A man slept one night, and he dreamed a dream.  Under a crescent moon, he saw a group of tents clustered around a small oasis. There were camels and donkeys tied nearby. As I dreamed, I looked inside the tent and there were men sleeping. Some of them were camel drivers and others were camp followers. As I looked, I saw between two of the sleeping men, a boy, a teenager. I could see that his hands and his feet were tied to one of the Camel drivers. As I looked, I could see the boy was trying to loosen the thongs that held him fast to his captors. He had one hand almost free.

Then-under the moonlight landscape a dog began to bark. The sleeping men began to stir. In my dream, I moved toward the dog, to quiet him, and an angel stopped me. The angel spoke and said, ‘if you stop the dog, the boy will escape-and if he escapes, let me show you what will happen in the future’.

Then, a panorama moved before me, and I saw what mortals do not see.

For two days and two nights the boy ran across the desert, trying to find the trail from which the caravan had come. At last, he fell into the arms of an old man who embraced him. Together, they wept, and the old man held up a tattered coat of many colors that had been soaked in blood.

In my dream the panorama changed. There was a famine that covered the earth. People were dying for lack of food. People searched for food but found little. Now I saw a group of men standing at the borders of Egypt. They were pleading for food. After their plea, the men were turned away. No provision had been made for them for the purchase of the precious grain that Egypt now had.

The group of men returned to their home and as time went on, one by one they died.

The panorama continued to unfold before me. I saw into the future that which no man can see. I saw in my dream the future kingdoms of Babylon. Media, Persia, Rome, but as I searched the catalogue of nations, I saw no Israel. There was no Galilee, there was no Judea. I searched the scene, but I could see no shepherds, no Calvary, no Cross, no Resurrection and sadly, I saw no salvation!

So, the dream retreated, and I lay there thinking. The dog continued to bark. As dawn broke the eastern skies, the caravanners fed their animals and continued on their way. The boy was tied to a camel. He was taken to the slave market, where he was sold.

Do you ever ask yourself, “where would I be and who would I be if I had not made the decisions I made that brought me to where I am today”? Do you ever ask, “What if…”? Would the Apostle Paul be a different man if he had taken a different road to Damascus that day on which he was struck to the ground? Would Moses be a different man had he not made the decision to kill the slave master abusing one of his own? Perhaps he could have become a great leader in Egypt, rather the giver of the Law. What is it that controls life? Should I make the dog be quiet and set the boy free?

Was there an easier way for Joseph to become the man he became? The false accusations, the imprisonment, all the abuse of the Egyptian penal system, was this all necessary in the making of the man? There is a very fine line between the free agent God made me to be with the power of choice, and on the other hand, the sovereignty of God. I am not the one to make that call, but I know that life will reveal whose will it is that I am serving. Jesus said that all our lives will produce fruit and the fruit we produce will reveal to whom we belong. This certainly proved true in Joseph’s life.

As I study this man’s life, I note a key phrase that is repeated in Genesis 39.  The phrase is, “…and the Lord was with Joseph…”. Life is an awesome journey to take on your own. In your youth you stand tall, full of dreams and full of energy to accomplish those dreams. But life throws things at us that we never anticipated, things we never saw in our youthful dreams. I do not believe any of us have the strength or energy to handle everything that life may throw at us. Should I have silenced the dog? Should I have released the boy from his captives and helped him on his way back to his father. Was all that he suffered worth it?

I think we all ask that question as we move through life. There must be something that holds our ship together as we move through the storm of life. Just as an ocean-going vessel has “ballast” that keeps it upright during the storm, we must have ballast that keeps our ship moving in the right direction, even though feelings are overwhelming us. There were many things in Joseph’s life he could not control, such as his brothers’ actions or Potiphar’s wife who accused him, but he could control his own attitude towards that which was happening around him.

There are two lessons in this simple story that I can take with me. The first is honoring and pleasing God in all that life throws at me. I cannot control all that the world may throw at me, but I can control how I respond.

A second thing I learn is that Joseph does this over a long period of time. Life is not a short haul but a long journey, It is easy to allow the ballast to shift, and then I lose my focus.

There are times in my life when I have looked into the tent of the caravanners and have seen the boy trying to get the ropes lose. I have heard the barking dog, and I was tempted to intervene, to quiet the dog, loosen the ropes of the boy, and set him free. I viewed it as helping a friend out of trouble, not as interfering in the plan of God. But I have learned there is a process each of us must go through to become the person God is making.

It can be painful to watch this happen to a child, a friend, or a mate. We wish freedom, happiness, and well- being for all. We want to spare them all pain; but that may not be the plan God has for them.

Joseph becomes an example to all of us.

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