Joseph - another journey of discovery!
“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, NIV)
We’ve just come to the end of a preaching series on Joseph in Genesis 37-50. I said at the beginning that it would be a journey of discovery for me, and so it has proved! Some highlights I’ve been specially struck by as we’ve gone along:
1) The amazing grace of God. It’s there in the verse above: the very people who intended to harm Joseph are those for whom God intended good - and rescued! The story leaves us in no doubt about the brothers’ sinfulness: not just in selling Joseph to slavery and faking his death, but perhaps most strikingly in the story of Judah’s immorality and inconsistency in chapter 38. Had we been God, would we have chosen these people for special favour? And yet, wonderfully, he did - and does still!
2) Here is the God who is in control. He works even via human wickedness to achieve his saving purposes. So what seems at various points to be a disaster is in fact God working out his plan. The various dreams in the Joseph narrative also show that God is in control. Here is the true and living God, really Lord of all, who is to be trusted!
3) Joseph points ahead to Christ. We need to put to one side the verdict of a couple of commentaries which call him “a spoiled brat” and accept the New Testament’s verdict on him as a righteous man (see Stephen’s speech in Acts 7). He suffers at the hand of his brothers because he has his father’s special favour and because he makes claims about his future lordship - which is similar to the causes of the opposition Jesus experiences. He is his people’s rescuer - and, supremely, is able to do this because of his brothers’ rejection of him. Could not Jesus himself have used the verse above as an explanation of his death on the cross?
4) Judah is also surprisingly prominent in the story. Genesis devotes to him a whole chapter (38) which seems a diversion from the main narrative. Why? Later on, in 49:10, Jacob prophesies that The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come, and the obedience of the nations is his. Joseph is a prototype Christ, but Judah is his ancestor: even this far in advance, here is the royal line of the Messiah!
5) God demonstrates, again and again, his covenant commitment to his people. God intended it for good - for the saving of many lives. We are left in no doubt that God will look after the people he calls to himself. In our current turmoils in the Church of England, reading and preaching through these chapters has been an encouragement to me, reminding me that (although God will at the last destroy false teachers) he will preserve his own true people.
6) God’s saving of his people in this story isn’t just from the famine - but morally, in terms of their character. During the period when Joseph is dealing with his brothers but they don’t yet recognise him, he’s clearly wanting to see if they’ve changed. Just so, Christ does not just save us from death but works in us to make us people he can trust, working through apparently baffling circumstances in our lives.
7) The dating of Genesis. The final chapters of this story, which stress that Israel’s home is Canaan, not Egypt, would have spoken powerfully to an original audience travelling with Moses from Egypt to Canaan - and yet tempted to return. This fits with the traditional understanding of Genesis as coming from Moses himself.
Missed a part of this sermon series on Joseph? Catch up here
Subscribe to receive St Andrew the Great blog alerts by email.