For the week of December 30, 2000 / 4 Tevet 5761
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17
Haftarah: I Kings 3:15 - 4:1

Only God Can

"I cannot do it," Joseph replied to Pharaoh, "but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires." (Bereshit / Genesis 41:16).

Joseph had a reputation for being able to interpret dreams. That is what got him out of the dungeon and eventually raised to a high position in the Egyptian government. When none of Pharaoh's own people could interpret his dreams, one of his attendants told him how Joseph accurately interpreted his when they had been in the dungeon together.

When Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh, Pharaoh said to him, "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" (41:15). To which Joseph replied, "I cannot do it…but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires"(41:16). Joseph then in great detail not only explained the dream, but gave Pharaoh advice as to the appropriate course of action. Pharaoh was so impressed, he put Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt (41:39-44).

So why did Joseph say he couldn't interpret dreams? It looks to me as though he did a pretty good job.

He didn't just say that he couldn't do it without God's help. He said he couldn't do it. He said God would give him the interpretation. But then he just explained the dream. One would think that if only God could and would do it, then it would happen some other way. Possibly Joseph would look up to the heavens and cry out to God, who would respond with the sound of great thunder, which only Joseph could understand. Or perhaps Joseph would go into a trance, and hear God speak or have his own dream in which God would give the interpretation.

But that's not what happened. Joseph simply said he couldn't do it, only God could, and then he proceeded to explain the dream.

Joseph obviously knew the interpretation of the dream. But Joseph also was quite aware that the insight that he had was not due to his own ability. He indeed knew what to say, but that knowledge came from God and not from himself.

So we see that when God works in and through people it doesn't always or necessarily look very spectacular. God often does spectacular things through ordinary means. In fact God is likely speaking to you and doing things through you, and you are not aware of it.

At the same time just because a word comes from our lips or we accomplish something doesn't mean that we should take the credit for it. Joseph knew the difference between his own abilities and God's.

The better we get to know this difference, the better, I believe, we will be able to cooperate with what God wants to do in and through us.

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