Marriage and Divorce

Marriage has as its roots the original creation of male and female and the assertion of God that it was not good that the man be alone. That is, Adam was incomplete. He needed someone who was like him, and yet different. so God created Eve (not Steve, as the saying goes!).

The marriage of a believer is only to be with another believer. We are not to be unequally yoked, as Paul says. An interesting interpretation of kindred ties can be found in WCF 24.4, where the WCF interprets Scripture as forbidding a man from marrying the sister of his wife, for instance. It says literally that a man may not marry any of his wife’s kindred nearer in blood than he may of his own, and likewise for the woman.

Adultery and willful desertion that cannot be remedied by church or state are the only two reasons given as possibilities for divorce. WCF 24 concludes by saying that the persons involved are not to be left to their own will in this matter. That is important, since both the church and the state have a vested interest in marriage, and have laws that apply.

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To Dream

Genesis 40
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Senior, was a doctor. As such he was very interested in the use of ether. In order to know how his patients felt under its influence, he once had a dose admin- istered to himself. As he was going under, in a dreamy state, a profound thought came to him. He believed that he had suddenly grasped the key to all the mysteries of the universe. When he regained consciousness, however, he was unable to remember what the insight was. Because of the great importance this thought would be to mankind, Holmes arranged to have himself given either again. This time he had a stenographer present to take down the great thought. The either was administered, and sure enough, just before passing out the insight reappeared. He mumbled the words, the stenographer took them down, and he went to sleep confident in the knowledge that he had succeeded. Upon awakening, he turned eagerly to the stenographer and asked her to read what he had uttered. This is what she read: “The entire universe is permeated with a strong odor of turpentine.” Profound thought indeed. We often have dreams that would seem to be significant, but turn out to be mothing more than that: a dream. However, this morning we see two dreams that are of the utmost significance for those who had them. In fact, their destiny had been revealed by God to them, though they were not able to interpret them. For that, they needed someone with wisdom from on high. They needed Joseph.

Joseph is in prison. He had been thrown in prison for a crime that he did not commit. But the Lord had been with Joseph, and had so impressed the keeper of the prison, that he had made Joseph to be in charge of all the prisoners. The Lord did this because there were some special prisoners who were coming Joseph’s way. They were very important people in Egypt, for they had direct access to the king. In fact, these two officers were probably the two highest officials in the land. They needed to be trustworthy, since they dealt with what the Pharaoh ate and drank. The cupbearer was a person who was responsible for any wine that came before the king. He served the Pharaoh. He would taste anything before the Pharaoh did, in order that, if there was any poison in the cup, the cupbearer would die, and not the Pharaoh. The cupbearer had direct access to the Pharaoh, and thus was one of the Pharaoh’s most trusted advisers. The baker had an equally important job: that of feeding the Pharaoh with bread. Bakery was a highly advanced art in ancient Egypt. Egyptians had 38 different varieties of cakes that they could make, and 57 different types of bread. So this baker was a very experienced cook in all matters dealing with flour. He was a gourmet chef.

However, these two important officers had committed some offense against Pharaoh. We are not told what it was that they had done. We are only told that they had done it. So, they came to the prison where the king’s prisoners were kept, which happened to be the same prison where Joseph was kept. How providential. It is even more providential that Joseph was assigned to take special care of them. They were important men, and thus were given preferential treatment, even in prison.

They were not there long before they had dreams. Since they were in prison, they didn’t have access to the dream interpreters of Egypt, and so they were troubled, since their dreams were so vivid that they remembered them. They seemed so significant to them, and yet they could not make out what they meant. Joseph notices the trouble right away, since it showed in their faces. He asked them why they were troubled, and they answered that they had had these dreams, but they had no one to interpret them for them. Joseph then makes a remarkable statement. He says that the interpretations come from the Lord. This is a direct slap in the face to Egyptian dream interpreters. Egyptian dream interpreters do not have access to the true meaning of dreams. Only God knows what the dreams mean, if they mean anything.

So the cupbearer tells his dream. This is a dream where events are compressed into a short time. Branches put forth blossoms, which ripen into grapes, and are made into wine. All of this occurs while the cupbearer is watching. But then, the cupbearer becomes active in the dream. He takes the grapes and puts them into Pharaoh’s cup. This is vital to the dream, that the cupbearer is active in the dream.

Joseph then gives the interpretation. Notice that Joseph is utterly confident that the Lord has revealed to him the true meaning of the dream. The three branches are three days, after which the cupbearer will be restored to his old position of favor. Literally, his head will be lifted up.

It is important to see some of the significance of this interpretation in later biblical history. In verse 14, Joseph tells the cupbearer to remember the one who delivered him from his state of ignorance. In the same way, Jesus asks us to remember Him, since He has accomplished redemption for us. In fact, you could view the two officers of Pharaoh as a type of the two malefactors who hung on either side of Jesus at Golgotha. One of them will enter into paradise, will be restored to his original place of honor before the great God of the universe. The other will enter into hell, having rejected the only way out of his sin and misery.

When looking and considering this type, we should also remember the people of Israel. For the people of Israel, when under the rule of a later Pharaoh, also want to be remembered by their God, and taken out of the house of bondage, as Joseph says in verse 14. Surely, the Israelites listening to Moses would have made that connection.

The baker sees that the interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream is a good thing. That is, that the cupbearer’s dream forecasts a favorable event. That makes him pluck up his courage to tell Joseph his dream. But the baker’s dream is bad, and for several reasons. The first is that birds were eating what was supposed to get to Pharaoh’s table. In fact, none of those fantastic breads and cakes ever made it to Pharaoh’s table. The birds got them all. Probably the baskets were piled one on top of another. That is why verse 17 speaks of “the top basket.” Unlike Abraham, who drove away the birds from the sacrifice (you will remember that incident in the strange events of the covenant ceremony in chapter 15:11, where the birds of prey come to feed on the carcasses that Abraham had killed, but Abraham drives them off), the baker is unable to drive them away. Instead, he just stands there while the birds eat away the bread.

Joseph starts off his interpretation sounding very much like the previous dream. In fact, there is no difference until the words “lift up your head, from off you!” Even there, the words are the same, until the words “from off you.” Both servants will have their heads lifted up, as it says in verse 20. But one will have his head lifted up to favor, while the other will have his head lifted from off his body. In other words, he will be decapitated. Now, Joseph immediately then says that the baker will be hanged on a tree. How is that possible if the head is already been taken off? The answer is simple. By hanging, they don’t mean what we usually mean by hanging. Rather, they mean that the body would be impaled on a stick. And then, to complete the picture, the birds would have their gourmet meal, feasting not on the bread, but on the body of the baker! Now, it is important to understand what that would mean to the baker. Egyptians believed that if the body was not properly buried, then the soul would never come to rest. So the baker had to look forward to being executed, and not even having his soul to be at rest! What a solemn picture of the judgment of the wicked! For the wicked are never at rest, but are eternally tormented by their own sin. This is not a popular thought among people today, even among Christians, that God would let anyone suffer in hell for eternity. However, this is the plain teaching of Scripture. Hell exists, and it is the place where those who do not honor God by believing in His Son will suffer for eternity.

Happily, there is another possibility. One can be received back into favor with God. We can receive the fulfillment of our dreams: dreams of being right with God, dreams of serving God forever, dreams of being important in God’s sight, and, in fact, dreams of being God’s children. How is this possible? It is possible by remembering and believing in our Deliverer, not Joseph, but Jesus Christ. It was in fact Jesus who was impaled on the tree, taking the punishment of the baker that we might have the favor of the cupbearer. Jesus was three days in the tomb, having suffered the pain of hell on the cross. This was all so that we might have our heads lifted up, that we might become the children of God.

Do you remember Christ? Do you remember Him when you are tempted to sin? What a great deterrent from sin, to remember that Christ suffered and died for us! He died so that we might have life. Why then should we engage in deathlike behavior again? If Christ has brought us out of the house of slavery to sin, out of the house of bondage to death, then why would we want to enter back into that house again? We have a new identity as the people of God. Our dreams have changed from being baker-like dreams to being cupbearer-like dreams. As Hamlet in Shakespear’s play says, “A dream itself is but a shadow.” If the dream is the shadow, then the reality is Christ. Do you dream of the new heavens and the new earth? For that will surely come to pass.

I will close by relating something about dreams and shadows from Plato’s works. Plato had a dream, in which there are prisoners who are chained in a cave. They can only see a wall. Behind these prisoners is a gigantic fire, which the prisoners cannot see. However, they can see the shadows of things that move in front of the fire, as they are reflected on the wall. Of course, these things reflected on the wall are not real. They are only the shadows of what is real. Then suppose someone is turned around to face the fire. He might be blinded at first by the bright light. But then, as he gets used to the light, he begins to see things as they really are. Then he wants to go back to his fellow prisoners and tell them about the fire and how things really are. But the prisoners are so used to looking at the wall that they won’t turn around and look at the fire. Now, Plato did not intend this to be a picture of how Christianity is rejected, but it works very well as an analogy. We are blinded and shackled by our own sin, and cannot see the reality of things, the danger of our position. Instead, we only see shadows of things on the wall. These would be things like pleasure, money, power. They are not real happiness, but only the shadow of happiness. What we need is for someone to interpret the dream to us, to show us the source of all truth. We need Jesus to interpret the bright light of the Scriptures to us, so that we may see Jesus in all His glory. Then we will not need to worry about whether our dreams are as profound as turpentine. Rather, we will see Jesus face to face, for we shall be like Him, and see Him as He is. That is worth dreaming about.

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