Now we move from Jacob's story to Joseph. He is the 11th son of Jacob but the first son of Jacob and his favorite wife Rachel. Joseph is the favorite son hands down. His father made for him an ornate robe. This garment set Joseph apart as a person of consequence. It was the garment of a rich ruler, reaching to Joseph's ankles. It had long sleeves as well...not what any well-dressed shepherd would wear. Jacob no doubt intended to send a non-verbal message to the family with this robe. It shouted; Joseph will be my heir. After all Jacob's first-born Reuben had forfeited his place as the first born due to indiscretions. The next sons, Simeon and then Levi were the leaders in the slaughtering the men of Shechem. And Jacob's first four sons had Leah as their mother. Jacob hadn't intended to marry her. He was tricked. The servant girls and their offspring didn't count. That left Joseph as Jacob's first-born. The brothers HATED Joseph. And hate is a dangerous sin because it generates other sins.
Joseph's dreams did nothing but add fuel to the fires of hate the brothers felt for Joseph. How could Joseph possibly become a ruler and why would his brothers ever bow down to him. It was all preposterous. Even Joseph's father was dismayed. We could write page upon page about Joseph's story but here are some thoughts. There are profound theological implications in this story of Joseph. The handprints of God are everywhere in these chapters even though we do not see God work in the same ways we have with Joseph's ancestors. God over rules human decisions and in the end, we have Joseph as a hero, saving countless lives because God used him. God had ordained Joseph would go to Egypt and this is the way He accomplished that.
Behind this story of Joseph is the heart of a covenant making God who always keeps His promises. Remember the covenant promise to Abraham was twofold...land and descendants. It was not yet time for the land, but God was working through Abraham's descendants on the descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky promise. We also see in this story Joseph as one of the richest illustrations of Jesus Christ found in the Old Testament. Joseph is like Jesus in that they were both beloved by their fathers. Both were obedient to their fathers will. They were both hated and rejected by their own brethren and sold as slaves. They were falsely accused and unjustly punished. And both were finally elevated from the place of suffering to a powerful throne, saving many people from death. The difference is that Jesus gave His life to save people.
When Joseph arrived where his brothers were grazing their sheep, they saw their chance to rid themselves of Joseph for good. People sold into slavery in Egypt were never seen or heard from again. This meant their deed would never be discovered. Except that God was still in control. Joseph was 17 when he was sold and 30 when he was elevated to the throne in Egypt. Add 7 years of plenty and two years of famine and there are 22 years before Joseph is reconciled to his brothers. In the middle of the Joseph story, we find the story of Judah and Tamar. It seems random and out of place until we remember that the line of Judah is the line is the royal tribe from which the Messiah would come. That makes anything that happens in the tribe of Judah consequential.
Egypt in the time of Joseph was mostly a land of small villages. They were inhabited by poor peasants who raised grain and vegetables. But they had an advanced irrigation system thanks to the annual flooding of the Nile River. The Egyptians recognized over 2,000 gods and goddesses as part of their religious system, including Pharaoh himself. Their government was a bureaucracy with many levels of officials and thousands of scribes to write everything down. They were well known for their horses, their medicines, their calendar of 365 days in a year, embalming and their weapons for war. There were many Jewish slaves in Egypt. But Joseph was different because the Lord was with him.
We do not see direct evidence of God appearing to Joseph, but we see His handiwork. Joseph begins his journey to Egypt in a pit, tossed there by brothers who hated him. Little did Joseph know, but God had big plans for him. It would involve changing Joseph's attitude and his heart. It would be hard for Joseph and he wouldn't always understand. He was sold into slavery in Potiphar’s house. Even though he was a slave God was with him and everything he did prospered. God was at work and Joseph was being noticed. The bad news was it was Potiphar’s wife who was the most interested. Joseph refused her advances but eventually she schemed and got Joseph in trouble. He found himself in another pit, this time Pharaohs dungeon. Again, God prospered Joseph and he rose to a trusted position in the jail. We read the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.
God gifted Joseph with the ability to interpret dreams and he correctly interpreted the dreams of two of Pharaohs servants. But they forgot about Joseph when they gained their freedom. Jail became the school where Joseph would learn to wait upon the Lord. In God's time Joseph was ready to be released to fulfill the purposes God had for him. God's handprints were all over Joseph's life. They are all over our lives as well. We may not see them when we are in the thick of things, but when we look back over our lives, we will see them everywhere.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W