When things are difficult are you the realist, “things could be worse?” Or the pessimist, “things will get worse?” Or the optimist, “things will get better?” As Christians we are not to be sanctified versions of our pre-conversion personalities, be they optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic. We are not to interpret events according to worldly wisdom or subjective feelings. We are to conform our minds, hearts, and wills to the Word of God. The Word of God informs us what to be optimistic about, and what to be pessimistic about. Ultimately I would argue that pessimism and optimism are identical with the Biblical categories of good and evil, though much contemporary preaching makes them out to be. They are attitudes that can be either good or evil. Faith and unbelief should replace being an optimist or a pessimist. If we are faithful, there are things about which we will be adamantly pessimistic, such as the plight of sinful man and his ability to save himself; and, if we are faithful, there are things in which we are ardently optimistic, such as the saving work of Christ.
Some may read this chapter thinking Joseph’s hopes have been shattered. No doubt Joseph is disappointed that the cupbearer did not immediately remember him, but the point of this chapter is not to utterly devastate us or Joseph’s before his being lifted up, but for us to eagerly anticipate his being lifted up. No doubt Joseph being frail flesh cried out, “How long O Lord?” (Psalm 13:1), but I am sure he ended upbraiding himself, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love” (Psalm 13:5).
What is here to build Joseph’s hope and ours? The Word of the Lord (Romans 10:17). The interpretations Joseph gives come not by his own wisdom, investigation, or skill; the interpretation is from the Lord. Joseph is donning the mantle of a prophet. And everything happens in this chapter exactly according to the prophetic word of God delivered through Joseph (Genesis 40:22).
Each of these officers has one dream, two dreams altogether. Pharaoh will have two dreams in the next chapter. When we first meet Joseph in chapter 37 he has two dreams. The symmetry shouts divine causality. Joseph tells Pharaoh that the two dreams mean that the thing the Lord will do is certain. Joseph’s two dreams that begin this last section of Genesis tell us what God is up to throughout the whole narrative. If these single dreams come to pass, what of the double dream?
As for us, what of the Word of God that shouts to us all that is ours in Christ from Genesis to Revelation?