I have been much inspired of late by precious new insights into the extraordinary life of Joseph, the Jewish patriarch, which clearly point to the role played by Jesus some 2 000 years later.
And I am indebted, in part, to an excellent Zoom talk to supporters of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people from Bible teacher Amy Orr-Ewing, who reminded us how Jacob’s beloved son was sold as a slave by his jealous brothers and taken to Egypt where, after being falsely accused and imprisoned, he eventually rose to be Pharaoh’s prince.
Like Jesus, the Father’s “beloved son”, he suffered abandonment from those he loved and yet, after all he went through, he still ended up loving a broken world. I agree that there are so many parallels which, in my opinion, particularly encourage us to believe in a golden future for Israel.
Of course, Jacob was also known as Israel. And as his favourite son, adorned with his coat of many colours, Joseph was instructed to visit his brothers in the fields, as our Saviour came down to earth for his own (John 1:11). But they turned on him and sold him for 20 shekels of silver, as Judas did when he betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver.
In Egypt, Joseph resisted the seduction of sin as Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, but was nevertheless falsely accused with Potiphar condemning him to prison on fake evidence. (Christ too was tempted in the wilderness, but triumphed over Satan’s wily schemes.)
Joseph nevertheless won the respect of his jailor, just as the Roman centurion became convinced that Jesus was the Son of God on witnessing the crucifixion, while his fellow inmates – the cupbearer and baker – surely prefigured the two criminals condemned with Christ, one of whom joined the Lord in paradise. The cupbearer was restored to his position, but the baker was hanged on a tree.
Joseph himself was freed from prison and raised up in order to save others, eventually dispensing bread to a perishing world during a famine – just as Jesus, “the bread of life” (John 6:35), now satisfies spiritual hunger in a world experiencing a famine of the word of God.
Joseph was a servant leader – gentle, patient, kind and so badly treated – yet offering forgiveness to his detractors. Our Saviour mirrored his character and circumstances in so many ways, and as he was being nailed to the cross, prayed: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” — Luke 23:34 But he triumphed over the grave and is coming back to rescue his people once more.
Was it because he was a type of the Messiah that, of the seven major figures featured in the Book of Genesis, more space is given to the life of Joseph than the rest?
Of huge significance, in my opinion, is the fact that, though Joseph recognised his brothers when they came to buy grain, they did not at first recognise him. But when he did finally reveal himself to them, he did so in private, ordering the Egyptian officials out of the room because it was a family moment. But they nevertheless heard his loud weeping as he was so greatly moved by the reunion.
I believe this prefigures the time when Jesus finally reveals himself to his brothers in the flesh as he returns to Jerusalem to put an end to war and set up his Kingdom reign here on earth.
Note the patriarch’s great compassion when he assures them: “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And 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.” — Genesis 45:4f. He repeats the point, making it abundantly clear that it was all in God’s plan. “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
And this is still totally relevant today. The rejection of Joseph by his brothers, far from condemning them, was actually all part of God’s plan. In the same way, Israel’s national rejection of Jesus when he came to tabernacle with his people did not mean they had forfeited their right as God’s chosen.
The shame and tragedy of centuries of antisemitism owes much to a gross misunderstanding of the Gospel’s central theme – that Jesus had to die for our salvation. Accusing Jews of being “Christ-killers” is therefore so much nonsense.
As Isaiah clearly put it: “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…” — Isaiah 53:10
As Joseph was sent to Egypt to bless the nations, so the message of Jesus was spread among the Gentiles. So the Apostle Paul asked: “Did God reject his people? By no means! …Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.
“Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so, all Israel will be saved.” — Romans 11:1-26
Israel (i.e. Jacob’s children) was blinded for a time – paving the way for their Messiah’s crucifixion – for the benefit of Egypt, representing the Gentile world.
But then, in the “privacy” of their own land restored to them in the last days, Jesus will reveal himself to his brothers – “loved on account of the patriarchs” — Romans 11:28– amidst much weeping and sorrow.
Of that time, the Lord has promised: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” — Zechariah 12:10
The returning Jesus will no doubt recall the words of Joseph to his brothers: —“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” — Genesis 50:20
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