1. Genesis 37-50 recount the history of Joseph and Israel's migration to Egypt. The story of Joseph, next to youngest son of the third great patriarch, Jacob, is among the most poignant and important in Scripture. Not only does it explain how God's people came to live in Egypt--where they would ultimately live in slavery for 430 years, the personal story of Joseph tells us about how God can be faithfully working in the adversities and seemingly purposeless circumstances of faithful people.
2. Genesis 37: This, of course, isn't the first instance of sibling rivalry to show itself in Genesis. Because Cain resented that the offering of his brother Abel was more pleasing to God than his own, Cain killed Abel. Jacob and Esau had titanic sibling struggles. Here, Jacob's preference for Joseph breeds resentment from his older brothers.
The first commandment of the second table of the Ten Commandments (the fourth commandment, "You shall honor your father and mother") shows the important role God assigns to the family. Mothers and fathers and their families are the core building units of human existence. But the condition of sin burdens families, resulting in alienation and sinful actions.
Parents need to work hard to help their children know and submit to Christ, the One Who works reconciliation between God and humanity and among people. Martin Luther said that the family was to be a "little church."
2. Genesis 39: Wherever Joseph went, his special gifts--administration and dreams--brought him, at least at times, special notice and favor. He became the overseer of Potiphar's properties in Egypt. Here though, Joseph becomes the victim of false accusations and ends up in prison.
Later, as we'll see, Joseph will see this horrible experience as part of God's overall plan for his life. I myself often wonder when I go through far less horrible situations than the one Joseph faced, what God is up to. What good is there in it?
Some situations in our fallen and imperfect world are, of course, senseless, the result only of human beings given over to depravity doing horrible things to others. The hand of God can't be seen in things like the Holocaust or in the abuse of children, women, or the elderly--except in the faith-filled and noble ways the victims behave.
But, there are times when God allows us to endure harsh circumstances for His purposes. Joseph will affirm this later in Genesis.
On other occasions, God may use such circumstances to deepen our faith and character. Hebrews 12:4-11, has these difficult words:
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as children? It says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his child." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined--and everyone undergoes discipline--then you are not legitimate children at all. Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.3. Genesis 40: How did Joseph keep from becoming bitter? The cup-bearer got his freedom and went on with his life, forgetting how Joseph had interpreted his dream and given him hope, not to mention strong reason to believe in the God of Israel.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that Joseph was sustained by his faith in God. When Potiphar's wife had pressed Joseph to have sex with him, Joseph asked, "How...could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" (Genesis 39:9) This, from a man who had already been exiled from God's people--His family, a people for whom their relationship with God was so important they were willing to sell their own brother into slaver, even consider murdering Joseph. But Joseph held tightly to God!
Besides, Joseph the dreamer and interpreter of dreams understood that, for him anyway, dreams spoke powerfully of God's will and that the dreams he had when he was young pointed to a purpose and a goal beyond the horrors he endured in the days leading to their fulfillment. Joseph had learned from God at an early age that he was to become a ruler (Genesis 37:5-11). Later, after all that had come to pass, Joseph indicated his belief that the years of his suffering had been for a purpose. He told his brothers, fearful that after Jacob's death, their powerful brother would now get revenge on them for selling him into slavery, "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good...." (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph would fully understood the words of Saint Paul written nineteen centuries later: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). Joseph trusted God and that pulled him through.
4. As to his dreams, it's important to remember that Joseph had faith in God, not in his dreams. They were simply signs he had learned could point to God.
Not every dream does that, of course.
And not every person is granted the spiritual gift of understanding and interpreting dreams that Joseph possessed.
But it is very true, I think, that God is reaching out to us and communicating to all of us far more often than we realize. When we cultivate a close relationship with God, there is no limit to the ways in which He might communicate with us. But always keep in mind that God will never communicate anything to us that is inconsistent with what He has revealed of His will and His character in the Old and New Testaments.
There's a book I'd like to recommend to you along these lines: Dreams: A Way to Listen to God by Morton Kelsey. I don't agree with everything Kelsey asserts. But this is really good.