“I had a dream last night,” Pharaoh told him, “and none of these men can tell me what it means. But I have heard that you can interpret dreams, and that is why I have called for you.” “It is beyond my power to do this,” Joseph replied. “But God will tell you what it means and will set you at ease.” — Genesis 41:15-16
Some of the longest words in the English language mean very little to modern men, while some of the shortest are packed with significance.
For example, there was a time when “disestablishmentarianism” was a word of great importance in church affairs, but it has since faded into obscurity. Yet the word but is still very much in vogue!
Technically, but is an adversative. It introduces something different, poses a different point of view, offers a contrast. But can introduce right as opposed to wrong, good as opposed to evil, truth in opposition to error. That’s why but is such a significant word! Life is full of contrasts, differences, and differing points of view.
Joseph was confronted with the task of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. On being told of Pharaoh’s expectations of him, he was quick to point out that he was unable to do what was expected of him since he was not an expert in the interpretation of dreams. “But God will tell you... and will set you at ease,” he added (Genesis 41:16).
If but is a big word, “But God” is an immense statement. In this instance it pointed out the difference between human and divine capabilities. Where human effort and skill fell short, God’s abilities shone through. Where the inadequacy of men was apparent, the superlative adequacy of God came into the fore.
Joseph was supremely confident of this. Many people come to the end of their resources and give up. They see no hope of a solution to their problems and no alternatives to their despair and discouragement. But God makes all the difference.
The believing man knows better than to give up when he reaches the end of himself. He is aware not only of his own inadequacies, but also of God’s presence, wisdom, power, and grace. He knows that he cannot, but God can!
It is perfectly possible to believe in God’s presence in daily life without crossing over the but God bridge from despair to confidence. There is a difference between believing that God is able to act and trusting that God will be active.
What set Joseph apart was an appropriate lack of self-confidence and a complete God-confidence. He had a sure and certain trust in God—not in himself.
The Egyptian Pharaoh knew an extraordinary man when he saw one. And there’s nothing more extraordinary than a man who knows his limits and the limitless God and blends the two together. That man, like Joseph, uses the small-yet-immense term, “But God.”
Man cannot, but God can—and will!
For further study: Genesis 41:1-40
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.