Today’s message isn’t as much a sermon as it is a lecture, for that which is taking place in Egypt in this passage of Scripture mirrors that which is taking place in both our world and our nation today. We need to begin with a little background; therefore, the Scriptures teach us that Joseph has been sold into slavery by his brothers who are jealous of the favoritism their father shows him. Due to a series of circumstances, Joseph ends up in an Egyptian prison where he interprets two different dreams for Pharaoh’s butler and baker. According to their dreams and the interpretations thereof, the baker is hanged and the butler is returned to his butlership.
As this chapter of Scripture opens it is two years after these events, and Pharaoh has a dream in which seven well-favored…and fatfleshed (Genesis 41:2) cows come out of a river followed by seven ill-favored and leanfleshed (Genesis 41:3) ones. The skinny cows end up devouring the fat ones. Following this Pharaoh has a similar dream in which seven rank and good (Genesis 41:5) ears of corn devour seven ears that are blasted with the east wind (Genesis 41:6). Upon awakening, Pharaoh realizes the importance of his dreams but has no idea what they mean. He calls for all the magicians and Egypt, and all the wise men thereof (Genesis 41: 8), but they are unable to give him the interpretation of his dreams.
Even though it has been two years, Pharaoh’s butler remembers how Joseph was able to interpret both his and the baker’s dream while they were in prison, and he informs the monarch of Joseph’s presence. Joseph is called, and as we examine that which takes place between him and Pharaoh there are four key points.
First of all, there is Pharaoh’s dream. When Joseph is told of the monarch’s dreams, he immediately knows the meaning thereof. Joseph informs Pharaoh that because the dream was doubled…twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass (v. 32). Joseph tells Pharaoh that each of the seven cows and ears of corn represents years; therefore, there are going to be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. The famine in the land is going to be so great that the seven years of plenty are going to be nothing more than a distant memory as desperation and despair take over the lives of the people.
As we said earlier, that which is taking place in Egypt has a direct correlation to what is happening in both our world and country today. Look at how far America has come in the past seventy years. I was born in 1952, and at that time a coke could be bought for a nickel and a loaf of bread could be purchased for 12 cents. When I began driving gasoline was 25 cents a gallon. Even though prices have skyrocketed since then, our quality of life has greatly improved. For the most part salaries have kept up with inflation, which means we now have better cars to drive, better homes in which to live and better cloths to wear. We take better vacations, are able to better educate our children and enjoy a better level of health care. All things considered, we have enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle over the past several decades.
But like Pharaoh’s dream, a time of plenty is followed by a season of desperation. Last year at this time no one could have imagined the devastating effect Covid-19 would have on our world. We watch the news and are informed of business owners who are being forced to permanently close because of mandatory shutdowns and a lack of customers. The airline industry, cruise line industry, hotel industry, and auto industry are all suffering greatly along with other aspects of the business world because people are staying home and refraining from traveling. We hear stories of fathers who are out of work and unable to provide for their families, of mothers who can’t put food on the table, and of teenagers who are committing suicide due to the state of depression in which they find themselves.
Is this just the beginning of our woes? Are even tougher times in our future? Being no one but the Almighty knows the answers to these questions, we have to learn to trust Him with all of our tomorrows. God has promised to keep and sustain His own through the worst of times, and Scripture teaches us that He is faithful to the end. As He has a Joseph in place to provide for his family during the great famine, so does our God have His saints in place to minister to His people. One positive aspect we can take away from all of this is the truth that Egypt as a nation comes out of a time of famine stronger than ever before. By the time we get to the book of Exodus and the life of Moses, Egypt is the strongest and most revered nation on the face of the Earth; therefore, by God’s grace, we have to believe America’s best days are ahead of her.
Second of all, there is Pharaoh’s dilemma. Upon awakening from his dream, he is troubled. Pharaoh is convinced that both of his dreams are important, but neither he nor his magicians nor wise men can interpret them. It is only when Joseph is summoned that the true meaning of his dreams is discovered.
It needs to be pointed out that Pharaoh’s first instinct is wrong in that he looks to worldly solutions for his spiritual predicament. By looking to his court magicians, astrologers and soothsayers Pharaoh is placing his trust in nothing more than voodoo and black magic. The sad reality is we are doing the same thing today as we place our trust in political remedies for our moral lapses. There is no President, no political party (whether it be Democratic or Republican), no senate or house of representatives, and no supreme court that can heal the ills of our society. The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control can lecture us all they want to as far as wearing masks and social distancing is concerned, but this is like putting a band-aid on a gushing wound.
Is Covid-19 God’s righteous judgment on a world that has for the most part rejected both Him and His Word? Has America sinned away its day of grace and forever lost God’s favor and mercy? I certainly pray not! I believe America is still the world’s best hope for restoration and recovery. I am convinced that we as a nation can still heed 2 Chronicles 7:14 in which God declares If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will hear their land. When Pharaoh’s magicians and wise men can’t interpret his dream, he turns to Joseph who is God’s man. In other words, instead of looking to the natural Pharaoh turns to the supernatural as a means of solving his dilemma, and we as a nation need to do the same. Like the Psalmist of old we need to lift [our] eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh [our] help. [Our] help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1–2).
Not only do we discover Pharaoh’s dream and Pharaoh’s dilemma, but we third of all find Pharaoh’s desire. Joseph suggests that Pharaoh place a man in charge who will lay up stores during the seven years of plenty in order that there might be food during the seven years of famine, and our text declares the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh (v. 37). In other words, it is Pharaoh’s desire to accept Joseph’s suggestion, for by doing so he is looking to the Almighty to see his nation through its time of crisis rather than placing his confidence in either Egypt’s mighty or its myriad of false gods.
America today needs leadership that will follow Pharaoh’s example. Spiritually, a nation can rise no higher than the moral standard of its elected officials; therefore, if the leaders are corrupt it will filter down to the rest of the people. It is interesting to note that many of our politicians today claim an affiliation with specific churches or denominations, but when it comes time to make decisions they bow to political pressure instead of passing legislation that aligns with the Word of God. One of the biggest issues legislators have dealt with in recent history is abortion, which is tantamount to murdering innocent, unborn babies. Any individual who is nominated for the Supreme Court is instantly considered to be either pro-life or pro-choice, and battle lines are immediately drawn to either support or defeat the nomination. A huge number of our legislators claim to be practicing Catholics; yet, even though the Catholic church is adamantly opposed to abortion, these individuals for the most part support it whole-heartedly.
We live in a divided nation in that the liberal left stands opposed to the radical right, which means the majority of Americans are caught somewhere in the middle. The average person wants nothing more than to live in peace, enjoy the freedoms and privileges that come with being an American citizen, be assured of the safety of his or her family, and leave this Earth believing they have in some way helped to make it a better place. But these ambitions are eroding fast as violence fills our streets, hatred captivates the hearts and minds of individuals and our great nation is torn apart by distrust and racial tension.
As Pharaoh had a desire for Egypt to look to Jehovah in an hour of despair, so do God-fearing people today likewise long for His blessings on our land. The Word of God declares blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance (Psalm 33:12), and I firmly believe this verse applies to America. As a Christian nation America has always looked to God in times of need. In the not-too-distant past, we have fought in two world wars, gone through a great depression, seen many of our prominent political and spiritual leaders assassinated and dealt with the anguish brought on by the Vietnam War. Through it all our trust in God has not wavered and our allegiance to Him has remained strong.
More recently we have been forced to deal with political unrest, riots, a call to defund the police, and of course Coved 19. Once again we need to look to our Creator for both His guidance and His divine blessings. No one knows what the future holds, but looking back can give us some perspective on that which might take place in the days that lie ahead. On the positive side of the coin we can examine Nineveh in the days of Jonah, Babylon in the days of Daniel, and according to our Scripture text Egypt in the days of Joseph. All of these nations are basically made up of pagan, God-rejecting people, but they find His divine favor as they humble themselves under His strong and mighty hand and look to Him for His mercy, compassion, and grace. But on the negative side of the coin, we see the world of Noah’s day in which the Almighty completely gives up on humanity and determines to destroy them from the face of the Earth. On which side of this coin is our world today? While nobody really knows, we have to place our confidence in the One who does all things well. Our world, our nation, and our society, in general, are in a state of turmoil, and it is the children of God who are called upon the stand in the gap, lift up the blood-stained banner of the Cross and fight the good fight of faith.
Finally, there is Pharaoh’s decision, which is to assign Joseph the task of overseeing the preparations for the seven years of famine that lie ahead. Pharaoh refers to him as a man in whom the spirit of God is (v. 38), and furthermore considers him to be both wise and discreet (v. 39). America today needs individuals such as this to stand up and be counted in the midst of the great pandemic in which we find ourselves. We as a nation have been established on Godly principles and have been brought into existence by men and women who came to this land in order that they might worship the Creator according to the dictates of their own hearts. Our earliest documents make mention of Almighty God and reference His providential care. Great leaders such as Patrick Henry, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Herbert Hoover, and Woodrow Wilson have stated emphatically that God’s Word is true and needs to be reverenced, and the First Continental Congress in 1775 established a National Day of Prayer which was subsequently made official by President Harry S. Truman.
Besides this, America has produced such spiritual giants as John Witherspoon (a signer of the Declaration of Independence), Jonathan Edwards, Billy Sunday, Peter Marshall, and Billy Graham. As Pharaoh determines to place his trust in one who faithfully represents both God and His Kingdom, so should it be our ambition today. Many of the pulpits of our land are filled with individuals who preach a social gospel, present a watered-down message and view Scripture as being riddled with errors and contradictions. Our pulpits need to be ablaze with firebrands such as Elijah and John the Baptist who stand for that which is right, defy conventional wisdom as they fearlessly proclaim “thus saith the Lord” and are willing to die rather than compromise their principles. What we need are preachers who will boldly and unashamedly proclaim the full counsels of God. Preachers who will cry out against sin and call their people to holy, godly living. We need to hear a message of hope, but it must be accompanied by a call to repentance. We as a nation need to fall on our faces before God’s throne of mercy and humbly seek His divine forgiveness. We not only need to confess our moral failures, but we need to turn from them as we seek to walk the straight and narrow path God lays out for us in His Word.
Joseph is a man of honesty, integrity, and virtue who is an example for all to follow. In the book of Revelation, the apostle John describes the victorious believers as those men and women who have overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Revelation 12:11), and this should depict those who make up the Christian church today. Rather than being weak and spineless as well as unprincipled and undisciplined servants of God, we are called upon to be both salt and light in a world that desperately needs instruction and guidance. We are soldiers in the Lord’s army, and as such we are to be faithful unto death. Our adversary is real, our mission is clear, our cause is just and our Commander is mighty. United in love, strengthened by faith, and baptized in the Holy Ghost, we are to always advance, never retreat, and forevermore further the Kingdom of God.
In conclusion, Pharaoh dreams a dream that only Joseph can interpret, and in doing so it is revealed that seven years of plenty will be followed by seven years of famine. While the famine in Egypt’s land is literal, the prophet Amos envisions a day in which the Lord will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8: 11). Due to America’s abandonment of God’s standards and the church’s failure to instill godly principles into our society, we are swiftly approaching that day; therefore, while there is still time God’s people are to heed the message derived from Pharaoh’s dream. This powerful man understands that the Lord God Almighty is to be both revered and respected as well as obeyed to the fullest. May God raise up leaders of our great nation who will not only seek His will but submit to His authority, and may He empower His people to take a bold stand against the moral decline our country is experiencing.