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Lesson Two: Buried Hopes and Dreams
John Sanchez

“The poorest man is not without a cent, but without a dream.” – Unknown

Hopes and Dreams – They are the stuff that propels our lives forward. They define who we are, what we value, and what we aspire to become. Moving us beyond where we are, towards something bigger and better. Our hopes and dreams defy and reject the resistance of our reality, thrusting us toward what is yet to be. The fact is, all of us have hopes and dreams. George Bernard Shaw once said, “He who has never hoped can never despair.” I would add, “He who has never hoped has never lived.”
But what happens when life sucks the air out of our hopes? When the devastating storms of this broken world tear through our life and leave us despondent and dejected? Unable to make any sense of what is going on in our life, we search for answers only to find more questions.

Though God’s Word is rich in examples of men and women who have endured hope shattering circumstances, we look specifically to the story of Joseph, a young man given dreams by God. Dreams which leave him searching for answers, but wind up catapulting his life into a harrowing journey that leads him to his answer.

Genesis 37:1-11:  Jacob lived in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father's wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.[a] 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. 5 Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 7 Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9 Then he dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” 11 And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.

What details do we find about Joseph’s family life in these opening verses?

Where does Joseph fall in the family birth order?

How would you define his relationship with his brothers?

As we learn about the dreams God gives Joseph, why do you think his family responds the way they did?

Have you ever experienced God-given dreams or inspiration?

Have you shared it with others?

How have people responded to you?

Joseph’s half-brothers already distrusted him, and it eventually grew into hatred. Sin is insidious that way. When we feed it, it only grows and becomes stronger. What do their feelings eventually drive them to do with Joseph?

Genesis 37:18-28:  They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. 20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.[b] Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” 21 But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” 22 And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. 24 And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. 25 Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. 26 Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27 Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. 28 Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels[c] of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

Joseph experienced unbelievably harsh treatment from the hands of his own family. Have there been times in your life when you’ve felt misunderstood by someone close to you?

Have you ever experienced unjust consequences? Or maybe your consequences did not fit your transgressions?

These are the circumstances Joseph found himself facing. In the end, he finds himself sold as a slave, carried off to a foreign land away from his family and friends.

What would be going through your mind at this point if you were Joseph?

In Genesis 39, we find Joseph arrives in Egypt, and his captors wind up selling him to Pharaoh’s Captain Potiphar. While “employed” in Potiphar’s house, God prospers Joseph in all his work and finds favor with Potiphar. We find Joseph also finds “Favor” with someone else.

Genesis 39:4-20:  So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. 5 From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had, the Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field. 6 So he left all that he had in Joseph's charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.  Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And after a time his master's wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master's wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” 19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.

How does Joseph deal with the temptation that persistently came against him?

Joseph again endures injustice and misunderstanding during the episode of his life. When all seems to be getting better, things take another turn for the worse.
Everyone experiences tough situations in life, but how do we deal with what seems to be continually recurring challenges?

Did Joseph develop a victim’s mindset?

I love the very next verse in the story…
But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison (verse 21).

What does this tell us about how God thinks about us in our struggles and challenges?

In Genesis 40, we find Joseph managing the affairs of the Prison Guard. In the course of his dealings, he encounters the Pharaoh’s former cupbearer and baker who have been imprisoned. They have dreams which they cannot understand the meaning. God uses Joseph to interpret their dreams and his interpretations prove to be true. For the cupbearer, who is restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court, Joseph asks that he remembers him and speaks on his behalf to Pharaoh. Despite the cupbearers promise, he soon forgets as he ascends back to his position of privilege. Yet another injustice in the life of Joseph.

It this point in the story of Joseph’s life, how many recorded offenses and injustices can we count against him?

Briefly, put yourself in Joseph’s shoes, and think about what you might think about your life up until this point? Would your ‘Hope Tank’ be running pretty low by this time?

Could Joseph have grown cynical and jaded by his life experiences?

Two years later, someone else has a vexing dream for which they searched for its meaning. Pharaoh is troubled with several dreams that seem to haunt him, and none of his wise men could interpret them. It is then that the cupbearer remembers his promise to Joseph, and tells Pharaoh of his previous experience with this man Joseph and his gift of interpreting dreams. Joseph is summoned to Pharaoh’s presence, and Joseph experiences God in a way even Joseph could never have foreseen.
Genesis 41:25-36:  Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind are also seven years of famine.28 It is as I told Pharaoh; God has shown to Pharaoh what he is about to do.29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt,30 but after them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt. The famine will consume the land, 31 and the plenty will be unknown in the land by reason of the famine that will follow, for it will be very severe. 32 And the doubling of Pharaoh's dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about. 33 Now therefore let Pharaoh select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt.34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land and take one-fifth of the produce of the land[b] of Egypt during the seven plentiful years. 35 And let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it.36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to occur in the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”  Joseph not only interprets Pharaoh’s dream as God intended, but also has a plan to address the calamity to come. What Pharaoh’s wisest men in all of Egypt could not achieve, God accomplished through a young Hebrew summoned from the caverns of a prison. With that, Pharaoh immediately promotes Joseph to be the man charged to “make it happen”.

Genesis 41:46 tells us Joseph’s age when this occurs.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh and went through all the land of Egypt.

How old was Joseph when our story began?

How many years have transpired in his life until his circumstances seemed to improve?

What does this tell us about the contextual timeframe from where we need to view our specific situations?

It’s during this time of national crisis when God’s plan and purpose begins to crystallize for Joseph, but the best part of the story is about to unfold. For after the years of plenty, when Joseph’s savings plan is put into place, the years of severe famine hit the land of Egypt. The ensuing years bring the masses of the surrounding region to Egypt in search of food. For word has reached far and wide that there are stores of grain in Egypt. Among those masses of people, we find Joseph’s family again.

Genesis 42:1-3, 6-9a:  When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” 3 So ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt.  6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. 9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.

Do we see what happens in Verse 6?

Do you think Joseph understood the full significance of what happened at that precise moment?

Do the math. At this point in our story, Joseph has been in Egypt longer than he was living with his family in his homeland. The sudden appearance of his brothers triggered something in his heart that may have been long dormant, which was to be reunited with his family. Through some cunning manipulation of events, Joseph demands that his brothers (who still are unaware who Joseph is) return to their land and bring back the younger brother. As the story continues, we see Joseph apparently testing his brothers’ integrity. Perhaps he was probing for any signs of remorse or repentance on their part. Towards the end of this game of charades, Joseph is overwhelmed with compassion for his brothers and he reveals himself to them in an emotional climax to the story.

Genesis 45:1-11,15:  Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.  4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children's children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.’ 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him.

We find Joseph realizing his dreams in a way he could never have foreseen. It is a fantastic story that speaks so many rich truths about God’s love, His purpose, and character.

What was God’s ultimate purpose in bringing Joseph to Egypt?

How did this impact his family?

How did this impact our life today? (Think about God’s purpose through the nation of Israel)

Do we see the obvious conflict in Joseph’s story? His life experiences were born out of unfairness, injustice, and evil intent. God uses these very same elements of our broken world to bring about His divine purpose in Joseph’s life. Can you relate to situations in your life when things went sideways but ultimately proved to be crucially important in your growth and maturity in your walk with God?

The story of Joseph is an incredible account. It is my all-time favorite story in all of the Scripture. If anyone has experienced injustice or pain in life, only to see those same experiences used by God to accomplish something good and meaningful then Joseph’s story will always hold a special place in your heart. You see, Joseph’s story is our story. Without his enduring hardship, the life of his family was at stake, which meant the Nation of Israel would not have existed.  Which meant Jesus would not have been, and we would still be hopelessly lost without a Savior.

In John 12:24 Jesus said, speaking of Himself, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Sometimes hopes and dreams are like that. God births them in our hearts, and as we nurture them to grow, they die. God, in His sovereign Will, Way, and Time, resurrects them back to life. It’s the picture we see in Jesus through His death and resurrection, and we see it in Joseph’s life experience, too.

Joseph’s story is our story, in so many ways and on so many rich levels. Read through the story in its entirety, and let it remind you of the indisputable love, grace, and purpose of God at work in our lives. Even when all feels hopelessly lost, God is working in ways we don’t understand.

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