lessons about Jesus from the life of Joseph
by Dr. John Yates
Joseph is an outstanding type of ChristParallels include, beloved by his father [Gen 37:3; cf. Mark 1:11], was sent to his brothers, but was then sold for twenty pieces of silver [37:28; cf. Matt. 26:15]. After suffering persecution and … Continue reading and an important model for the growing “marketplace Christianity” movement.See especially, Link for The Joseph Company
Becoming a wise and godly person of power to supply the needs of the deprived on the earth is a very attractive model. This article addresses a neglected dimension of the life of Joseph, his profuse weeping.Jeremiah is the famous “weeping prophet” [Jer 9:1;Jer 13:17;Lam 1:16], David is the weeping king [1 Sam 20:41;1 Sam 30:4;2 Sam 3:32;2 Sam 12:21-22;2 Sam 13:36;2 Sam 18:33] but Joseph exceeds … Continue reading Importantly, all the records of Joseph’s tearsGen 42:24; Gen 43:30; Gen 45:2, 14, 15; Gen 46:29; Gen 50: 1, 17. occur after his exaltation to authority. It is a revelation of the weeping Lord Jesus that in the days to come will bring great spiritual and material release on the earth.
The Favour of the Father
Viewed theologically, this is the controlling motif of the story. Joseph’s famous “coat of many colours”The KJV translation follows the Greek Old Testament commonly used by the early church, the Hebrew text, “long sleeved coat”. is a sign that “Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any other of his sons” (Gen 37:3). Jealousy stirs up his brothers’ hatred him (v.4) so they plot his death.
The parallels with Christ are plain: he is the “only Son” of God (John 3:16, 18) favoured with the gift of the Spirit and authority to preach, heal and do miracles etc. From the beginning, his own brethren attempt to kill himOf the early attempts on Jesus life, the one most pertinent is the violent reaction of his home town in Nazareth to his claim to be the anointed of God with a commission to release the oppressed, … Continue reading and it is “out of envy” (Mark 15:10) that the leaders of the people deliver him up for crucifixion.
Visions of Greatness
What most infuriated Joseph’s brothers was that he shared two dreams of his future greatness, each of which spoke of his rule over them. In the first, the wheat sheaves of his brothers bow down to his. They are incensed, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” (Gen 37:5). Prophetically, this speaks of Joseph’s future dominion over the resources of the earth. In the next dream, the sun, moon and 11 stars bow down before him. The meaning is very similar, but it extends to authority even over his parents.
These images are fulfilled in Jesus, he is the one with “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matt 28:19), and he is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 17:14; Rev 19:16). All the resources and rulers of the earth are subject to him. The particular incident that most parallels the impact of Joseph’s dreams on the attitude of his brothers; it is Jesus reply to the high priest, ““v61 Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” v62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”” (Mark 14:61-62). For this confession of universal LordshipThe background is the heavenly reception of cosmic rule by the son of man at the throne of God [Dan 7:13-14]. Jesus is claiming to be the final authority in the universe; to his opponents this is … Continue reading Christ is condemned to death.
The Way of Suffering
This section of the story is familiar: Joseph is thrown into a pit and sold into slavery, faithful to his master but betrayed by his wife, unjustly imprisoned he interprets the dreams of his fellow prisoners but is forgotten (Gen 37:39-40). The chosen ruler is sidelined for 13 years.He is 17 years old when sold [Gen 37:2] and 30 when installed into power by Pharaoh [Gen 41:46]. In a hidden way however he is constantly moving closer to great power: first the journey to imperial Egypt, then in the employ of one of the king’s servants, finally in the dungeon he rubs shoulders with pharaoh’s intimate counsellors.The chief cupbearer was no mere servant but someone who was a close advisor to oriental rulers. No matter what anguish he endured in his innocent trials, loneliness betrayal and misunderstanding, “the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.” (Gen 39:23 cf. Gen 39:2-3).
The sufferings of Jesus begin with his conception; from this time he “became poor” (2 Cor 8:9) and “made himself nothing” (Phil 2:7). “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”(John 1:11). We must never forget, “That throughout his life on Earth, but especially at the end of it, he bore in body soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race”.Heidelberg Catechism q. 37
The fruit of Joseph’s God – appointed suffering and deliverance is unparalleled wisdom. As Joseph had two dreams with one theme, so it is with Pharaoh (Gen 41:1-8). Even as he looks back through a long tunnel of darkness to his own dreams, Joseph’s un-swerving testimony to Pharaoh is that by dream God gives revelation of his immutable will (vv 16, 25).
It is Joseph’s outstanding wisdom in interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh concerning plenty and famine that immediately exalts him as a ruler over Egypt, ““v38 Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” v39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. v40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.”” (Gen 41:38-40).
Through his bittersweet life Joseph knew indelibly that neither prosperity nor adversity are ends in themselves, but means by which God may be glorified in us and us in him. The pinnacle of Joseph’s wisdom is his “preaching the gospel” his brothers. As he unveils his identity he brings forth outstanding words of comfort, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Gen 45:5) Joseph’s grasp of God’s all – embracing wisdom over life’s circumstances finds expression in his famous words: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Gen 50:20).
All of these patterns are completed in Christ: “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). Central to the apostolic message is that “v23 we preach Christ crucified …v24 Christ …the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:23-24). This is the wisdom of the cross.
Humanity’s practical verdict on God is that he lacks wisdom worth consulting. Whatever their theories, from Eden onwards“Claiming to be wise, they became fools” [Rom 1:22];“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him” [1 Cor 2:14] people judge that in conducting the everyday affairs of life (employment, finances, relationships), ““There is no God.”” (Ps 14:1).
To atone for our arrogance Jesus must be plunged into the depths of our verdict on God as foolishness. In the midst of his experience of abandonment, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34), he has no consciousness of the saving wisdom of his Father. His spiritual experience of being damnedThe classic discussion is in Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16. 8-12 means that under the divine judgement of death Jesus has lost his sense that his sacrifice is the wisdom of God. His real experience of hell means he cannot be conscious that his sufferings serve any good purpose.
The wisdom that is hidden in the cross is revealed in the resurrection. Appearing to his brothers““Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee , and there they will see me.”” [Matt 28:10] who abandoned him, Christ leaves their consciences no room for self- condemnation, “Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”” (John 20:19). This revealed to them what was now absolutely clear to him; his humiliation was for their exaltation. The crucified and exalted Lord is the manifest wisdom of God.
The Flood of Tears
What then is the significance of the weeping of Joseph after his elevation to power?
In his commentary on Genesis, von Rad says, “Joseph, in his relationship with his brothers, does not limit himself to passive tolerance and forgiveness. He deals with them, moreover severely and boldly. Joseph exerts an authority that makes the reader anxious and afraid. Joseph has it (authority) because he alone knows how to interpret the completely confused event (his enslavement) in the light of God’s purpose.”
Joseph is indeed a man to be feared because like Jesus he has every right to punish those who abandoned him. Yet by penetrating insight into the sovereign purposes of God who “who works all thingsThis is the “all things” of “God works all things together for good for those who love him” [Rom 8:28]. according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11) he cannot bring blame. He knows that at the root of even the greatest of human evils the wisdom of God is outworking a saving purpose beyond all comparison.“the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” [Rom 8:18].
His flood of tears for the distress of his brethren pours forth from a soul whose personal anguish has been healed. His agony was no longer for himself;His previous self – concerned agonies are recorded in the brothers’ words, “we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not … Continue reading it was purely for those under his sovereign and merciful rule. His people could offer him nothing, his profuse weeping flooded them with the immeasurable dignity of forgiving grace. All of this is fulfilled in Christ.
The ascended and glorified Lord weeps with the suffering today. “v3 a light from heaven flashed around him. v4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” v5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”(Acts 9:3-5). In seeing the agonised Lord, Paul became an apostle of tears (Acts 20:31; 2 Cor 2:4; Phil 3:18 cf. Rom 9:2 etc.).
There is a unique power in the tears of an Almighty God who has suffered the fullness of the indignities of a rebellious world. Only in the glorified Lord Jesus do we see a sadness completely free of self- interest. It is this combination of infinite tenderness and absolute power that is imaged in the Joseph story. It is the fruit of the unparalleled wisdom of God, and its presence has the power to melt the hardest heart.
Application and Conclusion
Deep down, all human beings know God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Rom 1:19), what they do not trust is the character behind this power.On this theme in Joseph, see ref Link The heart issue is not whether God has power but whether he has kindness. It is the tears of our Lord that leave us in no doubt about the depths of his compassion, and it is this which moves us to repentance (Rom 2:4).
Many Joseph – like figures are being raised up to image God- given success and sovereignty in circumstances ranging from health to relationships to finances. By their own experience of hardship and overcoming they will know that in the depth of every detail of life their Father is outworking a perfect wisdom to conform them to the glory of Christ (Rom 8:28-29).
These Christians know by revelation that the wisdom of God in all things takes on a particular shape; mirrored in the journey of Joseph it is actually a participation in the life of Christ. Humiliation and exaltation, plenty and famine, adversity and prosperity, darkness and light are woven purposefully by God into the underlying structure of all history. The Spirit reveals that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the form of the arrangement of “all things” (Rom 11:36; Eph 1:10-11, 22; Eph 4:10; Phil 3:21; Col 1:16).
Such believers can bear “the testimony of Jesus …the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10) in all the circumstances of life.To “give thanks in all circumstances” [1 Thess 5:18 cf. Eph 5:20 Col 3:17] flows out of a recognition of this great and all inclusive purpose of God. They understand that the final aim of the plan of God through the visible success of their lives is that others may make inquiry of the source of their prospering, so they may be told, “Jesus is the favoured one of the Father.”
Finally, this company of believers will be so inwardly and passionately persuaded of the all –encompassing wisdom and kindness of God in their own lives and in all of history, that they will weep grace- filled tears of authority for those who feel abandoned under the crushing circumstances of human existence. “Tears of Lordship”, this is the revelation church and society needs in our time.
|↑1||Parallels include, beloved by his father [Gen 37:3; cf. Mark 1:11], was sent to his brothers, but was then sold for twenty pieces of silver [37:28; cf. Matt. 26:15]. After suffering persecution and temptation [Gen 37:18-36; Gen 39:7-20; cf. Matt. 4:1-11], righteous Joseph was exalted as lord over his brothers [Gen 37:5-11; Gen 41:37-45; Gen 42:6; cf. Phil. 2:9, 10]. For fuller details, go here|
|↑2||See especially, Link for The Joseph Company|
|↑3||Jeremiah is the famous “weeping prophet” [Jer 9:1;Jer 13:17;Lam 1:16], David is the weeping king [1 Sam 20:41;1 Sam 30:4;2 Sam 3:32;2 Sam 12:21-22;2 Sam 13:36;2 Sam 18:33] but Joseph exceeds them both.|
|↑4||Gen 42:24; Gen 43:30; Gen 45:2, 14, 15; Gen 46:29; Gen 50: 1, 17.|
|↑5||The KJV translation follows the Greek Old Testament commonly used by the early church, the Hebrew text, “long sleeved coat”.|
|↑6||Of the early attempts on Jesus life, the one most pertinent is the violent reaction of his home town in Nazareth to his claim to be the anointed of God with a commission to release the oppressed, Luke 4:16-30.|
|↑7||The background is the heavenly reception of cosmic rule by the son of man at the throne of God [Dan 7:13-14]. Jesus is claiming to be the final authority in the universe; to his opponents this is intolerable.|
|↑8||He is 17 years old when sold [Gen 37:2] and 30 when installed into power by Pharaoh [Gen 41:46].|
|↑9||The chief cupbearer was no mere servant but someone who was a close advisor to oriental rulers.|
|↑10||Heidelberg Catechism q. 37|
|↑11||“Claiming to be wise, they became fools” [Rom 1:22];“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him” [1 Cor 2:14]|
|↑12||The classic discussion is in Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 2.16. 8-12|
|↑13||““Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee , and there they will see me.”” [Matt 28:10]|
|↑14||This is the “all things” of “God works all things together for good for those who love him” [Rom 8:28].|
|↑15||“the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” [Rom 8:18].|
|↑16||His previous self – concerned agonies are recorded in the brothers’ words, “we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen…”” [Gen 42:21]”|
|↑17||On this theme in Joseph, see ref Link|
|↑18||To “give thanks in all circumstances” [1 Thess 5:18 cf. Eph 5:20 Col 3:17] flows out of a recognition of this great and all inclusive purpose of God.|