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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: March 17, 2023

Ancient Egyptian religion placed a high value on dreams and their interpretations. The ancient Egyptians believed that sleep was the fast-track ticket to the supernatural realm—where mere mortals would be most likely to have direct access to the various deities and spirit beings that the Egyptians looked to for comfort.[1] Dreams, therefore, were often regarded as direct messages from the gods—signaling their power and control over the unknown future and the over the fate of those to whom the dreams had been given.

And yet—it wasn’t quite that simple. Dreams were useless unless they could be properly interpreted. And this wasn’t something that just anybody could do. It took years of specialized skill and training to acquire this power. Therefore, we begin to understand a little better why, when Joseph comes in to wait upon these two imprisoned servants of Pharaoh, he immediately notices that they are looking, as we might say, “down in the dumps.” Both men have dreamed a dream, but here in this white collar prison, they are cut off from the magicians who might ordinarily be able to help them ascertain its interpretation. Their lives have been upended, their future is uncertain, and they don’t know where to look to for answers.

How does Joseph respond? He asks these men a simple question: “Does not God own every interpretation?” In a way, this is not really a question on Joseph’s part. He’s not asking the men to give their opinions on the matter. Rather, Joseph is confessing his faith. God—Elohim—the one true God that Joseph serves—the God who, as we read yesterday, has been with him through all of this stuff—God owns the interpretation of dreams, because he owns the future—because he owns everything.

Likewise, in our day, we live in a pluralistic and pagan culture which is full of predictions about the future but which has no certainty about anything. And so we often see our co-workers, and neighbors, and family turning to the necromancers of our age. They fill their YouTube subscriptions with the latest influencers. They cull their social media to highlight the particular voices that they want to follow. They hop on the bandwagon of whatever social cause happens to be in vogue. They do all of this in hopes of finding some interpretation of the world that will give them comfort about the future. An answer that will bring the light of dawn to their night terrors.

How then do we respond to the utter despair and confusion that we see swirling around us? Well, like Joseph—we make a good confession. We confess the truth that God has revealed to us in the Scriptures and which we find summarized in the Creeds and in Luther’s Small Catechism. We counter the darkness with the Light—the Light which shines into the darkness and overcomes it.

As we now sing the Te Deum, I encourage you to think of how it functions as a singable version of the Creed. To meditate on how this beautiful song of praise also becomes, for us, a confession that we can carry from this place every morning and into a troubled world.

[1] Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16–50. Vol. 2. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1994. 382.

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