Sunday, November 14, 2010


Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Same question, different objects: Which came first, big risk-takers or big faith? Did they have the faith that enabled them to take the risk? Or did taking the risk (and seeing God‘s faithfulness) build their faith? Well, my answer is the same for the chicken and the faith hero. Dunno. I have a friend in the insurance business. I don't mean she sells insurance or checks out the dings in your car after an accident. I mean she's one of those brainiacs that works the math to determine risk probability and cash reserves, etc. I've never asked her how – or if – the risk assessment of her job affects the risk assessment of her faith. That might be a good question. I can tell you that I'm one of those people that likes insurance. I think we should have a whole bunch of it – just in case. My husband, on the other hand, thinks we should get by with as little as legally possible – but he humors me, and we end up somewhere in between. I'm thinking a little less insurance means a little more risk…and maybe a little more faith.

Gen. 41:1-7 – "When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. He fell asleep again and had a second dream: Seven heads of grain, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads of grain sprouted—thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven healthy, full heads. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream." (emphasis added)
  • I hate nightmares, and after one so vivid, I wouldn't have been so quick to go back to sleep. Pharaoh took the risk of falling asleep again, and in so doing aloud God to speak a second time. Sometimes putting ourselves in a position to hear God is risky business.
Gen. 41:8-13 – "In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, 'Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was hanged.'" (emphasis added)
  • The cupbearer took several risks here: 1) to confess his shortcoming to a Pharaoh prone to whims, 2) to remind the same king that he was once angry with the cupbearer, and 3) to recommend Joseph, when he wasn't certain Joseph would give a favorable dream interpretation. Why did Pharaoh's cupbearer risk telling Pharaoh these things? Did he base his faith on God, on Pharaoh, on Joseph? We can only guess, but I believe Pharaoh was so distraught by the magicians' inability to interpret, perhaps the cupbearer felt he had no choice but to offer the Hebrew prisoner's help…and the hope of his God.
Gen. 41:14-16 – "So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.'
'I cannot do it,' Joseph replied to Pharaoh, 'but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.'"
  • Joseph takes a risk in contradicting Pharaoh, but it would have been a greater risk to steal God's glory.
Gen. 41:17-24 – "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows came up—scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up. In my dreams I also saw seven heads of grain, full and good, growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other heads sprouted—withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin heads of grain swallowed up the seven good heads. I told this to the magicians, but none could explain it to me.'" (emphasis added)
  • Pharaoh has told an unknown number of magicians, and now he must retell his dreams to a Hebrew prisoner. Can you hear the pleading in his last sentence? I'm guessing mighty Pharaoh is not used to expressing his vulnerability, but evidently his fear is genuine and strong enough to risk a little humility.
Gen. 41:25-32 – "Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, 'The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine. It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon."
  • As was the case when God gave him the interpretation for the baker and cupbearer, Joseph needed no time in prayer to interpret the dream. Was it a risk to speak without prayerful consideration? Not if your faith keeps you in close and constant contact with the Source of dreams.
Gen. 41:33-36 – [Joseph continued,] ―"And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.'"
  • Joseph takes a risk by going beyond interpreting to ADVISING! He uses the experiences God has allowed into his life (difficult circumstances, unfair, unpleasant) and creates an opportunity for God's blessing. Pharaoh could have punished him or applauded him…but Joseph believed God could do more.
Gen. 41:37-40 – "The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, 'Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?' Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.'"
  • Pharaoh took a risk, when he endowed Joseph – a young, Yahweh-worshipping foreigner – with so much authority. But why not? Joseph had already proven to be humble (in giving God credit) yet confident (offering unrequested advice) and capable (in interpreting the dream). It seems Pharaoh weighed the risks and made a wise faith decision. He would have made a good actuary.
Lord, increase my faith to take the risks that will increase my faith. Show me ways in which You've already worked, and then give me more opportunities to risk and believe. I want our relationship to be alive and growing, an adventure of constantly stepping out on air and providing the grace place to walk. Ummm, but not too exciting Lord…

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