Lessons from the life of Joseph - Part 4
This Sunday (19th April 2020), we conclude our current series as it culminates with a wonderfully emotional reunion between Joseph and his brothers, the sons of Jacob, from which we receive a glorious picture of Israel’s future salvation. Whereas there are those within church circles who are of the opinion that God has finished with His chosen covenant people to be replaced entirely by the Church, the climactic lesson of this series offers firm support to those of us who believe otherwise.
We begin in the final verse of Genesis chapter 41 which informs us that the famine, previously prophesied by Joseph when he correctly interpreted the dream of Pharaoh, was severe in all lands, so that all countries came to Joseph to buy grain. (My emphasis). It is not until the beginning of the following chapter that Jacob, hearing that there was grain in Egypt, sent his sons to that place so that they might buy grain there in order that they might live and not die. And that which we discover from this order of events is, that the Gentiles went to Joseph before Israel did!
In order to understand the significance of this we need to remember that Joseph is a type of Christ and whereas Joseph provided the life sustaining grain (bread) with which he fed those who came to him, Jesus provides all those who come to Him (freely) with the words of life, for He Himself is the Bread of Life. In this way, the grain represents the gospel of Christ. However, in the time of Joseph, there was famine, which was affecting all the lands, so that all the people of those lands were starving and in need of feeding.
In Sunday’s message, I shall explain how famine is counted by God as being one of His four severe judgments. (Ezekiel 14:21). Moreover, it is the judgement which is reserved for those who are persistent in their unfaithfulness toward Him. (Ezekiel 14:12). However, in spiritual terms such a famine is not necessarily a physical famine, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. (Amos 8:11). Therefore, the famine endured today is a famine of the words of the Lord, represented in the story of Joseph by the grain. And, as per the final verse of Genesis chapter 41 we see the people of all countries (Gentiles) going to Joseph before the sons of Jacob (Israel). However, if the grain represents the gospel of Christ, we must acknowledge that it is to the Jew first and then to the Greek…
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek”. (Rom 1:16)
The spiritual truth that the gospel of Christ was to the Jew first is clearly indicated in the story of Joseph, who as we noted in the first part of our series, being the beloved of the father, was sent by his father to his brothers to express his love and concern for their well being. Just as Jesus made it clear that his initial responsibility was to minister to the Jews first and that this ministry preceded His ministry to the Gentiles. This He confirmed when He said to the Gentile woman “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Moreover, His actions were always and ever harmonious with the plan and word of God, as illustrated by two miraculous events… the feeding of the 5,000, followed by the feeding of the 4,000.
The feeding of the 5,000 (which was far more than 5,000 because 5,000 is the number of men only yet the event included women and children also) took place near the Lord’s ministry base of Capernaum near Galilee and were therefore Jews. The feeding of the 4,000 however, took place in the region of Decapolis and were therefore Gentiles. This illustrates how Jesus, faithful to both the plan and the word of God, fed both Jew and Gentile, but certainly the Jew first.
However, just as his brothers, the sons of Jacob envied and hated Joseph without cause, stripped him of his clothing and sold him for silver into the hands of Gentiles, so too did the Jews of Jesus’ day reject Him and call for Him to be crucified. But that which they meant for evil against Him, God meant for good, in order that many might be saved.
You see, if Joseph’s brothers hadn’t have envied and hated him without cause, if they hadn’t have stripped him of his clothing, condemned him to death and cast him in the pit, if they hadn’t have sold him for silver into the hands of Gentiles, then he would never have come down to Egypt. If he had never gone down to Egypt, then he would never have been falsely accused and thrown into prison, numbered among transgressors. He would never have met Pharaoh’s chief butler, nor been called to interpret Pharaoh’s dream and he would never have been raised up and given honour and authority over all Egypt that everyone should bow before him and acknowledge that the power of life and death was in his authority.
Likewise, it was through Israel’s rejection of the gospel of Christ that we who are redeemed Gentiles came to receive the words of life. That all the people of all lands might come to Jesus for salvation. This was ever part of God’s plan, that, that which they (the Jews), meant for evil against Jesus, God meant for our good that many through Jesus might be saved. Therefore, we give all thanks and glory to God, but we also lament the fact that the joy of the knowledge of our salvation in Him, has been at the expense of His own brethren, whom He loves so dearly.
But if we have learned anything through this series, then perhaps little more heartening than the fact that in the life of Joseph we are shown that there will indeed be a glorious and wonderfully emotional reunion between Christ and the sons of Israel. A time when they shall come to Him for life, when they shall bow before Him and recognize Him in His majesty as their own dear brother whom they condemned to death…
… then they will look on Him whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
However, I am certain that He will speak to them just as Joseph spoke to his brothers when he said “I am Joseph whom you sold. God has made me lord of all… come unto me”. Indeed, I believe that in like words shall the Lord Jesus speak unto His brethren and all Israel will be saved.
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so, all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
Concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sake but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. (Romans 11:26-32)
What a wonderful finale to our series.
Until next time,
May God bless you and keep you.
Yours in Him