Transformation

One of the most clear indicators that God is involved in a situation is that the timing is perfect. That’s why it seems strange that Joseph remained in prison for two whole years (Genesis 41:1) after he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer. Genesis 40:23 states that the chief cupbearer “did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Joseph’s interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream didn’t seem to have any impact on him. Even though Joseph predicted the exact day (Genesis 40:13) that the chief cupbearer would be released from prison, the cupbearer ignored Joseph’s desperate plea for help (Genesis 40:14).

It seems likely that the two years Joseph remained in prison after he had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s officers was a period of time that God used to transform his inner character. Genesis 41:1 indicates that two whole years passed before anything else happened in Joseph’s life. The Hebrew word that is translated whole, yowm (yome) usually refers to complete cycles or measured periods of time like 24 hours (1 day) or 365 days (1 year) (H3117). The first biblical occurrences of yowm are found in Genesis 1:15-31 which indicates that God completed his cycles of creation in six 24 hour time periods. Genesis 1:15 states, “and the evening and the morning were the first day” .

The reason why two whole years passed after Joseph interpreted the chief baker and cupbearer’s dreams may have been because that was how long it took God to transform Joseph into a new person. The Apostle Paul described the process of transformation that occurs in believers as the renewing of the mind. Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

The Greek word Paul used that is translated transformed, metamorphoo (met-am-or-fo’-o) means to change into another form, to undergo a complete change and the present continuous tense of this verb indicates a process” (G3339). Metamorphoo is used in Matthew 17:2 to refer to Jesus’ transfiguration. It says, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2). The transformation of Jesus’ outward appearance may have been intended to show his disciples that his glorified state wasn’t the result of being crucified and resurrected.

Unlike human transformation, Jesus’ transfiguration was not a process that had to be completed. John’s gospel indicates that Jesus was in a glorified state before the world existed (John 17:5). Apparently, what happened when Jesus was transfigured was that his glorified state was manifested or you might say revealed to his disciples Peter, James, and John. The physical change in Jesus’ appearance was likely just an outward expression of an internal adjustment that caused his deity to temporarily eclipse the physical constraints of his body. One way of describing what happened might be that Jesus’ glorified state burst through the physical constraint of his body and was able to be detected by the visual perception of his three disciples.

Jesus referred to his transfiguration as a vision and commanded his disciples to “tell no one the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). The Greek word horama (hor’-am’ah) means “something gazed at” (G3705) and is comparable to the word optomai (op’-tom-ahee) which means “to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable)” (G3700). Dreams and visions such as the one that Jesus’ disciples had of his transfiguration may be related to one another in that they both tap into the spiritual realm where the past, present, and future seem to coexist. The dreams that Joseph had at the age of 17 connected him to a future that was very different from his current reality, but they instilled in him a belief that the events of his dream would one day take place.

Joseph had been a slave in Egypt for approximately eleven years and likely a prisoner in the king’s prison for much of that time when two men in his custody each had a dream the same night that caused them to be stirred up inside (Genesis 40:5-6). God may have used the dreams of Pharaoh’s officers to remind Joseph of his own dreams and to focus his attention on what what going on in the world outside his prison. After the chief baker and cupbearer were taken from the prison, Joseph was left to contemplate his own future for two whole years.

The human mind is intended to make meaning of things and when left to its own devices can be a very powerful weapon in Satan’s hands. During the two years that Joseph remained in prison, he may have experienced doubt and confusion and wondered why God had allowed him to suffer for so long. Joseph told the chief cupbearer, “I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit” (Genesis 40:15). The pit where Joseph was imprisoned was a dungeon, a large hole in the ground that was probably used for storing water before it became a prison. The Hebrew word that is translated pit in Genesis 40:15, bor (bore) is also used in Genesis 37:20 to describe the pit that Joseph’s brothers cast him into before they sold him into slavery. The similarity between these two places where Joseph lost his freedom may have caused him to think of both his imprisonment and being sold into slavery as one long, continuous cycle of unpleasant change.

The thing that Joseph never seemed to lose sight of that likely led to the transformation of his inner being, was the knowledge that God was in control of his circumstances. The Apostle Paul identified the source of personal transformation as renewing the mind. The Greek word anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis) refers to “the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life; and stresses the willing response on the part of the believer” (G342). Joseph demonstrated an adjustment to the mind of God by being loyal to Potipher and refusing to sleep with his master’s wife (Genesis 39:8-9). Joseph was concerned about the well-being of Pharaoh’s officers (Genesis 40:7) and asked the cupbearer to be merciful to him after he was freed from prison (Genesis 40:14) rather than demanding that he be repaid for interpreting the chief cupbearer’s dream. Perhaps, the greatest testimony to Joseph’s willingness to do things God’s way was his hard work and responsible behavior in spite of being a slave in Egypt.

Genesis 41:1-8 indicates that after two whole years had passed, Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him and his magicians and wise men were unable to interpret the dreams. “Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.’ Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit” (Genesis 41:9-13).

Psalm 40:1-3 may reflect what was going through Joseph’s mind when he was released from prison. It states:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

The phrase waited patiently “stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude…a forward look with assurance” (H6960). Waiting patiently for God to do something usually involves the discipline of silence and a restraint from activity. It seems that Joseph’s transformation was a direct result of him doing nothing other than continuing to expect that God would one day deliver him from prison.

The Apostle Paul described the process of spiritual transformation as putting off your old self and putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Similar to changing the clothes that we wear, spiritual transformation or what Paul referred to as sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), is an intentional effort to change the way we appear to others. The old self which is characterized by dulled spiritual perception (G4457) has to be replaced by a new self that is under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who directs its bent and energies Godward in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (G365).

When Jesus was transfigured, a bright cloud overshadowed his disciples, “and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him'” (Matthew 17:5). God’s reference to Jesus as his beloved Son was meant to convey the special relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father. It could be that Jesus’ transfiguration had something to do with the close connection he had established with God through intimate prayer. God said that he was “well pleased” with Jesus even before he had completed his assignment of dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The Greek word that is translated well pleased, eudokeo (yoo-dok-eh’) stresses “the willingness and freedom of an intention or resolve regarding what is good” (G2106).

One way of looking at eudokeo is to see it as a commitment that cannot not be broken. God being well pleased with Jesus meant that he would not change his opinion of his beloved Son regardless of the circumstances that might effect his viewpoint. Jesus’ assignment of bearing the burden of sin changed the way he appeared to his Father, but God was just as well pleased with Jesus after he was scarred and broken by the weight of sin and human depravity as he was before. Jesus’ transfiguration was evidence that his eternal state and status with God had already been secured before he died on the cross and was resurrected.

God instructed Jesus’ disciples to “listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). The Greek words akouo (ak-oo’-o) and autos (ow-tos’) mean more than just tuning into what someone is saying. It implies that there is a spiritual aspect to what is being said and a need for spiritual discernment to make sense of the message. Many of the things Jesus told his disciples didn’t make sense to them at first. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that the disciples realized Jesus was going to establish his kingdom on earth by means of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of believers, revealing and confirming the truths of God’s word (Matthew 16:18). Paul described this capability as “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).

Joseph demonstrated spiritual enlightenment when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer (Genesis 40:12-13, 18-19). As a result of his correct interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and asked to interpret two dreams that caused him to be troubled in his spirit (Genesis 41:8). Pharaoh’s astrologers and wise men were unable to interpret his dreams because of their unregenerate condition. The only way the dreams’ meaning could be deciphered was to open them up or you might say to unlock the truth that was contained within them.

Joseph’s preparation for the task of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams was likely the long period of silence he endured after successfully interpreting the dreams of the chief baker and cupbearer. Two whole years of nothing happening while Joseph waited patiently for the LORD to deliver him from the pit may have been a type of spiritual exercise that strengthened Joseph’s faith and helped him to understand things from God’s perspective. Psalm 40:4-5 states, “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” The Hebrew word that is translated makes, siym (seem) has to do with the act of placing something in a permanent or secure location. In the context of making the LORD our trust, siym means to invite the Lord into our heart or to be saved.

Joseph’s inner transformation was followed by an external transformation that began when he was summoned from his prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Genesis 41:14 states, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.” “Egyptians were normally smooth-shaven, while Palestinians wore beards” (note on Genesis 41:14, KJSB). This seems to suggest that Joseph was required to conform to Egyptian customs in order to speak to the king of Egypt, but it could be that Joseph voluntarily changed his appearance so that he wouldn’t offend Pharaoh out of respect for his position.

Pharaoh greeted Joseph with the statement, “‘I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (Genesis 41:15). Joseph could have taken credit for his interpretation of the cupbearer and baker’s dreams, but instead he let Pharaoh know that God was communicating with him. Joseph said, “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16). The Hebrew term that is translated favorable, shalom (shaw-lome’) means peace and “signifies a state in which one can feel at ease, comfortable with someone. The relationship is one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war” (H7965). Joseph spoke these words before he had even heard Pharaoh’s dream, suggesting that God had already been talking to Joseph about the message he was going to relay to Pharaoh.

After Pharaoh told him his two dreams, Joseph said, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (Genesis 41:25). Pharaoh’s dreams contained information about the future, but he wasn’t able to utilize the information because of his unregenerate state. Paul described this condition as the futility of the mind (Ephesians 4:17). The Greek word mataios (mat’-ah-yos) “denotes communication that is devoid of force, truth, success, result; it is useless, of no purpose” (G3152). Nous (nooce), which is translated mind in Ephesians 4:17, means the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining” (G3563). Contrasted with Pharaoh’s dulled spiritual perception, Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret the dreams and provide guidance about how to utilize the information (Genesis 41:28-36) made him an extremely valuable resource to the king of Egypt.

Joseph’s plan to store up grain during seven years of abundant crops and then, distribute the grain during the seven years of famine that would follow may sound like he was just using common sense, but Pharaoh’s response showed that he could never have devised such a plan on his own. “Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God'” (Genesis 41:38). Pharaoh’s reference to God’s Spirit being in Joseph was a unique distinction. Before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit didn’t dwell inside believers. Essentially, what Pharaoh was saying was that Joseph’s knowledge and understanding of God was so close to his actual character that what he was saying sounded like it was coming directly from the mouth of God. In other words, during the thirteen years Joseph had suffered as a slave, he had been transformed into the image of God.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the thrown will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” This he set him over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-43)

Joseph’s mental acuity was recognized by Pharaoh as a divine gift from God. The fact that Pharaoh made him second in command, showed that Joseph was not only discerning and wise, but also a loyal servant that could be trusted with a great deal of responsibility.

The keys of the kingdom

Jacob’s son “Joseph was singled out by God from his conception. His very birth was an answer to the prayers of his mother Rachel (Gen 30:22-24)” (note on Genesis 37:1-11). Genesis 37:3-4 states, “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. 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.” The animosity between Joseph and his brothers was compounded by his open devotion to God. It is clear from Joseph’s two prophetic dreams that he was destined to be God’s instrument of salvation to Jacob’s family. Genesis 37:5-8 states:

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: 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. 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.

Joseph’s bold declaration that his brothers would one day bow down and pay homage to him was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When Joseph came looking for his brothers in the fields of Dothan, “They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, ‘Here comes that dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams'” (Genesis 37:18-20).

The plot to kill Joseph was more than just an expression of hostility toward Jacob’s favorite son, it was an attempt to prevent God’s prophetic word from coming to pass. When Jesus indicated that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man'” (Matthew 16:22-23). Jesus perceived in Peter’s words “a snare laid for Him by Satan” (G4625). Jesus rebuked Peter because he was not setting his mind on the things of God. What Jesus meant by that was that Peter was not thinking about the situation from God’s perspective. Jesus came into the world with a specific mission of dying for the sins of the world. When Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him, Peter was acting like he knew better than Jesus did what his mission was all about.

Jesus was directly addressing his adversary the devil when he said, “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). The Greek word that is translated hindrance, skandalon (skan’-dal-on) (“scandal”) is probably derived from the word kampto (kamp’-to) which means “to bend, bow, the knee (the knees) or one’s self and is used of worshippers who bend in honour of one in religious veneration” (G2578). This seems to suggest that Satan was trying to get Jesus to switch sides and be devoted to him instead of God. But it could be that Peter was the one that was under attack and that Satan was initially trying to get him to betray Jesus rather than Judas Iscariot. Jesus later told Peter that Satan had demanded to have him, that he might sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). The Greek word that is translated sift, siniazo (sin-ee-ad’-zo) when used figuratively means “by inward agitation to try one’s faith to the verge of overthrow” (G4617).

The reason why Satan targeted Peter was because of the important role he was expected to play in the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. After Peter identified Jesus as the Christ, “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), Jesus said, “Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:17-20). Jesus indicated that the purpose of the keys of the kingdom of heaven was to bind and loose things on earth, but he didn’t tell Peter how to do that or specify which things should be bound and which should be loosed. The only clue we have of what Jesus was talking about is found in his instructions about a brother sinning against you. Jesus said:

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:15-20).

The central point of Jesus’ teaching about sins committed by believers was the need for unity within the church. In this context, it seems that the things that are bound and loosed are the relationships that unite the church as a single entity. The Apostle Paul talked about the unity of the Spirit and told the Ephesians, “I therefore a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Before Jesus established his church, the entity that God worked in and through was the family of Jacob which became known as the twelve tribes of Israel. When Joseph was sold into slavery, there was break in the unity of Jacob’s family and a risk that his twelve sons’ descendants would not become the nation of Israel. Joseph’s dreams and his ability to interpret them, “were signs of God’s special blessings on Joseph, and they would be the means of his advancement in Egypt and the preservation of God’s people from the famine that would hit Canaan. Joseph’s personal faith and obedience never wavered” (note on Genesis 37:1-11) and he was able to restore unity in Jacob’s family (Genesis 45:4-5). In this instance, the keys of the kingdom of heaven may have been the dreams Joseph had that made him aware of the fact that his slavery in Egypt was a part of God’s plan to preserve the lives of Jacob’s family.

While he was in Egypt, one of the things that was obvious to everyone about Joseph was his devotion to God. A man named Potipher bought Joseph from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there and Genesis 39:5-6 tells us, “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. 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.” When Potipher’s wife invited Joseph to have sex with her, he refused and told her he intended to be loyal to his master. Joseph said, “‘He is not greater in the 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?’ And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her” (Genesis 39:9-10).

Joseph’s refusal to have sex with his master’s wife led to him being put in prison where he was again given a position of unusual responsibility. Genesis 39:23 states, “The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” Two of Pharaoh’s officers were put in custody in the prison where Joseph was confined and “the captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them” (Genesis 40:4). The Hebrew word that is translated appointed, paqad (paw-kad’) suggests that the two officers were placed in the prison under Joseph’s charge to fulfill a divine purpose (H6485). Paqad’s usage in Exodus 3:16 refers to “God’s intervention in His saving the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt,” suggesting that the two officers were God’s instrument to get Joseph out of prison. Genesis 40:5-8 states:

And one night they both dreamed the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison — each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

Joseph’s concern for the well-being of Pharaoh’s officers showed that he was focusing on their spiritual needs as well as their physical ones. The Hebrew word that is translated downcast, ra’ (rah) “combines together in one the wicked deed and its consequences. It generally indicates the rough exterior of wrongdoing as a breach of harmony, and as breaking up of what is good and desirable in man and in society. While the prominent characteristic of the godly is lovingkindness (H2617), one of the most marked features of the ungodly man is that his course is an injury both to himself and to everyone around him” (H7451). Joseph’s question, “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8) brought the focus of these two men’s attention squarely on God and his ability to open up the spiritual realm to anyone he wants to communicate with.

Jesus’ response to Peter’s declaration that he was the Christ was “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). What Jesus meant by that was that the time Peter spent interacting with Jesus during his ministry on earth was not what led him to the conclusion that he was the Christ. It was a supernatural revelation from God that made Peter aware of the fact that he was in the presence of “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). It was this same supernatural type of disclosure that Jesus indicated his church would be built on “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). In other words, the unsaved condition of the human mind cannot block out the truth of God’s word. Supernatural revelation unlocks the mind and gives it the ability to comprehend what God is saying to us.

One of the most difficult things for Jesus’ disciples to comprehend was that he was going to be killed “and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21). After he was crucified, no one expected Jesus to come back to life. Matthew 16:24-27 states, “Then Jesus told his disciples, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul. Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” To deny oneself means to disregard one’s own interests (G720) and most likely signified the use of one’s power or influence to obtain a preferred outcome. Jesus indicated that our attempts to save ourselves are useless because salvation is a free gift from God, but in order to fully benefit from being saved we must follow the example that Jesus gave us of selfless abandon to doing the will of God.

Jesus’ promise to repay each person according to what he has done when he comes with his angels in the glory of his Father is a reference to the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). At the judgement seat of Christ, every believer will have to give an account of what he or she did with the life, gifts and calling that God gave to them (Harvest.org, The Judgment Seat of Christ). I believe this judgment will include both Old and New Testament saints. Joseph’s witness to the two officers of Pharaoh that were entrusted to his care while he was in prison will likely be credited to him as something that resulted in God’s will being carried out. Even so, Joseph’s faithfulness in giving God the credit for interpreting the two men’s dreams (Genesis 40:8) didn’t result in his immediate release from prison.

After Joseph interpreted the chief cupbearer’s dream and told him he would be restored to his position in the king’s palace (Genesis 40:13), Joseph requested the cupbearer’s help. He said, “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me in this pit” (Genesis 40:14-15). The pit that Joseph was imprisoned in was a large hole in the ground that was likely used to capture rain (H953) and therefore, had little light or fresh air coming into it. The pit could be symbolic of the confines of hades or what we think of today as the pit of hell. Joseph’s life may have seemed to be ebbing away as he passed each day not knowing when or if he would be released from Pharaoh’s prison. We are told in Genesis 40:23 that after the cupbearer’s dream came true, “Yet the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.”

One of the reasons Jesus needed to give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven may have been because the human mind is governed by our sin nature. As much as we would like to think that God’s interests and the interests of others are foremost in our thoughts, the Apostle Paul made it clear that until we all reach maturity and the fullness of Christ is manifested in his church, we will continue to be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). It wasn’t long after Peter declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) that Satan influenced him to rebuke the Lord and Jesus had to stop Peter from being a hindrance to his mission (Matthew 16:22-23). The only way we are able to open the door of faith is by trusting in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation (John 10:9).

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

Personal experience

Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams was useful in his godly ministry to the Babylonian and Persian kings, but it was his own personal experience with dreams and visions that made Daniel unique as a prophet. The last half of Daniel’s book was devoted to the unfolding of God’s plan to establish his eternal kingdom on earth. Daniel’s dream of four beasts (Daniel 7:3) showed that God’s power would be challenged, but remain supreme in spite of the continual onslaughts from kingdoms that wanted to wipe out his people. In his dream, Daniel saw, “the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another” (Daniel 7:2-3). This picture of beasts rising from the sea was intended to portray the establishment of Satan’s earthly kingdom, an inevitable occurrence of something that was not only predicted, but also prearranged by God.

It might be hard to imagine why God would want to help Satan establish his kingdom on earth, unless you understood God’s motive for doing so. God’s agreement with Satan was designed to allow him a prescribed amount of time to undo the work that Jesus did on the cross, so that it could be shown that Satan could not overcome his eternal kingdom. Without God’s kingdom being challenged, there would be no way of knowing if Jesus’ power was sufficient to reign supreme. The four beasts that came up from the sea represented four separate attempts that Satan would make to stop Jesus from saving the world. Three attempts were to be made prior to Jesus’ birth, but the final attempt would come after his kingdom was fully developed (Daniel 7:22). Essentially, the real threat to Jesus’ kingdom was that he would never be born or die on the cross, but once he did, Satan’s eternal fate was sealed.

Daniel’s dream was explained to him by an angel that stood by him as he peered into God’s heavenly realm. Daniel said, “I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things” (Daniel 7:16). The truth that Daniel sought was so troubling that he could barely process the information he was given. Focusing on the fourth beast, Daniel wanted to know how Satan’s kingdom would finally be brought to an end. The angel’s response is recorded in Daniel 7:23-26:

Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.

Daniel learned through personal experience what many today still don’t understand about the end of time. As recorded in the book of Revelation, Satan’s dominion over the earth will last for only three and a half years, during which time the earth will be completely devastated and most of the population wiped out. Afterward, the devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where he will spend eternity (Revelation 20:10).

A testimony

It took Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon seven years to learn a lesson that he could have gotten immediately if he had been open to the possibility that God was more powerful than he was. Nebuchadnezzar thought he could ignore God’s existence and do as he pleased, until he was stripped of his power and made to live like an animal. Nebuchadnezzar recorded his testimony of conversion and made it available to the world large. His opening remarks are recorded in Daniel 4:1-3, where it says, “Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s second experience of having a prophetic dream showed that he had gained no insight into God’s plan for his life. Instead of honoring God for the privilege he had been given of ruling over the entire world, Nebuchadnezzar chose to honor himself and claim the glory that rightfully belonged to God. Therefore, he was told his kingdom would be taken from him until he acknowledged God’s sovereign control of the entire planet. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men” (Daniel 4:17). The watchers were agents of God, guardian angels, that were empowered to bring down any kingdom that did not conform to God’s will.

King Nebuchadnezzar was forced to submit himself to God. Through a unique set of circumstances, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and became like a wild animal in order see that he could not live apart from God’s divine control. For seven years, it says in Daniel 4:33 that Nebuchadnezzar “did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.” Whether or not Nebuchadnezzar contracted a rare disease or went insane is not clear from the description of his condition, but it appears that he was aware of what he was going through, and yet had no control over his behavior until a set period of time was completed. It says in Daniel 4:34, “At the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lift up mine eyes to heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation.”

The secret

One of the unique characteristics of God’s relationship with his people is he doesn’t keep secrets from them. The Bible is filled with prophecies of future events that were shared exclusively with the Israelites until Jesus was born. One of the things that distinguishes God from all other beings is he knows everything; past, present, and future, and can reveal hidden secrets such as how the world we now live in will eventually come to an end. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was given the privilege of seeing in a dream how God intended to establish an eternal kingdom for his people. It says in Daniel 2:1-3:

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

King Nebuchadnezzar perceived in his spirit that the dream he dreamed had a special significance. When it said his spirit was troubled in Daniel 2:1, it meant that God was communicating with Nebuchadnezzar. A literal translation of the phrase “spirit was troubled” would be, “the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God caused his spirit to come to life or his spiritual heart to start beating within him” (7307/6470). The type of dream Nebuchadnezzar had was a sign of his having acquired a supernatural, spiritual health because he had received a prophetic revelation directly from God. The only problem was Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know what the dream meant. He needed the dream to be interpreted for him.

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t have a relationship with God. In fact, it appears that he was unaware of God’s existence. His attempt to have his dream interpreted by magicians, astrologers, or sorcerers indicated that Nebuchadnezzar’s god was Satan. The reason Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision of the future was revealed in Daniel 2:30. Daniel said, “But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.” God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to know that he not only knew the meaning of his dream, but could read Nebuchadnezzar’s mind and was aware of every thought that went through his head, even the things that Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t remember.

Daniel said of God, “He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. Daniel was referring to the profound mysteries of life that only God can unravel and illuminate in the human mind. Those who are separated from God cannot see the future. Even though Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers pretended to know what was going to happen and gave him advice regarding future events, they really didn’t know the truth. When Nebuchadnezzar saw the future in his dream, he realized that it was nothing like what he expected it would be. After Daniel told him what his dream meant, “Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Daniel 2:47).