Here Comes the Dreamer
“And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying.” Gen 37:11
“And when they saw him afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him. And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.” Gen 37:18-19
Why does God give dreams? Dreams are a peek into the future so that man can steady his course through rough seas. Dreams are not given so that man can work to fulfill them. If the dream comes from God, God will fulfill the dream. Man’s part is to be faithful. Dreams are given to help us through those times when everything looks bleak and we wonder if we will even survive.
Never share your big dreams with little people. God did not give you a dream to flaunt it before your brothers like your coat of many colors. Dreams are given for the benefit of the dreamer. Our part as recipients of a dream is to keep the dream alive in our hearts while God brings all the pieces together and fulfills the dream.
The difference between a dream and ambition is the place where they originate. Dreams come from God and are to inspire faith and faithfulness. Ambition comes from man’s heart and is to provide motivation and determination.
We use the word vision so often without really qualifying what we mean. If the vision comes from God, the possessor deserves to be followed. If the vision comes from man’s heart, the possessor needs to be feared. A man-conceived vision can be a very dangerous thing. Nimrod led humans to build a monument and kingdom to his own creative genius.
“And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” Gen 11:6
The people were inspired and followed an evil vision. When men unite behind someone motivated by ambition the result is a kingdom that is misguided and worship that is abhorrent.
Before God can bless the world, He must unite believers. To do this sometimes requires tragedy. What we are reading about in the life of Joseph is three generations of unresolved conflicts. A generational curse is an ominous term for one generation refusing to deal with issues that are passed on to the next. There were unresolved family conflicts in the life of Abraham, the father of the faithful. Abraham was also the father of family conflicts. What about the mother of all family conflicts between the Arabs and Jews? This began as a family squabble between Ishmael and Isaac, it came to include Hagar and Sara, and is still going on today. Then there was the unresolved conflict between Jacob and Esau that took place in Isaac’s generation. And now there is the unresolved conflict between Jacob’s four wives and their children. This unresolved conflict was fueled by Jacob’s overt favoritism of Joseph over his other sons.
Before God could use the offspring of Abraham in the way He desired, the Lord had to break the back of this generational curse. God wanted to use the nation of Israel as a vehicle to bless the world. Before God could do this, He had to cause the Hebrews to be united. God cannot use His people to be a blessing to others until His people learn to bless each other. We cannot be the Church God wants us to be to the world until we are the family of faith that God wants us to be toward each other. Unity is the most powerful thing that we collectively bring to the work of God.
Without unity, the work of God will focus on His People internally. In a family that lacks unity, the Lord must work to bring forgiveness, submission, and love. Then God’s purpose can move to the next phase – blessing the world through His people. As a Church family, we cannot be a blessing to those outside the truth unless we first learn to bless each other. We cannot minister forgiveness and redemption to others unless we are able to practice the same with each other. Until this happens, the purpose of God will be to bring about love in the family of believers first.
How does God work to bring about forgiveness and restoration in the family of believers? Sadly, the process often involves tragedy and suffering. God must bring people through situations that help them get outside themselves and see things from other’s viewpoint. Breaking a “generational curse” is much more difficult than correcting an individual. Breaking the spirit of distrust, jealousy, unforgiveness, and dishonesty that is embedded in a family is difficult.
A Divided Family
“These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” Gen 37:2-4
The household of Jacob was a divided family. This division was promoted and sponsored by Jacob himself. His father loved his brother more than him and therefore he thought it was acceptable to love Joseph more than his other sons. He encouraged Joseph to snitch on his brothers. He showed overt favoritism by giving Joseph a mark of distinction in the coat of many colors.
It is doubtful that a seventeen-year-old boy understood what was really going on. His brothers hated him because their earthly father had placed a mark of distinction upon him. They would hate him more because their Heavenly Father placed the mark of a dream in his life. This was not God’s purpose. God was not trying to distinguish Joseph but rather to prepare him for the rough road ahead. Our fathers provide marks of distinction. Our heavenly Father provides vision to encourage. Man’s method is to display favoritism; God’s way is to provide vision and hope.
Dreams only divide people when division already exists. Joseph’s brothers already hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. When Joseph told his brothers his first dream, “they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words” (Gen 37:8). They hated him even more for having the dream and they double extra hated him for telling the dream. Never share your big dreams with small people. Many people are spiritual enough to have dreams but too immature to know what to do with them.
Often, we fail to understand what the fulfillment of our dream will mean to other people. We cannot understand why they are not thrilled that God has shown us that they will bow down. Also, we cannot know the level of responsibility involved and the suffering that must precede our exaltation. Jesus’ enemies were incensed when He told them He would be resurrected. This would affect them in a profound way. There was a road of suffering ahead before the resurrection.
The Nature of Joseph’s Dreams
“And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.” Gen 37:5-8
The nature of the first dream is often overlooked. It contrasts the work of a unifier with the work of the carnal. Both are gathering, both are laboring; yet the unifier can bring others together. The work that Joseph produced was exalted while the labor of his brothers bowed down to his sheaf. The work of a unifier is lasting – it will endure. The work of the carnal, the grudge-bearer, and the scorekeeper will not last. What kind of work are you producing? You are working at something, but will it outlast you? Are you willing to pass on the curses of your generation to the next? Or will you deal with your unresolved conflicts so that God’s blessings can flow through you?
When God looked for someone to unite the Hebrew family, He looked for one who could forgive others. And before Joseph could be used to bring unity to his family, the fruit of forgiveness would have to be produced in his life. Throughout his life, Joseph could have clung to his “right” to be hurt and bitter, yet he chose to surrender his hurts and wounds to God. Hurt feelings and wounded hearts do not heal themselves. God will minister healing, but the first medication He applies is the ointment of our own forgiveness. When we forgive others, the first place that forgiveness is applied is to our own wounded heart. Wounded hearts do not heal unless we give the Lord the ointment of forgiveness to apply.
If you cherish being hurt, you can carry your wounds to the grave. But God will not be able to bless others through you to the extent He desires. A wounded heart is carnal because its focus is self. It thinks of my hurts; my wounds; my rights; my suffering. Even when we take our wounds to God, if we are unforgiving, our heart is unable to receive the comfort and healing He wants us to have.
What was the sheaf that Joseph bound up in his dream? It was the fruit of forgiveness in his life. It was that fruit of forgiveness that God used to cause his brothers and his father to come and bow down in humility and unity. The second dream was of the same sort.
“Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” Gen 37:9
When God looks for someone to destroy a generational curse and bring unity to a dysfunctional family, He looks for someone willing to produce the fruit of forgiveness. The dreams were given to help Joseph through the difficulty of developing the fruit of forgiveness.
Those they minister to often despise unifiers and dreamers. The reason is that those blessed by their ministry are quite often contributors to the rift. God was raising up Joseph to unite a dysfunctional family. Even the father and mother must acknowledge their part in the divisions that Joseph would heal. This brought envy in the brothers and caused the father to rub his chin and consider. The entire family must come to terms with how their behavior contributed to their situation. This would be when the fruit of his brothers would bow to Joseph’s fruit of forgiveness. Even the aged father, Israel must acknowledge his Jacob-like behavior and the damage done.
Here Comes the Dreamer
“And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.” Gen 37:19
Jacob sent Joseph from Hebron to check on his brothers who kept their flocks in Shechem. The place of their pasture in Shechem belonged to Jacob, partly by purchase and partly by conquest. “Shechem,” means “shoulder.” Shechem was the first place that Jacob sojourned when he returned with his wives and sons from Pandan-aram. Other than the pillar Jacob set up to the Lord at Hebron, Shechem is the site where Jacob built the first altar in his life.
“And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel.” Gen 33:20
After living some time at Shechem, God instructed Jacob to move his camp to Hebron.
“And he built there an altar, and called the place El-beth-el: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.” Gen 35:7
Since returning from Pandan-aram, Jacob’s life revolved around these two locations. That is, Hebron and Shechem. He lived and raised his family under the shadow of an altar.
Joseph arrives at Shechem and cannot find his brothers. While wandering in the fields, he meets a man who tells him his brothers have taken their flocks to Dothan. “Dothan,” means “two wells.” Joseph traveled to Dothan and there he found his brothers. The brothers were not in their familiar surroundings, away from their father, and beyond the shadow of the altar. It was here that their pent-up resentment and hatred for Joseph began to boil up. When the brothers looked up and saw a familiar multi-colored coat approaching, they said in contempt, “Behold, here comes the master of dreams!” They were in unfamiliar surroundings and beyond the supervision of their father. They were about to do something very nasty.
Beyond Shechem there is always a Dothan. If one harbors feelings of resentment and hatred long enough, there will always come an opportunity for these feelings to come to the surface. If you cannot control your feelings, there will come a time when your feelings will control you. You will not always be resting on God’s shoulder and restrained by earthly authority. Just beyond the shadow of the altar and the shoulder of God’s control lie the twin wells of bitterness and hatred. If you have not capped those wells, time and circumstance will conspire to cause you to drink from them. It will be a long and bitter draught.
Consider how God attempts to protect us from the consequences of our own hurt feelings. But beyond the shadow of the altar, in unfamiliar surroundings, beyond the protection of loved ones, and in the presence of those who encourage our hurt feelings, men are capable of inflicting terrible suffering on others. The wise man wrote:
“…time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.” Eccl 9:11-12
You will master your feelings or there will come a time when your feelings will master you. While the brothers ridiculed the “master of dreams” they themselves were mastered by their resentment and hatred. There will always be a Dothan just beyond the safety of Shechem.
When God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans, His plan was to use Abraham as a bridge builder. There was a huge chasm between God and man due to sin. God told Abraham that he must come over to God’s side first. Then God could bless Abraham and build him up to become a bridge to other people.
“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Gen 12:1-3
The purpose of God was threatened due to unresolved conflicts in Abraham’s family, Isaac’s family, and now Jacob’s family. Before God could use this family to bless the world, they had to be united. Bitterness, jealousy, unforgiveness, competitiveness, and hatred plagued the family. How would God bring them together? God would use a unifier to show them the fruit of forgiveness. God chose Joseph because of his heart. Joseph was able to forgive.
Before God could heal this family, he had to show them the fruit of forgiveness. Jacob and sons would eventually bow down to the fruit of forgiveness. Eventually bitterness and what it produces will bow before the fruit of forgiveness and love.
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth …” 1 Cor 13:4-8
The only thing that can bring unity to a family or a church family that is suffering from deep-rooted wounds is: Total surrender to God. Total forgiveness toward others. God heals our wounded heart by applying the ointment of our own forgiveness.