While serving in the prison Joseph tends to other prisoners. He sees to all their needs and even offers God’s interpretation of their dreams.
Joseph is no stranger to dreams. He was called “the Dreamer” by his brothers for the dreams he shared with them. The dreams he shared with his brothers were so evident that they needed no interpretation. But those dreams hid the rest of the story. They didn’t give dates and locations or even who and how they would come to pass. The dreams he encounters in prison are not lacking.
We don’t know how long Joseph has been in prison when he meets Pharaoh’s two servants in our story. We don’t know how long their sentence was before their night of dreaming. Nor do we know their ‘crimes’ that landed them in Pharaoh’s prison. What we do know is that they were familiar with Joseph and that he cared for them while they were in this same prison.
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Joseph was weary of his time in prison and as a slave. But that didn’t prevent him from rendering his best in every task set before him. This fine morning there was an unexpected duty. He would be providing two of his fellow prisoners interpretations to their dreams. We don’t know if this is the first time he has rendered this service while in Egypt but his fellow prisoners had no knowledge of this gifting of Joseph’s.
It’s morning and Joseph is bringing food and water to all the cells. This is not a cheery place but they find happiness wherever they can. A kind word. A genuine smile. A warm greeting. Anything to make the day a little brighter than the gloom that creeps around them. Joseph is often the bearer of these little bits of kindness.
“Good morning. How did you sleep last night?”
“I heard rats in the night. I was terrified they were going to gnaw off my fingers in the night!”
“They do seem to visit us frequently. I’ll ask the guard if he can bring his cats again. The last time he brought them the rats seemed to stay away for quite some time. They are excellent hunter. In the meantime, enjoy your breakfast. It appears to be a fine one this morning.”
“I don’t see what is so fine about it. It’s the same watered down slop as every other morning.”
“True, it is the same as yesterday’s but today there is a bright ray of sun shining into your cell over there.”
“That bolt blinded me first thing this morning. Why should I be happy about it?”
“You don’t have to be happy if you don’t want to be but I find that if I look for reasons to rejoice, even in this dark place, they are there for me. It is in how you choose to look at that ray of sunshine. I choose to think of the warmth it can provide to this otherwise chilly room. I would sit in its glow and be thankful if it was me.”
“You’re right, as usual. I guess I’m just overly tired from not sleeping last night. You always find ways to encourage me. Thank you for that.”
“Glad I could be of service. I will see you at supper time.”
Joseph moves from cell to cell that morning spreading a little encouragement in each visit. When he comes to the cell of Pharaoh’s cupbearer he greets him warmly too.
“Good morning. How are you today? Did you sleep well?”
“No I didn’t. I had a dream last night that is haunting me. I’m sure it has meaning but there isn’t anyone around to help me figure it out.”
“I believe it is God who gives us the meaning of our dreams.”
“Yah and none of them are around here either to tell me what it means. What if I’m supposed to do something or talk to someone and I don’t know it because I can’t figure out what the dream means! It’s so frustrating!”
“Would you mind telling me your dream? My God may give you the answer you seek.”
“What have I got to lose” says the cupbearer. He proceeds to tell Joseph his dream. Joseph gives him his full attention as his story unfolds.
“In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand” (verses 9b-12).
Joseph nods his head as he listens and a smile begins to play around his mouth by the end of the telling. “That’s an amazing dream. I would like to share its meaning with you as it was given to me by my God.”
“Please do! I’m anxious to hear what your God has told you.”
“This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. IN three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer” (verses 12b-13).
The cupbearer’s eyes widen at this interpretation and his face is lit with a smile. Joseph makes one last request of him; “Please remember me when all this comes to pass. Remember the kindness I showed you by interpreting your dream for you. Please mention me to Pharaoh and try and get me out of this place.”
“But you always seem so happy.”
“I find little bits of happiness wherever I can but I was stolen from my home and am being falsely imprisoned here. I desire with all my heart to leave this place.”
“I’m not sure what I can do but I will remember your kindness.”
“Thank you. That’s all I can ask of you.”
Pharaoh’s baker, who was also imprisoned here, heard Joseph’s conversation and interpretation for the cupbearer.
“Can you interpret my dream also?”
“As I said before, it is God who gives the interpretation, but please tell me your dream and we will see what He provides.”
“I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head” (verses 16b-17).
Joseph’s eyes did not light up with excitement at the telling of this dream. The baker watches him as his face falls. Joseph knows the baker will not like the meaning of the dream but he must share it anyway.
“This is the interpretation: the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head –from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you” (verses 18a-19).
The baker’s jaw drops open as he hears Joseph’s interpretation. “Surely you are mistaken! Please tell me this is not so!”
“I’m sorry my friend. I can only tell you what has been told to me by my God.”
The baker and cupbearer have served Pharaoh together for many years and have become friends during that time. After Joseph leaves the cupbearer tries to comfort his friend. “Maybe he got his interpretation wrong. Maybe that’s not what it means after all.”
“I hope he is wrong” replies the baker.
Secretly the cupbearer is hoping Joseph’s interpretations were correct and that he will soon be free. “If he was wrong on one he could be wrong on the other. But if he is right on one he would be right on the other.”
Both men are reserved during the next three days as they contemplate their fate. Could Joseph really be right? Does he truly know how to interpret dreams? Only time will tell.
As both these men have served Pharaoh for some time, they know what is quickly approaching. They know that Pharaoh’s birthday falls on the day Joseph identified for their dreams to be completed. They are also familiar with Pharaoh’s practice of giving a feast for his servants. During this feast Pharaoh is also famous for demonstrating his authority. It would not be unlike him to do just as Joseph predicted; to restore one servant while ordering the death of another. Both men are praying they receive the former gift from Pharaoh and not the latter.
The third day dawns since Joseph has interpreted the dreams. As he approaches these two prisoner’s cells he greets them warmly as on any other day.
“Good morning. I hope you slept well.”
The cupbearer looks Joseph in the eye. “Are you sure of your interpretation? Are you certain this day will result in me being restored to Pharaoh’s service?”
“Yes my friend I am. This is the meaning my God delivered to me. Please remember me when you are serving Pharaoh again. Please remember all my days of kindness to you while you were here with me.”
“I will. Thank you…just,…thank you.”
Joseph moves onto the baker’s cell. “I brought you a little something special today. Please take it.” Joseph hands him a small stale roll to add to his morning meal.
“Thank you for your kindness…Are you certain about your interpretation?” The baker can’t raise his eyes to meet Joseph’s.
“I’m sorry my friend, but I could only share what my God shared with me. I wish it could be some other way.”
“Me too. Pray for me to have a quick death at least. I don’t want to feel the birds feasting on me!”
Joseph puts his hand on the baker’s shoulder. “I will my friend. I will pray my God shows mercy to you on this day.”
Sounds of celebration drifted into the prison cells from outside. At midday guards footsteps resounded through the corridor and the sound of locks being thrown were heard. Two men were removed from their cells that day; the cupbearer and the baker. Joseph prayed for both as their footsteps died away. He prayed for a quick death for the baker and for his own favor with the cupbearer.
That evening the guards were heard talking about the day’s activities.
“Did you see how quickly the baker died? I don’t even think the rope hit bottom before he breathed his last.”
“He probably died of fright from seeing your ugly mug!” Both men laughed at this. A few rooms away Joseph said a quick prayer of thanks to God for this mercy to his friend. No word came from the cupbearer though nor from Pharaoh regarding Joseph that night. Joseph lay his head down with a little more sorrow that night; for himself and his friend.
When morning dawned Joseph arose and gave thanks to the Lord for another day. “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I am in Your hands Lord. Do with me as You will.”
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Father God, I have found many times that my happiness rises and falls with the circumstances around me. That is probably true of all men. But I want to be more like Joseph. He didn’t look to circumstances to make him happy. He looked for YOU to be that source and then he looked to make whatever circumstances he was in better by serving You in them. He CHOSE to look for the good instead of dwelling on the bad. I know this story was a bit fictionalized but I also KNOW this was his true attitude. How, one might ask. Because he couldn’t have gone on from day to day serving You without Your strength and Your hope. He chose to look towards hope instead of despair. Yes! He was a slave and falsely imprisoned. But he never gave up hope for a future and faith in You. He KNEW he could trust You to work out Your plan in his life. Even that morning when his ‘friend’ didn’t mention him to Pharaoh, he chose to trust in You!
THAT’S the kind of faith I want! That’s the kind of life I desire to live. NO MATTER WHAT, my heart trusts in YOU. My faith is secure in You! This IS the day You made just for me; no matter what lies in it. Remind me of that during every ‘rainstorm’ that comes my way too Father. I CHOOSE TO REJOICE.