Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 Title: Dream, But Don’t Make Dreams Your Master

Text: "Here comes that master-dreamer," they exclaimed. (Genesis 37:19).

Scripture Reading: Gen 37:1-28 (Living)


Introduction

Joseph, like Jacob, stands out as one of the most delightful and exciting characters in the Old Testament.  All but one of Joseph’s brothers was born of different mothers, making for a diversity of interest and an intensely competitive spirit among the brothers and ultimately leading to hostility.  The tension between Joseph and his brothers is reminiscent of the conflict between Jacob and Esau. But even though Jacob and Esau had their differences, in the end they seem to have been reconciled to the point that they did not seek to harm one another. 

Joseph, on the other hand, remained a possible threat to his brothers, at least in their own minds, until the very end.  Although he had forgiven them and given them positions of privilege in Egypt, they feared that after their father died Joseph would retaliate for the evil they had done to him.  Today’s message concerns Joseph’s early years. 

God had given him many meaningful dreams, and he rather brashly reported them to his family. Even though we recognize that Joseph was chosen by God for a great mission, he was still a human being, and we are not irreverent to point out certain signs of his immaturity.

There are three components to our Bible study; I want you to see first that DREAMS ARE IMPORTANT.

Joseph’s story begins this way:

“So Jacob settled again in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived” (v. 1). 

Apparently Jacob has moved south of Bethlehem and settled in a place near Hebron.  This is the place where Abraham had made his home.  It is the place of fellowship, of communion with God.

“Jacob's son Joseph was now seventeen years old. His job, along with his half brothers, the sons of his father's wives Bilhah and Zilpah, was to shepherd his father's flocks. But Joseph reported to his father some of the bad things they were doing” (v. 2).

We can see that the bunch of boys Jacob had, were real problem children (with the exception of Joseph and Benjamin).  It took these men a long time to learn the lessons God would teach them. 

Joseph was only seventeen, just a teenager, when this incident took place.  He brought a bad report to his father about the other boys.  Of course they didn’t like it.  I’m sure they called him a tattletale or worse. 

Next we read:

“Now as it happened, Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other children, because Joseph was born to him in his old age. So one day Jacob gave him a special gift--a brightly colored coat” (v. 3).

Jacob should have learned a lesson from his experiences as a young man.  He knew that to play favorites would cause trouble in a family.  His own father had favored his older brother Esau, and Jacob knew what it was like to be discriminated against.  But here he practices the very same thing.  We can understand his feelings, knowing that Rachel was the wife whom he really loved—she was the one fine thing in his life—and Joseph her son is really a fine boy, and Jacob loved him dearly.  While all this is true, it still is not an excuse.  He should not have made him that brightly colored coat.

“His brothers of course noticed their father's partiality, and consequently hated Joseph; they couldn't say a kind word to him” (v. 4).

Naturally, the brothers hated him for being the favorite of his father.  They couldn’t even speak peaceably to him.  So here we can see strife in this family.  I tell you, I don’t care whose family it is, sin will ruin it.  Sin ruins lives, and sin ruins families; sin ruins communities and it ruins nations.  This is the problem with our families and cities and nations today.  There is just one cause: God calls it sin. So here we find that this boy Joseph is the object of discrimination.  His father discriminates in his love for him.  The brothers discriminate in their hatred against him. 

The prophet Joel said that young men would, “see visions.”  Youth is the time when we perceive with piercing clarity because our sense of vision is fresh.  The true test of our ability to cope with life is our vision.  People live by visions.  Foolish people laugh at ideas they cannot understand, but dreams are not, as they have been called, “the vaguest things we know.”  They represent ideas, and we cannot dismiss a matter by saying, “That’s a nice idea, but it’s only an ideal.”  The world owes much to good people who have dreamed and then worked hard to make their dreams come true. 

Joseph was such a dreamer, but sometimes DREAMS CAN BE DANGEROUS.

“One night Joseph had a dream and promptly reported the details to his brothers, causing even deeper hatred.  "Listen to this," he proudly announced” (vs. 5 & 6).

How can we explain his conduct here?  Why would he go to his father and tattle on his brothers in the first place when he knew it would incur their hatred; and why would he describe this dream to his brothers when he should have known it would make them angry?  Well, I think he just didn’t know just how bad this world can be.  He had no idea how bad his brothers were.  I am of the opinion that he was a rather gullible boy at this time.  It took him a long time to find out the ways of the world, but he certainly did learn.  Eventually he probably knew as much about the world and the wickedness of man to man as anyone.  But that was later on, not now.

You can just imagine how Joseph has been protected.  His father centered all his affection on Rachel.  He had fallen in love with her at first sight and had worked fourteen years for her.  Then many years went by before she bore him a child.  Finally Joseph was born.  What a delight that must have been for Jacob.  But now Rachel is gone; so he centers his affection on this boy.  He shouldn’t have done that—he had other sons to raise—but that is what he has done.  Joseph has been loved and protected.  Here’s how he described his dream to his brothers.

"We were out in the field binding sheaves, and my sheaf stood up, and your sheaves all gathered around it and bowed low before it!"  "So you want to be our king, do you?" his brothers derided.  And they hated him both for the dream and for his cocky attitude” (vs. 7 & 8).

Can’t you imagine how they sneered?  I’m sure they were sarcastic.  They didn’t really believe that he would rule over them.  Yet, they hated him because he had this dream.  That doesn’t end the dreams though. 

“Then he had another dream and told it to his brothers. "Listen to my latest dream," he boasted. "The sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed low before me!"  This time he told his father as well as his brothers; but his father rebuked him.  "What is this?" he asked. "Shall I indeed, and your mother and brothers come and bow before you?"  His brothers were fit to be tied concerning this affair, but his father gave it quite a bit of thought and wondered what it all meant” (VS. 9-11).

He told them his dream and they understood what he was talking about.  Old Jacob understood it exactly, and he scolds, “Shall I indeed, and your mother and brothers come and bow before you?"  All Joseph could answer was, “This was the dream.”  He didn’t try to interpret it because the meaning was evident.  His brothers just dismissed it, paid no attention to it.  They thought it wasn’t even in the realm of possibility, as far as they were concerned.  They knew that none of them would ever bow down to Joseph!  But Jacob wondered about these things for years to come. If it is wrong never to dream, it can also be wrong to dream and then act on that dream rashly or recklessly.  We should be careful about disclosing our secrets. 

When Joseph recounted his dreams for his brothers, they were highly irritated.  He let his family know that he considered himself a man with a great future.  It is likely that the implication of his words was that God had spoken to him in the dreams.When we feel that God has revealed something to us privately, we should mull it over thoughtfully before we tell others.  After all, what we feel God has revealed to us may be only our self-centeredness, a projection of our own desires. 

Even when we are correct in discerning God’s will, others may not be ready to learn all that we know.  God has revealed the truth to us because it is something He wants to entrust to us, so we need to prudently consider when others are ready and able to hear our word from God.Let’s return to our study of Joseph, and we will see the terrible result of the strife within this family.

“One day Joseph's brothers took their father's flocks to Shechem to graze them there” (v. 12).

At this time, Jacob and his family were living around Hebron, which was twenty or more miles south of Jerusalem.  And Shechem is that far north of Jerusalem, so that these boys are grazing their sheep a long ways from home. 

“A few days later Israel called for Joseph, and told him, "Your brothers are over in Shechem grazing the flocks.  Go and see how they are getting along, and how it is with the flocks, and bring me word."  "Very good," Joseph replied.  So he traveled to Shechem from his home at Hebron Valley” (vs. 13 & 14).

Joseph said, “All right, I will go.”  He was very obedient to his father, you will notice.  Joseph traveled all the way to Shechem, and then he began to look around for them.  That’s rugged terrain up there, and this boy couldn’t locate them.

“A man noticed him wandering in the fields.  "Who are you looking for?" he asked” (v. 15).

I can imagine this man had seen Joseph pass his tent several times; so he asks him who he’s looking for.

"For my brothers and their flocks," Joseph replied.  "Have you seen them?"  "Yes," the man told him, "they are no longer here.  I heard your brothers say they were going to Dothan."  So Joseph followed them to Dothan and found them there” (vs. 16& 17).

Dothan is a long way north of Shechem.  It’s near the valley of Esdraelon, and this is where the brothers have moved the sheep.  And at last Joseph found them—there they were.

“But when they saw him coming, recognizing him in the distance, they decided to kill him!  "Here comes that master-dreamer," they exclaimed.  "Come on, let's kill him and toss him into a well and tell Father that a wild animal has eaten him.  Then we'll see what will become of all his dreams!" (vs. 18-20).

They really hated Joseph!  Here they are probably almost one hundred miles from home, and they say to each other, “Let’s get rid of him now, and we’ll see what will become of his dreams.” Before we go on with the story, I want to call to your attention to the comparison of Joseph to the Lord Jesus. 

You just can’t miss the similarity:

1. The birth of Joseph was miraculous in that it was by the intervention of God as an answer to prayer.  The Lord Jesus is virgin born.  His birth was certainly miraculous.
2. Joseph was loved by his father.  The Lord Jesus was loved by His Father, who declared, “This is my beloved Son.”
3. Joseph had a brightly colored coat which set him apart.  Christ was set apart in that He was “separate from sinners.”
4. Joseph announced that he was to rule over his brothers.  The Lord Jesus presented himself as the Messiah.  Just as they ridiculed Joseph’s message, so they also ridiculed Jesus.  In fact, nailed to the cross were these words: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
5. Joseph was sent by his father to his brethren.  Jesus was sent to His brethren—He came first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
6. Joseph was hated by his brethren without a cause, and the Lord Jesus was hated by His brethren without a cause.

As we return to the story now, remember that Joseph is approaching his brothers, and they are plotting against him.  He is wearing that brightly colored coat, which was a mark of an important person.  We must remember that Joseph was younger than his brothers, and yet he was in a position above them.  So there is all this hatred and jealousy—to the point of murder. Ruben has already lost his position as the first born.  However, he stands in a good light here.  He has more mature judgment than the others because we read...

“But Reuben hoped to spare Joseph's life.  "Let's not kill him," he said; "we'll shed no blood--let's throw him alive into this well here; that way he'll die without our touching him!"  (Reuben was planning to get him out later and return him to his father.)” (vs. 21 & 22).

They would have killed him right then and there if Ruben had not intervened.  It was Ruben’s avowed purpose, after Joseph had been put into the pit, to slip back again and take him out of the pit and take him home to his father.

So when Joseph got there, they pulled off his brightly colored robe” (v. 23).

The coat Joseph wore was like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  They hated it because it set him apart from them; so they stripped off the hated coat from Joseph

“And threw him into an empty well...  Then they sat down for supper.  Suddenly they noticed a string of camels coming towards them in the distance, probably Ishmaelite traders who were taking gum, spices, and herbs from Gilead to Egypt” (vs. 24 & 25).

This was a caravan of traders that was going by.

"Look there," Judah said to the others.  "Here come some Ishmaelites.  Let's sell Joseph to them!  Why kill him and have a guilty conscience?  Let's not be responsible for his death, for, after all, he is our brother!"  And his brothers agreed” (vs. 26 & 27).

Now Judah intervenes when he sees some traders going by.  It is a very mercenary plan that he has, but at least he doesn’t want murder to take place.  He doesn’t want the blood of Joseph to be on their hands.  The brothers were satisfied with the suggestion because what they wanted was to get rid of him—they didn’t care how it was accomplished.  They realized the Ishmaelites would take him down to Egypt and would sell him as a slave there. At least they would be rid of him. Slavery in most places is a living death, and they knew certainly that they would never hear from him again.

“So when the traders came by, his brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver, and they took him along to Egypt” (v. 28).

Our final point is this, MAKING DREAMS COME TRUE REQUIRES HARD WORK.

God had given the dreams to Joseph, and Joseph never forgot them.  It would take years of hard work and a great deal of hardship before his dreams were fulfilled.  But Joseph would be faithful to God—he would remain faithful until death.  And God rewarded him for his faithfulness.

Many years ago a man preached a message entitled “Dreams Plus.”  In the sermon he explained what we need to add to our dreams to turn them into a reality.  The most important thing was “hard work,” which he emphasized more than any other point. 

God helps us when we are in His will, but God does not do for us the things we can do for ourselves. Let it be said to Joseph’s credit that he added hard work to his dreams.  As we will see in other studies in his life story, he stayed morally pure, waited patiently, and took advantage of every opportunity.  We must do these same things if we are to see our dreams become realities.

Conclusion

An old popular song contains two lines that forever ring true: “If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme.”  God will give us the strength, if we are faithful to Him, to realize our ambitions—provided, of course, they are worthy of His help.  We all need to be dreamers, for without vision an individual or even an entire nation perishes.  But we must not let our dreams master us.  We need to “stay on top of them” and not give up until the dream of yesterday becomes the fact of tomorrow.  That’s what faith is all about. 

One writer said that faith is, “an affirmation and an act that bids eternal truth be present fact.”  As we pass through old age, what some so kindly call the “golden years,” we must continue to dream.  Our desire should be to spend eternity with Jesus and to do what we can to bring others to faith in Him.  That may require some hard work, because we must pray for them and tell them about the Savior.  But remember, God will help us.

Amen.

 

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