibly to provide encouragement through the subsequently difficult years. In other places in Scripture, dreams provide hope, promises, and warnings. Here they are used to establish Joseph’s credibility and honesty. His dark prediction concerning the baker’s future showed that Joseph told the truth—not what people wanted to hear—and the fulfillment of both dreams proved the accuracy of his interpretation. This would eventually earn Joseph an audience with Pharaoh himself.

5. So dreams can predict both good and bad outcomes. Sometimes we think of dreams as pleasant things, or at least something helpful. And often they are. But even more than that, a dream which comes from God is true, because God is a truth teller and cannot lie.

Significance: Whether or not we ever have a supernatural dream, this passage and the surrounding text reminds us of several helpful truths:

Sometimes we Christians become self-righteous, arrogant, and demeaning of non-Christians, because we have a “corner” on truth. In one sense that is true, in that we have the inerrant Word of God—the fully revealed Truth that is above all other truth—and the Holy Spirit to help us understand, apply, and guide us.

But both of these are a gift from God. We did not earn them. We did not buy them. We do not have exclusive rights to them. As a result, God is free to interact, use, employ, and even reveal glimpses of Himself even to those who do not follow Him. We should not dismiss some things only because they come from a non-Christian source—and for that matter, nor should we accept something only because it comes from a “Christian” source.

Likewise, we Christians think we can do everything ourselves—a “God and me alone” attitude. The truth is, sometimes we need help from others and especially help from other Christians, whether interpreting a dream, planning a church function, or caring for a family member.

But at all times, no matter what we are facing, we need to remember that the source of the true answers we need is God. Now He may use a variety of methods to provide those answers—books, stories, friends, even dreams—but real answers come from Him, and as such, we must ultimately square it with the Truth of Scripture.

Finally, most of all, this passage proves that God’s path is often unexpected but true. He is not a man that He should lie. But neither is God required to follow the path we think He should. He may take us on “detours.” He may lead us in a direction that seems opposite of that which we believe we are supposed to go. He may cause events that seem irrelevant, permit delayed outcomes (it would be two years before the cupbearer remembered Joseph!), and use happenings differently than anticipated. But God always keeps His promises—even if it is in the way least expected!

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