Genesis 41:1-2 Now it happened t the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream, and behold, he was standing by the Nile. And lo, from the Nile there came up seven cows, sleek and fat; and they grazed in the marsh grass…”
Anger Towards Government or Opportunity?
In today’s world it would seem we have a lot to be angry with the government about. I don’t have to list the numerous reasons, but God, through Joseph, tells us how to address this. We can choose to be angry and do nothing; or we can choose to see the opportunity in the circumstances:
Joseph didn’t exhibit anger towards Potiphar, his wife, or the government for his being imprisoned; not even towards his brothers who sold him. And as such, he retained his serenity even in jail.
Joseph was in tune with another person’s pain (the baker, the cupbearer, and Pharaoh), and was therefore capable of doing that one small act of goodness and kindness. Little did he know that it would change the world.
The conviction that God is right here, directing all that happens, is like a spiritual chiropractic adjustment – shifting our focus from frustration to curiosity. The instinctive response, “This is wrong; it shouldn’t have happened to me!!” becomes, “This is an opportunity – why else would it happen to me?” Our job is to look for opportunities to make a difference. And sometimes a small window of opportunity brings a whole new world of fresh air! (Rochel Holzkenner)
Goal Setting Joseph’s Way
- Desire it… Joseph had a vision. He wanted to be in a position where he could make a difference to the world. He wanted this so strong and thought about it so much that he even had dreams about it. It is for this reason that his brothers were so angry with him. They understood that what he spoke of was not merely a dream; it was a clear and strong desire, and they interpreted it to mean that he wanted to rule over them.
- Be a Dreamer… All significant reality begins with a dream. The great achievers throughout time started their life’s journey with a dream. The definition of a dream is a vision that sounds and looks impossible when you measure it by your current stage in life and your past experiences. The example of Joseph, dreaming as a 17 year-old Hebrew shepherd that one day would be king, illustrates the powerful possibilities that could be unleashed by a dream. What you need to decide is that the past does not equal the future and that you are prepared to take on and accomplish something that you have never done before!
- Be Careful Who You Share Your Goal With… In life, there are always some people around you who feel that the pie called “life” is not big enough for everyone, and that if you are going to have a part of it, they will be losing out. Don’t share your dreams, goals, and aspirations with them. They will try to undermine you. Joseph caused his brothers’ increased hatred against him by sharing his dreams with them. Perhaps they felt that if and when Joseph reached his goals, it would be at their expense. They would have to compromise their freedom. Jealousy, even amongst brothers, can lead to appalling destruction, as in the extreme example of the primal sin of fratricide, the murder of Abel by Cain.
- Picture Your Dream Accomplished… Visualize that you have already achieved your goal. You must believe in advance that you will reach your goal no matter what, because as long as you believe that success is assured, you will be sure to make the maximum effort towards achieving your goal. Joseph kept on repeating his dreams in great detail. In his mind, they were already a reality that existed firmly in the mental world; all that was left for him to do was bring them into the physical plane. We need to begin seeing and feeling the state of redemption now. We have to change our way of thinking because only by living with this reality will we give ourselves over completely to the task of actualizing it in this physical world.
- Have a Plan… “Failing to plan is planning to fail,” a wise man once said. In order to succeed, you need a clear road map that will guide you on the best possible route to follow in achieving your goal. Joseph appeared before Pharaoh for one reason: to interpret his dreams. He did this job very well. However, he did not stop there. He knew that in order to prevent Pharaoh’s dreams from fading away and to ensure that they became reality, a proper and detailed plan of action was required. Thus, without being asked, when Joseph had finished interpreting the dream, he did not stop there, but continued to advise Pharaoh in great detail as to what measures were necessary to achieve the goal of saving the entire region. He offered Pharaoh a plan to consider as to how to deal with the seven years of hunger which would follow the upcoming seven years of abundance. Joseph suggested a detailed plan with precise methods on how to save during the good years in order to lessen the burden of the hunger years. He also suggested a management plan that would be necessary for the plan to succeed.
- Work Your Plan… “Who is a wise man? One who sees the outcome of his actions before he takes action.” In other words, a smart person has a vision and a plan of action. he or she assesses the consequences of his/her actions well in advance before ever engaging in action. The smart person draws up a precise plan of the actions necessary to achieve goals, and then he gets down to work. In other words, plan your work and then work your plan. Pharaoh was more impressed with Joseph’s precise plan than with his interpretation of the dreams. He therefore decided right there and then to appoint Joseph as second to the king with instructions to all his people that they must obey Joseph’s commands. Joseph was thus given power and the duty to actually implement the plan of action he had proposed.
- Help Others Achieve Their Goals and They Will Help You Achieve Yours… All Joseph had been asked by Pharaoh was to interpret his dreams. His interpretation was that there would be seven years of abundance of food, followed immediately by seven years of famine. he had not been asked to provide a solution as to how to deal with the seven years of famine. it was indeed only when Joseph helped Pharaoh achieve his goal of dealing with the famine, that Pharaoh reciprocated by helping Joseph fulfill his goal of becoming a king and ruler; precisely as Joseph had dreamed 13 years earlier.
- Do Not Abandon Your Goal When the Going Gets Tough… When Joseph was put in the pit by his brothers, his goal of being a king seemed a cruel illusion; when he was sold as a slave and later imprisoned, he could have despaired. Many, in such circumstances, would have said, “Forget it! I give up! I’m not cut out for success. Being successful is only for an elite group. I’ll just stop dreaming. At least then I won’t be disappointed.” None of these thoughts appear to have been in Joseph’s mind. As soon as he became a slave, he gave that position his best shot. Within a short time, he was recognized by his master as a man of determination and commitment. Soon He had promoted Joseph to take charge of his entire household. Thus, in contemporary language, in a short time he had climbed the corporate ladder and become the general manager. The lesson: Never allow yourself to feel a victim. Do not abandon your goals just because your plans did not initially work out the way you wanted them to.
- Stick to Your Morals and Beliefs at All Cost… We all face, at times, situations where our belief system seems to collide with our goals. Then the question we have to ask ourselves loud and clear is: which one is more important to me? For example, if my friend and I are going for the same job, and only one of us will get it, would I say something bad about my friend which will enable me to reach my goal? Would I tell a small lie in my business transactions so that I can win that deal which will help me achieve my financial goal? Would I skip my daily study session today because I am too busy organizing an event? The good news is that thousands of years before our time, people have been there and faced these decisions. Joseph was put to the ultimate test with Potiphar’s wife. “All your goals will be scattered,” she threatened him, “if you do not do what I want.” She put enormous pressure on Joseph so that he should break his godly principles, offering him a better life and the fulfillment of his goals. But Joseph stuck firmly to his morals and beliefs, even though he risked losing his life’s ambition.
- Have a Positive Role Model… At one point, Joseph weakened and nearly succumbed to temptation and do the wrong thing. But there were two things that made Joseph refuse the temptation. One is that he said to her, “If I do this, I will be sinning against God, and although nobody may ever find out, and it may bring me closer to my goals, my spiritual principles are everlasting, and totally override any other goal. The goal of staying true to my God has a veto power over everything else.” Another source of strength was, as is taught by the sages, he had a vision of his father and heard his father’s voice say to him, “If you go ahead and do this you are cutting yourself away from me, and your name will be removed from the list of the children of Israel.” In the short-term Joseph’s decision got him in to trouble. He was jailed for 12 years – a high price to pay for staying true to your principles. But ultimately, only because he refused to compromise his principles and end up in jail, did he eventually come to fulfill his ultimate goal of being ruler. This would not have been achieved had he placed his goals ahead of godly and spiritual values. And what had empowered him to stick to his principle was his bond with his father.
- When We Encounter Difficulties and Setbacks, React by Seeing What You Can Learn and Benefit from Them…being imprisoned in an Egyptian jail is no holiday. Joseph had every right to feel a victim and give up. He could have adopted the attitude that, “life is not fair.” He could have said to himself, “I am destined to suffer. My goals will never be attained. All the evidence before me shows that not only am I not getting closer to my goals; I am going in the opposite direction – from being a slave, I have now become a prisoner. And why? Because I refused to do the wrong thing.” Instead, Joseph said to himself, “If Divine Providence has brought me to this place it must be for a reason. There must be a mission for me to accomplish here, and this will eventually take me to my goal.” Joseph threw himself into the task of seeing what he could do to improve the lives of other prisoners. He stopped focusing on what he himself needed and started focusing on what he was needed for. Soon he was recognized by the warden of the prison as someone different from the average prisoner; clearly this man wanted to make a difference wherever he was, and by whatever means he could. And so the warden appointed him to the task of looking after the prisoner’s needs. In the end, this resulted in Joseph’s freedom and the fulfillment of his goals and aspirations.
- Be Fully Focused on the Job at Hand…Joseph decided to put his personal needs aside, and applied himself completely to the task that was entrusted to him. He did this job as he had done every other job before, with total dedication, giving it his fullest attention. One morning Joseph walked into the cell of two famous prisoners, the royal baker and the royal butler, and noticed that they were not themselves; something was bothering them. Now, not looking well in an Egyptian prison is not an unusual thing; only a person with a heightened sensitivity for the feelings of others would be aware that there was something more than the usual misery of being in jail bothering these two prisoners. You have to be totally without regard for your own misery and totally in tune with the other person’s situation to notice that something is amiss. Joseph said the following words which eventually change the lives of the butler and the baker as well as his own life and indeed the life of all the world. Those words were, ” Why do you have a sad face today?” To which they responded by relating their dreams, and Joseph explained the dreams to them. As a result, Joseph was later recommended to Pharaoh as an interpreter of dreams. It was this that eventually led to his becoming second to the king of Egypt. All of this was only possible because he was fully focused on the task at hand. he was fully focused on the NOW, and not on the past or even the future. (Yaakov Leider)
Without Being Asked
Taking the initiative to do a good thing is something we can learn from Joseph, the son of Jacob, when he was in Egypt. Pharaoh had two dreams that no one else could interpret, but he was told about Joseph, this Hebrew prisoner, who could interpret dreams. Pharaoh sent for Joseph. Joseph explained that it wasn’t in his own power that he could do this, but through God alone that he could. Joseph sought God for the answer, and God provided, but Joseph didn’t stop there.
Joseph explained to Pharaoh that his dreams hinted to seven years of plenty that Egypt would endure. These seven years would be followed by seven years of famine. Joseph then advised Pharaoh to begin storing food now in big storage houses, so they would not suffer during the years of famine.
Pharaoh had asked Joseph to interpret his dreams, not to be his royal adviser, but Joseph didn’t wait. Joseph knew that there was a serious situation here, and something needed to be done. Most people standing in front of a king would do what they were told and nothing more. Joseph saw that his advise was needed, so he offered what he could to the king. Let’s not wait to be asked to do good; let’s just do it!
- When has someone done something good for you without your request for it? How did it feel?
- When did you do something good for another without being asked? How did it feel?
- What are some examples of how this idea can be expressed in our relationship with God?
“But the LORD still waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion…He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will respond instantly to the sound of your cries.” Isaiah 30:18-19
Father, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, thank you so much for Joseph, his dreams, and the sensitivity and compassion he had for others. Thank you for his example of how we should react to circumstances in our lives, and how we should treat others through those circumstances. Thank you for his example of dreaming, planning, and accomplishing his goals. Please continue to provide us with dreams, the ability to plan to YOUR will, and the ability to accomplish those goals. In Jesus name. Amen.