Over the last four weeks we have been looking at lessons from the incredible, true life story of Joseph.
In the first week Andrew shared with us about Joseph the Dreamer, the W that is his life. And how that despite the ups and downs, God meant it for good. Andrew then followed this up, by detailing the father/son relationship between Jacob, the Hebrew Patriarch and his eleventh and favourite son. And how he was a fine example of a father and family man. This message, of course, was well received on father’s day.
Stuart then shared with us last week about the reconciliation that took place between his brothers and himself, and how God has plans for our reconciliation too. And this is in part where I am going to pick up the baton.
Now as we have walked through Joseph’s life, something that you may have noticed (and was mentioned) is that his story takes up a considerable amount of scripture, 13 chapters in total from 37-50. There is more written about Joseph in the book of Genesis than any other biblical patriarch. Now you may be wondering why this might be the case. Why are so many chapters given to Joseph?
There are three main reasons for this.
The first is that the Bible is a record of real historical people, events and literal places and without it there would be a serious gap in the continuity of the Bible. Joseph is a major piece in the puzzle which explains the circumstances. The record of Joseph’s life - his birth, abduction, imprisonment, and eventual rise to power in Egypt - is the story of the Jewish people. Without it we would not understand how Israel got to Egypt and why they were so deeply entrenched there.
Another way to position this is that Joseph is part of the very fabric of the Jewish people. A multi-coloured part of the tapestry.
The second reason is that Joseph is a fine example of how we are to conduct ourselves. In many ways his life is almost flawless. As a result, it gives valuable instruction and encouragement in the matter of God-honouring behaviour. Few men give such a great example of victorious Christian living as Joseph does. In every situation he encounters, Joseph shows us how to live uprightly and faithfully for God. His life can be observed as he passes through three distinct stages: as son, slave, and statesman. In all these areas Joseph was different from those around him.
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:6 that the events in the Old Testament were recorded as examples.
1 Corinthians 10:6 "6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did."
The detailed history is recorded so that we, God’s people, will learn from their Good example and keep our hearts from doing evil.
The third is that the Bible is more than just a history book. The specific lives and events recorded in Scripture were included by the inspiration of God for the purpose of advancing HIS plan of salvation. We read about the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - such as Joseph - because it was through them and their families and descendents that the promised Messiah would come.
But even more than this, many of the life experiences recorded are examples, object lessons, or foreshadows of greater realities in the plan of salvation. His reconciliation plan.
Definition: Foreshadowing - a warning or indication of future events
Another way to explain this is that all of scripture points to Christ, the Messiah.
In the New Testament Jesus Christ and God’s ultimate salvation plan are revealed. While in the Old Testament the true identity and God’s complete plan were kept a mystery.
Romans 16:25 "25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages"
The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old Testament is in the New revealed.” -Augustine (Roman theologian)
And so throughout the Old Testament despite Christ being kept a mystery, Scripture provides us with wonderful glimpses of Christ. WHY? Ultimately so that we would be able to identify and appreciate him when he was revealed, but in the short term to give hope and for the people of old to find salvation in the coming Messiah.
Joseph is a type of Christ in the Old Testament. Joseph is a foreshadowing of the Beloved of the Father.
An example of this foreshadowing is that there are seven miracle births recorded in the Bible besides Jesus’ virgin birth. These miracle births were not virgin births; rather they were women with infertility whom God healed. These seven special births all represent Jesus in some way.
- Sarah & Isaac
- Rebekah & Jacob
- Monoah’s Wife - Samson
- Hannah - Samuel
- Shunammite woman - Child who died and was resurrected
- Elizabeth - John the baptist
- Rachel - Joseph
Each of which in a unique way points to the sacrifice, resurrection, struggle, deliverance, and the position that Christ would endure or hold.
Joseph’s life, in a very real way, foreshadows Jesus and provides powerful lessons about the plan of salvation. Now by my reckoning there are some 60 ways in which Joseph’s life parallels the life of Jesus and I have no doubt that there are more. The plan this morning is not to address all of the examples as this would take far too long and would read more like a laundry list and would be too much for us to absorb. Rather what I would like to do is to look at a fascinating part of the story that is generally not addressed. I refer to it as the “happily ever after” scenario. And in so doing examine some of the ways in which Joseph reflects Jesus.
So what do I mean by the “happily ever after” scenario?
Well, in the musical, “Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat“, the story ends with the reconciliation of Joseph to Jacob and his brothers. Much like Stuart explained last week. At which point Jacob gives the multicoloured coat back to Joseph, and they lived happily ever after. And if we are honest with ourselves this is also where we generally end the story too.
Now we know Jacob did NOT return Joseph's coat, but we, or certainly I, then seemed to think that they did live happily ever after… and although certainly this might have been the case for Jacob and Joseph, it was not the case for the rest of the known world.
Joseph made sure that during the 7 years of famine that all the people were fed… but this was not a philanthropic good-will gesture, it was a business transaction.
The famine and what happens next is gripping and is worth our attention.
We are going to pick up the story in Genesis 47.
In the first part of the chapter we see the famine is starting to get serious. Jacob and his family are practical people, they are shepherds and farmers and they would have been all too familiar with the challenges of keeping their livestock fed and well watered. They would have made sure that there were reserves, they would have known where all the good watering spots were… but the famine is now so severe that they seek the protection of their brother Joseph. The circumstances are dire, they have already sent an envoy, a bevy of brothers to purchase grain… but this is now not enough.
This then brings us to our first collection of “prophetic parallels”.
And it is this that Joseph is a shepherd. Both literally as a young man before he is sold into slavery, he spends time out in the fields tending to his fathers flocks and now as the right hand of Pharaoh.
The job of a shepherd is to care for those under your protection, to make sure that no harm comes to them, to provide for them and to, where necessary, to provide correction… to make sure that they do not wander off on the wrong path.
And this is exactly what Joseph does. Now that his family has been reunited and reconciled to him, he is able to provide them with good pasture, food and protection. And not just good pasture, but the best that Egypt had to offer.
And in the case of Jesus, he is our Good Shepherd. There are seven times in scripture that Jesus makes a claim about himself; seven times where he begins a statement with the words “I am”; seven times that he claims a role or title. In John 10:11-15, in one of the most well known passages in the bible
John 10:14-15 14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep."
Unlike Joseph who knows how to tend animals of an earthly flock, Jesus is the perfect spiritual shepherd. Unlike the religious leaders, who were meant to tend the and look after the flock… who fell asleep and neglected their duty, Jesus is unwavering in his protection and care for us.
But he is only our Good Shepherd if we have been reconciled to him! Without reconciliation we are not part of his flock and in so being cannot fall under his protection. Like the people during the time of the famine who were utterly defenceless, completely unable to help themselves, so are we spiritually. If it were not for the Good Shepherd we would have been attacked and carried away by the enemy.
The image of the shepherd is, of course, not unique to Joseph, it is used many times in scripture.
This parallel could also be extended to another claim that Jesus made about himself and this is when Jesus, in John 10, stated that “I Am the Gate of the Sheepfold”.
Now it is not that Joseph was a gate but rather that he was the single point for survival. Or more like that he is the single figure that has the authority to through whom there is salvation from the famine.
And so it is with Christ. It is only through Jesus that we have salvation from our sins, it is only through Christ that a way to save pasture.
Both Jesus and Joseph were given names that mean saviour. Genesis 41:45 Joseph was given the name Zaphenath-Paneah by Pharaoh, which means “Saviour of the World” or “Sustainer of Life”, while Jesus is given a name by Mary, which means the Lord saves.
And this brings us to the second collection of parallels.
Pharaoh had made a single appointment to be in charge and this was Joseph.
Genesis 41:40 "40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you."
Joseph was granted rule over the entire kingdom and its people, all except the Pharaoh. If you wanted to get food and survive the famine, you would only do so by dealing with Joseph. But Joseph was not just given authority to hand out the grain. No, he was granted absolute authority within the household of Pharaoh and the kingdom of Egypt. There would be no one with greater power, no wife or offspring of Pharaoh, no general or religious leader… Joseph had complete authority over the earthly kingdom. Whether they liked it or not his word was law.
Jesus has been granted complete authority over all. However, unlike in the case of Joseph, Jesus has been granted over all, whether it is in heaven or on earth! 1 Peter, tells us this:
1 Peter 3:22 "22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand--with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."
Jesus is in heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, and has been given complete authority… over angels, authorities and powers… all is in submission to him.
What does this mean… It means Jesus is in the very throne room of God the Father, but he is not silent. He did not go to heaven after His earthly ministry and “take a break” from His role as eternal Shepherd to His people. No, Jesus is still very active on our behalf in heaven.
While this old earth continues to be “won” for Christ, Jesus is our Advocate, our great Defender. He is pleading our case before the Father on our behalf.
1 John 2:1 "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous"
Romans 8:34 "34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
Jesus is the only human mediator between God and man, this is not a position nor a role that can be fulfilled by any one else, not angels, not Mary, not any “Saints”. Like Joseph, Jesus experienced life in the “real” world. Like Joseph he had been tempted, rejected, overlooked, misunderstood, and abused. He does not represent us theoretically; He represents us experientially.
He lived the life we live, yet He did so without succumbing to the evils that befall us. He successfully refused to give in to temptation and can be our High Priest because He perfectly fulfilled God’s law.
He intercedes on our behalf like Joseph interceded on behalf of his family. Making sure their pleas are heard by Pharaoh and that their needs are met. That they were fed and had good pasture.
ALISTER, that sounds like a happily ever after story… and you would be right… but what happens next is the not so happily ever after…
Genesis 47:13-26 Joseph and the Famine
- All the money
- All the livestock
- All the land
- 20% of all they earned going forward
Sounds a little like an Eskom wage dispute
The 10% tithe that God requires looks pretty good now.
It is here in this final passage that I would like to draw out two further parallels.
The first is this… that the grain that Joseph had stored during the 7 years of plenty and that was now being sold back to the people, was being turned into bread. They were not like my wife who loves to purchase seeds and nuts for the purposes of a healthy snack, rather this was survival. That grain would have been ground to flour, mixed with water, and oil, and turned into bread.
In providing grain, Joseph was providing bread. Jesus, is the “the true bread” (John 6:32-35). Jesus makes another, “I am” claim, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
This is a phenomenal statement! Bread is a staple. A person can live a long time on bread and water alone. There are very few things in this country and certainly this world that are not taxed to death, but there is a small basket of 19 items that are exempt from VAT. Some of these include:
Brown bread, Maize meal, Samp, Mealie rice, Dried mealies, Dried beans, Lentils, Pilchards in tins, Milk powder, Rice, Vegetables, Fruit, Vegetable oil, Milk, Eggs, Legumes… the essentials.
By equating Himself with bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. BUT unlike Joseph who was the provider of life during the famine, Jesus himself is the provider of spiritual life, eternal life.
It is Jesus alone who can sustain us, and we are but starving beggars looking for food.
In Egypt, Joseph required those who wanted grain to purchase it and, ultimately, they sold everything they had in order to purchase the grain.
In order for us to partake in the bread of heaven, we must surrender all other means with which we think we can obtain eternal life. We buy from Jesus through the barter method. The barter is not a simple transaction, where we give up a part of something in exchange… rather we are to give up everything we have.
We are instructed to buy from Jesus the gold tried in the fire (Revelation 3:18). We exchange what we have for what He has.
We exchange a sinful heart for a righteous heart, guilt and shame for purity and peace, condemnation for commendation, eternal death for eternal life.
This morning in the short time we have had, we have been able to look at a couple of parallels between Jesus and Joseph… There are however, many, many more and if you would like the full list, then please let me know I would be more than happy to share this with you. In fact I will give it to Robert to add to the website.
Reflection & Challenge
I do, however, and in closing want to return to the point at which we started this series. The overall theme.
Joseph trusted in God, and trusted in God’s big-picture plan, it was because of this that he forgave his brothers, even though they had caused him great harm. And God didn’t abandon Joseph. Rather than responding with hate and anger, Joseph was able to respond with love and forgiveness, being a blessing to those who had intended to destroy his life. Joseph came to realise that what his brothers had meant for evil, God meant for good.
This is probably the greatest of the similarities between Joseph and Jesus, and why we acknowledge Joseph as a foreshadowing of Christ.
Like Joseph, Christ endured rejection and persecution. Yet he forgave. Joseph and Jesus not only became a blessing to those around them, but were also a blessing to those who hurt them. How can we apply this principle to our lives?