Reading: Genesis 42–45
“No matter how many times I read it, the story of Joseph is never boring.” That is what I told my wife this morning as she was walk through the living room. I had been reading this account once again. The emotion of the story and the drama are captivating. Yet the powerful ways it points us to the Savior—the many ways Joseph is a type, a shadow, of the One to Come, the Messiah are what capture me most.
Joseph was the favored son, the son whom Jacob loved most. He is the one we are all drawn to as we read the story. The others, by and large, turn out to be scoundrels. Joseph dreams a dream of his father, mother and brothers all bowing down to him. In time, this will come to pass. Yet when you read the story it doesn't take long to discover that Joseph was the one who suffered most in this story. His father suffered too—the grief associated in the suffering of his son.
Why did Joseph suffer? In order to save the scoundrel brothers. The righteous for the unrighteous. Joseph was favored and chosen to serve his family. But that favor and choosing meant suffering for him. His suffering meant salvation from famine for the rest of his family. In order to accomplish their deliverance, he was sold for twenty pieces of silver. He became a slave of Potiphar, which eventually led to his being imprisoned. This wasn't merely a weekend of suffering; this was years of suffering. It seemed as if everyone had forgotten Joseph (Genesis 40:23); it may well have seemed as if God had forsaken Him.1 However, God remembered Joseph, and this led to Joseph being put in charge of all Egypt.
Joseph's brothers come and we read,
Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. (Genesis 42:8)
These were his very brothers. They had sold him into slavery, and yet they had so forgotten him that they did not recognize him. Certainly he had changed. Certainly they did not expect him to be alive, and, if alive, they would not have dreamed he would be in charge of Egypt (though he had dreamed something like that and told them). Likewise, when the Savior came,
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:10)
Though they had been told of Him by the prophets, and though He fulfilled the pattern of the One whom God would send, they did not recognize Him.
When Joseph did reveal himself to his brothers we read the following:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. 6For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.” (Genesis 45:4)
Jesus came as the One sent by the Father (e.g. John 4:34; 5:23-24, 30, 36-38; 6:29, 57; 7:16, 33; 8:16, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 12:44-45; 16:5; 17:3), and He was sent to save lives (John 3:16-17). And just as Joseph was sent ahead to preserve a remnant, to save lives by a great deliverance, so Jesus was sent ahead of us to preserve us by a great deliverance!
“My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:2-6)
Joseph was the way to their deliverance. It was through his being sold as a slave, through his suffering injustice and the hardships of prison, it was through his rejection by his own brothers, that they now had deliverance from famine. Likewise, Jesus is the way to our salvation from perishing in our sin. It is through His being sent by the Father, through His betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, His suffering injustice in a sham trial, His rejection and crucifixion by His own, that we now have deliverance from death itself. He has gone ahead of us, through death to glory in order that He could make ready and available a place for us in eternal life!
As Joseph sent his brothers away, he had one last thing to say to them before their journey.
Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, “Don't quarrel on the way!” (Gen 45:24)
Likewise, Jesus, when He was leaving, knowing we too had a journey before we would join Him again, left us with similar instructions:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) (See also, John 15:12, 17; 17:23)
Let's pay attention to these instructions for the journey on our way to meet up with the One who has gone before us and is preparing a place for us. Joseph should help us recognize Jesus!
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,
1The application to Christ is clear: He came as the chosen One, and because of that He suffered to save us. However, there is a secondary application, which Paul seems to understand quite well. We too are now chosen by God and beloved (Colossians 3:12), and as such we too are called to suffer and share in this aspect of Christ Himself. This suffering, and long-suffering, will also be a means of bringing help to others. Joseph was the likeness to Christ before He came; we are to be the likeness of Christ after His coming.