Mi-Kez & Hanukkah
For the week of December 24, 2011 / 28 Kislev 5772
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:30-41
Haftarah: Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7


Dream Stories

For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction. (Bereshit / Genesis 41:52; ESV)

A common theme in contemporary stories is "follow your dreams." The story of Joseph is a dream story, but it would be very difficult to come up with a dream story as different from the contemporary kind as this. Joseph was the favored son of his father. It was this along with his being favored by God by giving him dreams about his eventual exaltation, that embittered his brothers to him. Wanting to kill him, they ended up selling him into slavery. But God was with him and he was held in high esteem by his master. His master's wife also held him in high esteem, but in a different sort of way. Joseph's godly resistance to her advances led him to an indefinite stay in a dungeon. Things looked promising when he correctly interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaoh's ex-staff, who were prisoners along with him. Yet it would be two more years before the prisoner who was freed - just as Joseph said - mentioned him to Pharaoh, who himself had dreams he wanted interpreted. This resulted in more than Joseph's freedom; Pharaoh promoted him to second in command of all Egypt. Throughout this whole ordeal, Joseph never lashed out at others or strove to get his own way. He was faithful to God and in his service to others in whatever situation he found himself.

This is not a typical contemporary dream story, which usually sees the main character yearning for some wonderful goal and fighting great odds, overcoming overwhelming obstacles to achieve his dream. Sometimes the person isn't in touch with his dream until something sparks it alive. At some point, great discouragement overtakes him until he experiences a great turn around and rises to the occasion. Whatever he does, he certainly doesn't bide his time and simply live life, waiting for God to come through as Joseph did.

In fact in most "follow your dreams" stories there aren't any real dreams at all. A dream in these stories is a figurative way to refer to desire. It's interesting how Bible believers tend to use "dream" in this same way just as non-believers do. Why can't we just call desires, desires and dreams, dreams? Joseph knew the difference; shouldn't we?

Another major difference between contemporary dream stories and Joseph's dream story is that the main character in Joseph's story isn't Joseph; it's God. While Joseph certainly wasn't altogether passive in his story, unlike contemporary stories, he is not trying to bring about the result. He simply lives life. God brings about the result; for after all, it was God who gave the dream. Joseph couldn't have guessed what his dreams meant. He may have had the impression just like his brothers and father did, that they implied his eventual exaltation over the other members of his family. But how? There was no way that he expected that he would be second in command of all Egypt. Even if he did, there was nothing he could do about it.

But if this was a contemporary story, he would have developed a plan, probably made friends with a fellow prisoner - an expert schemer, who would partner with him to achieve Joseph's dream of greatness. The actor who plays the friend in the Hollywood version might win an Academy Award in his role as the sacrificial friend who gives up his own dream so that Joseph may realize his.

But that's not how Joseph's dream story unfolds. Joseph's dream is realized through the involvement of God, who gave him his dreams in the first place. Every plot twist in Joseph's story came about as a result of God's intervention, not Joseph's ingenuity. He who gave the dream was the one who ensured it came to pass.

I wonder how much contemporary dream stories affect how we think we are to live life today. If we would focus more on being faithful to what God gives us to do and less on striving to achieve our desires, perhaps we might be in a place where God would entrust us with real dreams for a change.

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