A Prophet Prepared

Author’s Note: Genesis 37:1-10 is where you’ll find the story I’m discussing below. Proverbs 22: 15 also has some application to what I am saying in this post.

One of the challenges I faced when writing Understanding the Prophetic Nature was finding a way to cover pertinent and important topics that had bearing on the focus of the book, but could easily become major themes in and of themselves. I found it was way too easy to let myself run off on a rabbit trail, speaking good stuff that was, nevertheless, distracting from the purpose of the book. I developed three of those potential rabbit trails when I dealt with the fivefold gifts in Chapter 3 and the manifestational and motivational gifts in Chapter 4. All three have strong bearing on the prophet, the prophet’s nature and the prophetic ministry and needed to be covered in the book. All three speak strongly to every Christian whether he or she is prophetically oriented or not. Each of these gift lists from the New Testament is worthy of a whole book all by itself. (Of course, many books have been written on those topics.) My challenge was to deal with those topics as they related to the prophetic nature without letting them turn into a distracting rabbit trail. I think I succeeded fairly well. (That question can only truly be answered by my readers, of course.)

I bring this up because yesterday morning during my Bible reading time, I was reminded of the final section of Chapter 4 that dealt with the motivational gifts. There are many bookmarks sticking out from the top of my Bible. That’s because I rarely read one book of the Bible through before starting another. Usually, when I sit down in the morning I “slip into the Spirit” and try to hear the Lord on where He wants me to read for this session. He is faithful. I have at times started in one place and simply had to stop and go somewhere else in the scriptures because I felt that I got it wrong in my first choice. (That’s not to say that a disciplined approach to reading the Word is not a good thing. This is just how the Lord and I have worked things out.) Yesterday morning I was reading in Genesis 37. This passage is the story of Joseph and how, at age 17, he was sold into slavery by his brothers who had, quite frankly, become hateful men. The big picture of Joseph’s story is one of redemption and how God set the stage for these hateful men to come to repentance so that He could use them in establishing His chosen nation on earth. Joseph becomes a picture – or, as we put it in theological lingo, a “type” – of Christ. Through Joseph, the fledgling nation of Israel was saved, both from literal starvation and from their deep and nasty sins. Through Christ we have all been saved from our own deep and nasty sins. The parallel is not hard to see. That big picture, however, is not what I saw in the story, as I read it yesterday morning. What struck me comes from the beginning section of Chapter 37 that leads out the entire story. It deals with Joseph’s dreams.

To be honest with you, it looks to me like God set Joseph up for a fall. He was only 17, for heaven’s sake! Joseph was foolish in sharing a dream with his brothers that so transparently exalts him above his brothers. The imagery of their sheaves bowing down to him is so obvious in its meaning you really don’t need any kind of revelation to grasp it. That Joseph took it as God saying that he was going to be the boss of his brothers is clear. His youthful pride got the best of him. He certainly wasn’t prepared to see things through a veil of humility given how, throughout his short life, his father had unfairly favored him over his brothers. This prideful attitude was further compounded when God gave him a second dream where even his father and mother bowed down to him. What was God thinking? Did He think that Joseph would respond to revelations like these with anything except foolish pride? Of course, God knew exactly how Joseph would respond and gave those dreams anyway. He really did set Joseph up for a fall! It was a long and arduous path he had to walk as he learned humility and wisdom, but looking at the whole story from beginning to end it is clear just how smart God was and how perfect His plan for Joseph was.

Still, for all the great lessons we can pull from Joseph’s life story, what jumped off the page at me was how God prepares prophets for the tasks He has ahead of them. In the last section of Chapter 4 of Understanding the Prophetic Nature I talk about the motivational gifts. Rather than being direct actions of the Holy Spirit (as with the manifestational gifts) or individuals with special ministries (as with the fivefold gifts), the motivational gifts are qualities or characteristics we are born with. I discussed at some length the motivational gift of prophecy – and clearly Joseph was one of those people born with this quality. I wonder if, before these dreams happened, Joseph had already had dreams and had already been getting practice in interpreting dreams? We don’t know, but it is clear that, at a young age God was birthing the prophetic nature in him and preparing him for the challenges that would come. I have no doubt that Joseph continued to grow in operating in the supernatural as his life in Egypt unfolded and here, in the beginning verses of Genesis 37, we see a budding prophet begin his training.