The story of Jacob is a story about present realities and future possibilities. Told in the 25th – 50th chapters of Genesis, the story of Jacob’s life is shaped by a dream he had about a ladder that reached from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending. It was a dream that changed the course of Jacob’s life as he heard God tell him in Genesis 28:15, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.” Jacob’s dream has such an impact upon him that he places a stone as a pillar as a reminder of his encounter with God and God’s dream of the present realities and future possibilities for Jacob’s life.
If you are unfamiliar with Jacob’s story, it is important to know about the present realities Jacob was facing when he had his dream. Jacob was more of a schemer when he outwitted his older twin brother, Esau, of the family birthright and inheritance to which Esau was entitled. After years of waiting for an opportunity for revenge against Jacob, the time arrives when Jacob and Esau meet for the first time in a long time. As Jacob prepares for his encounter with his brother, he wrestles throughout the night with a messenger from God about the present realities and future possibilities of Jacob’s life. The outcome of Jacob’s wrestling match with God is that Jacob becomes known as Israel, which means “I have seen God face to face and survived.” Walking into the reality of a new day, Esau greets Jacob with forgiveness and peace rather than revenge as God’s dream for Jacob’s life is realized.
The story of Joseph’s life is a story about present realities and future possibilities. Found in the 37th – 50th chapters of Genesis, Joseph’s life is shaped by the present realities of his life: jealousy, hatred, deceit, slavery, and ultimately Joseph’s witnessing to the redemptive power of God’s dreams for life. If you are unfamiliar with Joseph’s story, it is important to understand that Joseph had a gift for dreaming about present realities and future possibilities. It did not matter if he was sleeping or if he was awake, Joseph’s life was defined by God’s dreams for his life.
If you are unfamiliar with Joseph’s story, it is important to know about the present realities Joseph faced in his life as he dreamed of the future possibilities of his life.
Present Reality One – Joseph had 10 older half-brothers and one younger full brother named Benjamin.
Present Reality Two – Joseph was the favorite son of his father, Jacob, as seen when Jacob gave Joseph an honored coat of long sleeves. Genesis 37:4 tells of how his brothers felt about Jacob giving Joseph this coat with these words: “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him.”
Present Reality Three – Joseph told his brothers about two dreams he had. In the first dream, his brothers bowed down to him. In the second dream, his father, mother and brothers bowed down to him. They were dreams that changed the course of Joseph’s life.
Present Reality Four – Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast.
Present Reality Five – In the present reality of his slavery, Josephw becomes an entrusted advisor and interpreter of dreams for the Pharoah of Egypt. Joseph interpreted one of Pharaoh’s dreams as a prediction of seven years of plentiful harvests followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh, trusting Joseph’s present interpretation of future possibilities appointed Joseph to oversee the storage of seven years of plentiful harvests and the administration of the harvests. It is in the present responsibility of Joseph’s dreams becoming that we hear today’s scripture lesson that we hear about present realities and future possibilities as Joseph’s brothers kneel before him begging for forgiveness.
Present Reality Six – Joseph witnesses to present realities and future possibilities by forgiving his brothers and telling them, “Do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God”
The stories of the dreams of Jacob and Joseph is the story of God’s dreams for us as we live in the present realities and future possibilities of our lives.
In his book, Dream with Me, noted civil rights leader John Perkins begins by describing his journey of life and faith, and how his own dreams changed as a result of knowing God:
I have always been a dreamer. It almost seems as if my life has gone back and forth between two worlds: the world that reflects reality around me and the world made by the dream I had of what life could be. My wife, Vera Mae, would always tell me to be careful because I would make people believe that the dream was already reality. When I was young, my dream was to get out of Mississippi and find a better life in California.
After coming to know Jesus Christ and doing ministry in prisons with young men who looked like me and spoke the same broken English, I began to dream again. I dreamed of going back to my home state of Mississippi and sharing the love and joy of Jesus Christ that I had discovered in California. I have continued to seek to live out that dream in my life—to fulfill the Great Commission—but I hope the dream world I long for now looks like the coming kingdom of God.
As much as we need to dream, we must also never forget what has happened in the past. We know how much farther we can go partly by seeing and marveling at how far God has already brought us. I have never stopped being amazed by God’s redemptive love and His willingness to allow us to participate in spreading that love. To think of what God has done for me—a poor, third-grade dropout from rural Mississippi—is truly amazing, and every day I have to recognize that all of what I have done and have been given is by God’s grace alone.
Present realities and future possibilities – the story of God’s dreams for Jacob, Joseph, and John Perkins. Present realities and future possibilities – how are they telling the story of God’s dreams for you?
Present Realities and Future Possibilities
by Pastor Marc Brown
August 20, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: Genesis 28:10-22, 45:1-15
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for August 20, 2023
Scripture Lesson Genesis 28:10-22, 45:1-15
The Good News “Present Realities and Future Possibilities”
Music “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” Hymn #127
Closing Music “Wonderful Words of Life” arr. Hugh S. Livingston