A pair of dreams. For the third time in the life of Joseph we see an instance where a pair of dreams will prove pivotal. Back in Chapter 37, we read about two dreams which Joseph himself had: two separate dreams, yet the same. In Chapter 40, two officers in Pharaoh’s court — having been thrown into the same prison as Joseph — were troubled by a pair of dreams; two different dreams that they each had.
And now, in Chapter 41, Joseph finds himself standing before Pharaoh, and for what reason? A pair of dreams. We now learn the purpose for which we were told beforehand of Joseph’s interpretations of the dreams of the butler and the baker. Seemingly insignificant events in the lives of God’s people are often cogs in the wheels of God’s plan; serving little apparent purpose, yet crucial steps that God has laid out before us in order to bring us to the place where He wants us. Surely Joseph gave little thought to his encounter with the officers of Pharaoh as the weeks and months passed by. When it became obvious that the butler had made no such mention of Joseph’s predicament to Pharaoh, though he had pleaded with him to do so, Joseph likely put the whole matter behind him. After two full years transpired, Joseph must have been surprised that he was being summoned to the service of Pharaoh based on the belated testimony of the King’s cupbearer.
“Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day:” (Genesis 41:9)
Did the butler truly remember his faults that day? It would seem that we have a portrait of the man whose encounter with the Divine is wholly without impact. Like those who can see no possible benefit, no possible merit in what God can do in their life beyond satisfying some temporal and fleshly goal, the butler’s only real motivation here appears to be ingratiating himself with his earthly ruler. God moved in this man’s life in a very remarkable way, the Lord graciously brought to him a message of salvation from the hangman’s noose, but for all intents and purposes this man remained unfazed. As those who stand by the wayside in the Lord Jesus’ parable (Luke 8:12), this man has the privilege of being right in the middle of a mighty move of the hand of God and yet he is missing the spiritual significance of it all. He forgot all about his encounter with the Spirit of God working through Joseph until such a time that it might be of value to his own career.
Nevertheless, God can use even the most unspiritual of people to fulfill His purposes. As God moved upon the heart of Caesar Augustus, spurring him to enact an empire-wide census, God moved on the butler’s heart (regardless of the butler’s own motivations) in order that His own will would be fulfilled. Pharaoh, perplexed by the disturbing images he had been haunted by the night before, wasted no time in having Joseph brought before him. Joseph shaves and makes himself presentable for an audience with the King. He was as a dead man and now he is alive again. He changes his clothes (Gen. 41:14). Twice now Joseph has been identified by the clothes he wore. First his coat of many colors, splattered with the blood of a goat, was presented to his father as “proof positive” that he had been slain by a wild animal; and later his clothes, ripped from his body as he fled, were used by the wife of Potiphar to falsely accuse him of a lewd indiscretion. Now Joseph’s “identity” is changed again as he puts on a new outfit for his visit with Pharaoh. Life as he knew it has ended for him twice, marked by the loss of his garments; this time, he is beginning a new life and the garment wherewith he is clothed will not be taken from him.
We notice again the remarkable faith of Joseph as he responds to Pharaoh’s dilemma: “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Gen. 41:16). How tempting it is for many people to gladly accept any credit which comes their way. The praise of men, especially those seated upon thrones and ruling kingdoms, can be very alluring. Joseph was also in a unique position; for all of Pharaoh’s other advisors, all of his magicians and soothsayers, admitted that the meaning of his dreams were beyond their own understanding. To embellish his own sagacity and to present himself as a master clairvoyant might have earned Joseph a permanent spot among Pharaoh’s elite counselors. But Joseph can do nothing of the sort. Just as he had previously testified to the butler and the baker (Gen. 40:8), he responds without hesitation that God alone is the Revealer of mysteries.
“And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass.” (Genesis 41:32)
Joseph is ever-protective of the glory of God and he never does anything which might usurp that glory which belongs to the Lord. He makes no effort to advance his own interests at any time, never does he seek after that which would seem to help him the most. Joseph knows that God will lift him up in due time, that the Lord will not forsake him, but put him in the place where He wants him. The pair of dreams that Pharaoh has dreamed would no doubt have reminded him of his own pair of dreams so long ago. And just as surely as the visions which God has shown to the King of Egypt would certainly come to pass, so, too, would those the Lord had shown him. That Joseph would be elevated to a place above his brethren was just as much of an established reality as what God was about to do concerning the great famine in all the land.