Dreamer (Genesis 37)
- Order of Service: Prayer & Preaching
- Hymns: LSB #589, 821, 781, 805
Joseph was Jacob's favorite son. The firstborn son of his favorite wife. And Joseph was a dreamer. God had blessed him, not with a wonderful imagination, but with the ability to see the future. And He gave this blessing in dreams. Dreams that irritated his brothers.
God gives gifts to everyone. No one has every gift. No one is without a gift. Dreams and interpretation are given only to a select few. And most of them are young. Joseph was seventeen years old. Daniel was a child. Not all that surprising. How many times have your children climbed into your bed to tell you about a dream they had? They get excited to tell you the dream.
Joseph was no different. When God gave him a dream, he wanted to tell everybody. His gift became his problem. Joseph was eager to tell the dreams, but he was also eager to tell the interpretation. Some people just don't like know-it-alls.
But when you see eleven sheaves bowing down to you, or the sun and moon and eleven stars bowing down to you, you tend to get a little excited.
There are two ways to deal with such knowledge. You can master it. Or it will master you. Very much the same thing God said to Cain, “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at your door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Joseph failed. He abused his gift. And his gift began to rule over him.
So what does this portion of Joseph's story have to do with you? You have a gift. God has given you this gift. “And [God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
What are you to do with your gifts? Use them to build up the Church. To quote Spider-Man: With great power comes great responsibility. You are responsible for properly using your gifts. God gives every good and perfect gift to enlighten His children. To shed light on the hard way in His Word. The Word which strengthens the Church. The Word that delivers the Helper who dwells in you.
You must actually use your gift. There is a purpose for these gifts. Joseph boasted in his dreams, which were nothing to boast about. “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Joseph's boasting caused his brothers to be jealous of him. But their father, doting over his favorite son no doubt, “kept the saying in mind.” Very much like his distant descendant, the Virgin Mary. “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
God gives His gifts for times of testing. “For You, O God, have tested us ... we went through fire and through water; yet You have brought us out to a place of abundance.” God's testing always ends in the place of abundance.
God's gifts are the testing grounds. It took years for Joseph to learn how to rule over his dreams. But he is able to help Pharaoh, the whole country of Egypt and the whole world through the coming seven-year famine. He went through the fire and the water of slavery, wrongful imprisonment and abandonment into the place of abundance, the second-in-command of Egypt.
Centuries later, Daniel faced the same testing. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. A dream that disturbed his soul. A dream that disturbed his advisers as well. Nebuchadnezzar put them through the fire and water of impending death. Nebuchadnezzar asked the impossible. “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand.”
Daniel was one of these advisers. He asks his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah-- better known as Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego-- “to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.” These four faithful young men knew that only the true God of Israel, the Creator of Heaven and earth, could reveal the dream and its interpretation. And this revelation would only come through prayer. Prayer that asks for the Helper to come. God gives Daniel the gift of interpretation, and Daniel saves the advisers.
What if dreams aren't your gift? That's fine. You have another. We can go through history, both ancient and recent, and see God's people using His gifts. Even in the most mundane ways. Moses and Job had the gift of patience. Samson had the gift of strength. Ruth and Samuel simply had faith. Esther was given the gift of beauty. Barnabas was an encourager. Mother Theresa had compassion. Missionaries often have courage. Good counselors have listening ears.
Your gifts are yours to use. Even when they are simple. Even when they seem pointless. And you are to use them to build up the Church. St. Paul says again, “And [God] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
You need to use your gifts to help those around you-- whether in the pew, in your own family, or on your block-- see their need for Jesus. To see the real Joseph. Joseph became a savior of the world through dreams and interpretation. But he is only a shadow of the true Savior.
Jesus saves through Word and Sacrament. You can't have one without the other. So many people believe that you can. That once you're baptized or confirmed, your heavenly ticket is punched. There are two small problems. The Bible never teaches “once saved, always saved.” The Bible teaches salvation through Word and Sacrament. Second, Confirmation isn't even in the Bible. It's a man-made tradition that many treat as being above the Bible. You need both Word and Sacrament to be saved. People need to hear that today. And people need to hear it from someone who doesn't wear a collar. The collar just gets doors to slam and phones to hang up. Which is why not everyone is called to be a pastor, but everyone is called to be God's witness.
People need both Word and Sacrament. They go together like love and marriage. Even in today's skewed definitions. The Sacraments form the four walls of the house. But without the Word, you have no roof. You're protected from the wind, but you have no protection from the rain. Most people would rather have a roof over their head than only four solid walls. But spiritually, they'd rather just have the walls and skip the roof. But without the roof, you have no shelter. Without placing yourself under the Word, you have no shelter in life's storms. Without placing yourself under the Word, you never use your gifts for what God intended.
Joseph had to be reprimanded. God sent him through the fire and water of slavery, imprisonment and abandonment. But Joseph rises to the place of abundance. God's gifts carry you through testing and bring you out on the other side. But the gifts only help you when you use them. What are your gifts? How can they help build the Church? What can you do to help the Helper proclaim God's Word and Sacraments? God calls you to consider these questions through young Joseph. Especially as we begin another year of Bible study. Hear the Savior's voice as He calls out to you in His Word and Sacrament. Amen.