He was his father’s favorite son . . . strike one!
He was a dreamer . . . a dreamer that made his brothers angry with him because his dreams had them bowing down to him . . . strike two!
We all know that three strikes and you are out. Joseph’s brothers would deliver the third strike when they accost him, rough him up, throw him down a well, and then sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites to be haul off to Egypt as a slave . . . strike three! Joseph is out!
At least that is what everyone thinks, but Joseph is a dreamer and his dreams are a part of God’s plan.
Author Christina Westover writes: “Someone who dreams cannot be forced to stop—there are no limitations to dreams, because we do not own dreams, dreams are from God.” Pastor, psychotherapist, and author John Sanford wrote a whole book about dreams and God titled Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language. In this book he argues that God has always talked to people through dreams, and that there are many examples of this God-talk in the Bible . . . there is the story of Jacob . . . there is the story about Joseph . . . and, even the story of Jesus’ earthly daddy, Joseph, being talked to by God through dreams. You cannot stop the dreams, they are of God. Little did the brothers of Joseph understand that.
Dreamers make people uncomfortable. The part of the scripture reading left out this morning—between Joseph being his father’s favorite son and his brothers selling him—had to do with a couple of dreams Joseph shared with his brothers. Though the dreams had different images, the message was the same. In the first dream there are twelve sheaves of grain with eleven of them bowing down to the one . . . the one that represented Joseph. In the second dream there are eleven stars and the sun and the moon—of which the eleven stars bow down to the sun and the moon . . . again, which represents Joseph.
The brothers were not ignorant about what the dreams meant. They understood the symbolism of the dreams . . . the eleven of them would bow down to their little brother. This did not sit well with the brothers, especially on top of the fact that Joseph was their father’s favorite son. It made them uncomfortable . . . it made them angry, especially when they considered that the dream just might come true. Joseph was making them uncomfortable. Dreamers have a tendency to do that.
So, you get rid of the dreamer.
History is filled with stories of dreamers being eliminated . . . of dreamers being gotten rid of. Rarely did the dreams die . . . especially when the dreams were of God’s will, God’s desire. We have all said it before, if it is of God it will come to be. So it would be for Joseph and his dream. As the story goes, Joseph is taken to Egypt as a slave, finds that he has a gift of dreams and dream interpretation, and works his way up to the place of power as the Pharaoh’s second-in-command. In this position he is given the responsibility of preparing for a great drought that will decimate the nations . . . again, according to a dream by Joseph. And, he does create a safety net for Egypt to withstand the great drought. Because of Joseph, Egypt is smelling like a rose while everyone else is scrambling to find food and survive.
Which bring us back to the brothers. Jacob sends the brothers to Egypt to see about making a deal for a little food. The individual that the brothers have to deal with is Joseph, whom they do not recognize . . . but he recognizes them. After toying with them a while by accusing them of trying to steal he reveals himself. Through it all, just like his dreams he shared with them years before, they bow down to him. In the end Joseph arranges for the family to come to Egypt to weather out the drought . . . Jacob and all of his sons . . . all twelve of them . . . are together again. Jacob, also known as Israel . . . the sons also known as the twelve tribes of Israel . . . set the stage for what is yet to come . . . a great nation.
We all have the potential to be dreamers. Some of us still are, and others of us have had the dreamer beaten out of us; but we all have the potential to be dreamers. It has been said that the world does not have need for dreamers, but without dreamers where would any of us be today? Dreamers are a necessary part of life for it is the dreamers who see things unseen and ask why not? Those who have lost the capacity to dream ask why. It is hard to dream when everyone around you is putting down the dream and the dreamer. But remember, “. . . we do not own dreams, dreams are from God.”
Where would we be without dreamers . . . without dreams?
If you are a dreamer . . . I encourage you to continue to dream. If you are someone who has had the dreamer beaten out of you . . . I encourage you to dream again. Either way, announce yourself to the world . . . let the world know that you are a dreamer. Author Vera Nazarian writes: “It is interesting that we call something good a ‘dream,’ but being called a ‘dreamer’ is somewhat of a putdown. Without dreamers, no dream would ever be given reality, and we would live in a very small and shallow world. If you are a secret dreamer, it’s your time to announce yourself.”
We are where we are today because someone had a dream. Think of the things that all of us take as commonplace in our lives . . . the technological advancements that make our lives easier . . . the innovations that simplify our lives . . . the fact that we have sent people into outer space. Think back to the way life was when you were a kid and all the things that have changed since then. Where did these come from? They came from dreams . . . someone had a dream and they pursued that dream. Writer Robin S. Sharma says, “Dreamers are mocked as impractical. The truth is they are the most practical, as their innovations lead to progress and a better way of life for all of us.”
The story of Joseph and his dreams in the Bible is a powerful affirmation of dreams and their importance in the faith journey of the children of God. Dreams can change the world . . . dreams can change us. Never should we let go of our dreams as they are not our dreams in the first place . . . they belong to God. Never should we allow others to stomp our dreams . . . to shatter them into a million little pieces because they cannot see or believe. Dreams do come true as Walt Disney used to say.
Ask Joseph. God will succeed . . . so, dream. Amen.