This is my last post on the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis. In the first four posts we talked about most of the themes from the story of Joseph including, suffering, providence, repentance, and forgiveness.
The main point of this last post is to show how Joseph is a “Type” of Christ, and how Joseph and Jesus are connected, but first I want to mention why the Israelites had to become slaves in the land of Egypt. Has anyone else ever wondered why God didn’t just give Jacob and his sons their nation? Why did they have to go to Egypt first? Why did they have to become slaves? What was stopping God from just saying: “Jacob, here is your land! Divide it up among your twelve sons and let’s get this nation rocking?” What was wrong with that?
When God chose Abraham he knew what would happen in the future. He knew that if he wanted to get a group of people following him he would have to take drastic measures. He said to Abraham, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve; and afterward they will come out with many possessions.”
So why did God decide in this overall plan of redemption that the Israelites had to be slaves? That sounds like a weird thing for God to plan. Did God like the idea of torturing them?
God had the foreknowledge to know what was going to happen to his children. He knew what would happen to the Israelites in the different situations that he could have put them in. In God’s overall plan of redemption he needed a nation that was spiritually pure, that had an identity. This identity was already falling apart before they went to Egypt. Judah was willing to marry a local woman, to befriend a heathen, and was even willing to have sex with a cult prostitute. It is easy to assume that these activities were happening with other brothers as well. The author just gave a glimpse of them with Judah. We get the feeling that had God not acted, the clan that was supposed to become Israel, would have never kept their identity. They would have fought, married into different communities, and their descendents would have ended up worshipping different Gods.
So why did God choose Egypt? Well, quite frankly, the Egyptians hated shepherds. They could settle in this region with no worries about assimilation. If the Israelites wouldn’t keep themselves separate as a Godly nation, the Egyptians would force them to stay separate. Even here, at this point of the story of redemption, when things looked the hardest for the Israelites, we see evidence of God’s grace.
Later on, after the Exodus, the Israelites would look back and realize that this slavery was God’s providence. Looking at the big picture we can see that everything happened according to God’s plan. If God had to find a nation to use to save the world, he had to separate that nation from others and let it develop without it being corrupted. Also, this created a sense of humbleness in the Israelites. When they looked at where they came from it reminded them to be humble. They had slave roots. They had no reason to be prideful. Because of where they came from they knew that they made it to where they were, by God’s grace alone. When they conquered Canaan they knew that it was God paving the way for them. Others might have thought that it was the cunningness of their military leaders, or the strength of their soldiers, but because of the humbleness they learned the hard way, the Israelites knew it was God. Without this humble upbringing it might have been harder to see. They could look back and see that it was not caused by anything that they did.
Also, while looking at the big picture, there is an interesting similarity between the lives of Jacob and Abraham. They were both asked by God to give up their favorite sons. Jacob was forced to give up his favorite son, Joseph, while Abraham agreed to do it when asked by God. Both of the sons were returned to them by God, but in different ways. Now, think about this: Through each of those sons, the future was made possible for the family! Through two sons that were taken away from their fathers, the future of Israel was made safe. Now think about that for a minute!
Some people refer to things in the Old Testament as “types of Christ.” These are things that God used to foreshadow the coming of Christ. Or things that we look back after the New Testament and see the similarities to Christ, and therefore, we see the divine writing on the wall. I don’t like the term, “types of Christ.” I think they are just miraculous things that show that God’s word is inspired. They are there to show how everything fits together. Christ was God, so obviously, He is going to appear very similar to some of God’s earlier stories! Does that make sense?
This chart shows the many ways that the lives of Joseph and Jesus were extremely similar. I think these two lives are about as close as you can get, considering that one person is human and one is God. Obviously, they cannot be completely similar because one of them is God, but the other details of their lives are eerily similar. Is this miraculous? You decide after reading through them.
Joseph – Old Testament Savior Jesus – New Testament Savior
|Even though Joseph was a young man, he had authority over his older brothers. His authority overcame age and experience. An outsider would find it odd.||Jesus, was a young man, who actually had authority over the elders. He was found as a boy in the temple teaching his elders. His authority overcame age and experience. An outsider would find it odd.|
|Even though he was already above them, Joseph alluded to an even greater level of dominion over his older brothers that would come in the future. (through his dreams)||Even though he was already above them, Jesus alluded to an even greater dominion over his elders at a later time.|
|Joseph was given his authority by the father of Israel.||Jesus was given authority by the father of the world|
|Because Joseph’s authority was rejected he was almost killed.||Because Jesus’ authority was rejected he was killed.|
|Joseph was tempted many times by Potiphar’s wife. A temptation that almost no man in his situation could have resisted. Yet he somehow resisted the temptation.||Jesus was tempted many times by Satan in the wilderness. Only Jesus could overcome those temptations.|
|Ironically, the defeat of Joseph by his enemies, is what ended up putting him in a position of power.||Ironically, the defeat of Jesus is what caused him to reach his glorious position of power.|
|The defeat of Joseph was the reason he was able to save the future nation of Israel.||The defeat of Jesus was the reason that he was able to save the world.|
|It looked like Joseph’s God had forsaken him when he was left to suffer before his glory.||It looked like Jesus’ God had forsaken him when he was left to suffer before His glory.|
|Joseph was found guilty, and was sentenced, even though he was innocent.||Jesus was found guilty, and was sentenced even though he was innocent.|
|The Egyptian name that was given to Joseph meant, “Savior”||Jesus was literally the Savior!|
|Joseph appeared to eleven remaining brothers as the “risen” Lord.||Jesus appeared to the eleven remaining disciples as the Risen Lord|
|God used a horrible act to save the future Israel nation from destruction during the famine.||God used a horrible act to save the world|
|Joseph was most loved by his father||Jesus was most loved by the Father|
|Both were prophesied to be rulers (dreams)||Both were prophesied to be rulers (Messianic prophecies)|
|When he told them of his future prominence Joseph’s brothers didn’t believe him until he was “resurrected.”||Jesus’ brothers were jealous and did not believe in Him until he was resurrected.|
|Reuben wanted to rescue Joseph from the angry brothers, and tried to save him from death by offering other ways out of the situation.||Pilate wanted to rescue Jesus from the angry Jewish leaders who wanted him killed, and tried to save him from death by offering other ways out of the situation.|
|Joseph was sold for the price of a slave, in silver coins.||Jesus was betrayed for the price of a slave, in silver coins.|
|Joseph was accused by a false witness.||Jesus was accused by a false witness.|
|Even when the times were the hardest there was evidence of God’s plan everywhere.||Even when the times were the hardest there was evidence of God’s plan everywhere.|
|Joseph was with two criminals who were sentenced to die, one was saved and one was condemned. He informed the one who was saved that he would be saved.||Jesus was with two criminals who were sentenced to die, one was saved and one was condemned. Jesus told the one who was saved that he would be saved.|
|When Joseph achieved his glory he was not recognized at first by his brothers.||When Jesus achieved His glory He was not recognized at first by his followers|
|Joseph’s brothers enjoyed Pharaoh’s favor because of Joseph, they did nothing to earn it. They would not have had it without Joseph.||We enjoy God’s favor because of Jesus, we cannot earn it. We would not have it without Jesus.|
|Joseph predicted what would happen to people after three days.||Jesus predicted what would happen to himself after three days.|
|Joseph is one of the extremely small number of Bible characters where a sin is never mentioned.||Only person ever to be completely sinless.|
|Joseph was mocked for predicting his glory. (dreams)||Jesus was mocked for predicting his glory (crown of thorns, etc.)|
|When Reuben returned Joseph was missing from the pit.||When the women returned Jesus was missing from the grave.|
|Joseph left the pit alive.||Jesus left the grave alive.|
|After rising in glory, Joseph took a gentile bride.||After rising in glory, Jesus took a gentile bride. (church)|
|Joseph was thirty when he rose to power in Egypt.||Jesus was most likely 30 when he started his ministry.|
|Joseph was literally a shepherd.||Jesus was referred to as the great shepherd.|
|Joseph has one dream where he has sovereignty on earth ,and one where he has authority in the heavens. (stars)||Jesus was given sovereignty over the earth and in the heavens by God.|
|Joseph makes no defense when he is wrongly accused.||Jesus does not defend himself when He is wrongly accused.|
|Joseph gives bread to the multitudes.||Jesus gives bread to the multitudes, both physically in his miracles, and spiritually by being the bread of life.|
|Anyone who came to Joseph could get what they needed to survive.||Anyone who comes to Jesus can have everlasting life.|
|Joseph refuses payment for the food that he gives his brothers. He pays no attention to their gifts. Everything he gives is by grace alone.||Jesus refuses payment for the everlasting life that He gives. You cannot buy your way into heaven. Everything is given by grace alone.|
|The brothers came to Joseph only after repentance, that was what was required to be with Joseph.||Christians come to Jesus only after repentance. Repentance is what is required to be with Christ.|
|When the brothers meet Joseph in his glory, Joseph wants them to bring others to him so he can save them.||When we meet Jesus, his command to us, is to bring others to Him so He can save them.|
We see that the story of Joseph parallels the story of Jesus almost perfectly. The big difference is that Jesus was God, and Joseph was just a human. Jesus did miraculous things and spoke as God, whereas Joseph did human things, and was simply used by God. But the stories match up so well that it is pretty amazing. Before he was ready to send his Son here to teach us directly, we see that God was still teaching his people the same principles, just in a more indirect way. Later in the Israelite nation, the priests could use the story of Joseph to teach the same things as our pastors teach today about the story of Jesus. The rabbis and the priests could teach about suffering, about God’s providence, about repentance, about forgiveness, about grace, about redemption, and about loving your neighbors. Basically, all of the themes that we find in the New Testament, can be preached out of this story of Joseph! To me, that is pretty amazing, considering this part of the Bible was written a thousand years before the New Testament, yet it has all of the same themes. Can you see the divine guidance here?
So no matter if we are studying the Old Testament, or the New Testament, we see that in the end, it all comes down to faith and believing. Jesus asks us to have faith and to believe. Joseph was taught to have faith and to believe. There is something special about having faith in something that cannot be seen. There is something about this trait, being able to do this, that God finds admirable. Joseph had to believe that his suffering was leading to somewhere, where it would all make sense. Jacob had to have faith that God would keep his promises to him. Abraham had to have faith that God would keep his promises even though they seemed impossible. Noah had to have faith that God would keep his promises. Moses had to have the same faith that God would keep his promises to him. So the Old Testament might read a little bit different, but it is still all about faith. For many reasons, God wants us to believe, God wants us to have faith, and from the very beginning he has been teaching us to have faith throughout his entire story. It is all about faith. God loves it when we have faith. We like to wonder why God stays hidden. Why doesn’t he show himself so everyone can just believe and do what he wants? But can you imagine a world like that? Where our service and compassion might be just because we know God is watching. Where there is no such thing as faith. A world where we don’t have a chance to succeed and figure things out on our own, but we just do things because we know God is watching. And miracles wouldn’t be possible, and that amazing feeling when we realize that something was all a part of God’s plan wouldn’t be possible. No, God set it up perfectly. He set the world up where faith could exist, and miracles could exist. And thank God he did!