Joseph & Jesus
(excerpt from the Sermon)
Sermon Series: Origins
An archetype is an original that has been imitated. Now, it doesn't mean that the imitator is trying to be an imposter, it simply means that Jesus is the original Savior of the world. But there are many pointers that have come before Him. I don't know of a better pointer to the work of Jesus (that we can find in the Old Testament) other than the Old Testament character of Joseph. His story is an awesome one. He's loved by his father. He becomes the savior of all of his people.
The story goes on to tell us that Jacob loves Joseph so much that he actually makes him a beautiful coat. From this story comes all of these books, movies, and Broadway plays – Joseph and the amazing technicolor coat. Now, in the original story, I'm not sure how smart this is on the part of Jacob because, by giving Joseph this beautiful, wonderful coat, it's going to ignite a fierce sibling rivalry. The other thing is that Joseph doesn't really know how to handle it as well. He's not really smart and doesn't help himself in the situation because he keeps having these dreams – because God has set him apart to achieve something that's extraordinary. But, rather than keeping the dreams to himself, for some reason, Joseph, who's become quite ego-centered because he's a favorite of his father, doesn't use a lot of emotional intelligence when relating these dreams to his brothers.
So in Genesis 37:3-11, it says, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said,’Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’ His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” So his father knows something is up. He's not sure what.
But if anybody ever needed an accountability partner, it was Joseph at this point of his life. He needed someone to say, dude, you need to keep those kinds of dreams to yourself. God has chosen you, not out of the goodness of your heart, but out of the goodness of His heart, not because you deserve it. Embrace the calling, but stay humble. Joseph doesn't stay humble in the early days. He's young. He does not keep these dreams to himself. So his brothers plot, they're going to take their revenge. They sell him at an opportune time to some passing Ishmaelites. They killed their brother, so to speak, and made a killing at the same time. And now they have a bigger problem in the story because they have to tell dad. So they dipped the coat in goat's blood and claimed that a ferocious animal had devoured Joseph. And here is the blood-stained garment to prove it. When Jacob hears this, he tears his clothes, he mourns, his favorite son has died.
Now back in Egypt, Joseph is sold by the Ishmaelites to one of Pharaoh's officials, a very powerful man by the name of Potiphar. For Nine years he served as a slave in Potiphar’s household. Nine years are needed by God to prepare Joseph. To shape and mold Joseph for a task that is of extraordinary value. Nine years to break into shape and mold Joseph into the man God will use to save His people. Here's the deal. Joseph is growing and maturing throughout this entire ordeal until he gets to the point (and this is where Joseph's life becomes compelling) where rather than blaming God, he serves God diligently and he works every job that God gives him as if he's working for God Himself. He begins to move out (through these nine years of pain and his nine years of servanthood) of his egocentrism of being daddy's favorite to theocentrism or centering his life on something outside, something bigger than himself, God. This is the result of nine years of slavery.
Someone has said God needed the pit to prepare Joseph for the palace. Now because Potiphar sees something special in Joseph, something that God is doing (he may not be able to identify as the movement of God, but he knows there's something special about Joseph) he puts Joseph in charge of his entire household. It's a phenomenal story. He puts him over his finances, his travel schedule, his crops, his servants, his properties, his food and water supply. Joseph has the keys to the mint, and as a result, everything prospers. Genesis 39:5 says, “The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.” Now, if you don't know the larger story that's happening here, let me remind you again, we have the privilege of 2020 hindsight, right?
We know that God is placing Joseph into these situations because God foresees what is about to happen. A famine is going to overtake the land, and it's a famine that's going to wipe out the people of Egypt. In doing so, the people of Israel, the people of God. So God wants someone in charge that will listen to His voice as He gives instructions on how to survive this famine. Otherwise the upper story, the larger story, the Israelites will not survive. Abraham's family will cease to exist. The lineage of the Messiah will be cut off and God's promises will fail. God could fix this in five minutes if He wanted to. Just stop the famine, send some rainfall, and water the crops. Stop the famine, make the soil fertile. God could fix this just like that if He wanted to. And if you're like me and you read these stories, why does God always seem intent on going the roundabout way?
The gospel, the goal of our life, is for God to get us in a position where we have the ultimate relationship with Him. You and I were created for a love relationship with God. That is the bottom line. So when God makes a decision of what He's going to do in our world, in society, in our lives, He always goes back, unlike us, to the original goal. What is the ultimate goal? The goal is to move us, those who are far from God, near to God. Here's the reality, you move closer to God when moving through troubled times rather than avoiding troubled times. That is just the bane of our existence. It is who we are as humans. C. S. Lewis is often quoted saying, “God whispers to us in our pleasure, shouts to us in our pain.” You know what? I've thought about that for many years and I'm pretty sure that God is always shouting to us, but it often takes a knock to the head to clear out the wax that keeps us from hearing His voice. Is it God's fault that we are hardhearted and hardheaded? Let me say it again, you move closer to God, and that's the ultimate goal, when moving through troubled times rather than avoiding troubled times.
If the goal of our life is for God to move those who are far from Him close to Him, it's going to mean that God is going to have to allow things to enter into our lives and then, rather than cause us to escape from it, walk us through it. In doing so, we would move closer to the most intimate and trustworthy and faithful friend. Now, of course, there's the other side of this that is explained by the Apostle Paul. He says in Romans 8:21, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” As we've said before, this is how the Bible communicates the condition of our world. Creation, fall, then redemption. So the earth itself has been tainted by sin, just like you and I have been tainted. Things are going to happen on this planet, in this world, that are the results of a fallen world that cries out to be liberated just like your soul and my soul and our physical body cries out to be liberated. One day the Bible says, through the gospel, there is the creation, there is the fall, but God is in the process of redeeming all things. And so famine is coming and God is going to work all things together to save a remnant of His people. To continue His dream of reconciling all men back to Himself. Of restoring creation and of completing the greatest story ever told. However, I'm sure it didn't look that way to Joseph in the early days because, in the story, every time he does something right, something bad happens. He tries to do the right thing and every time he does the right thing it turns out, from his perspective, negatively.
The bottom line here is that neither we nor Joseph have any way of knowing the mind of God unless God reveals it to us. God revealed the dream of the baker and the butler. Why can't God reveal to Joseph in a dream God's plan for him? But wait, He did. And maybe that's what's sustaining Joseph. Joseph had a dream and, based on God's promise to him, he's able now to go through some pretty difficult times knowing and trusting that God is faithful and one day will deliver him.
The question is, has God revealed anything to you and I? You and I have the word of the prophets made more certain, says Peter. You and I have the revelation of God handed down to us. We have it in writing, the promise of God. Has it not been revealed to us that nothing can snatch us from the hand of the loving Father, that if He is for us, nothing can be against us, that He will never separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus? Do we not have it written down? Have we not had the ultimate dream, the ultimate revelation of the good news of the gospel? 1 Peter 1:3-7 says, “Praise be to the God of our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!
In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. The inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” In other words, we're told that in a lot of the trials that we face, God is accomplishing something extraordinary.
By remaining and allowing God to do His good work in us and bring His plan of salvation to fruition, we prove the genuineness and authenticity of our faith. We prove who we really are. That our faith and trust is in the faithfulness of God. But He also says that there's something special that happens, that through these trials, they will result in a greater praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
If you know the rest of the story, Pharaoh has his own dreams that trouble him. Suddenly the cupbearer does remember Joseph. There's a man in prison that can interpret your dreams. Two years later and you might say, wow, this is two years too late. No, it's the exact time that God had in mind from the beginning. Pharaoh sends for Joseph. Joseph interprets the dreams. There are going to be seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh is so impressed with Joseph that he puts Joseph in charge of all of Egypt.
This is why Joseph is such a great archetype. It appears in the story that Joseph keeps moving down and that all seems lost. But in actuality, all of these things that happened in his life, he wasn't moving down. He was moving up. When Jesus hung the cross, it appeared as though evil was winning, that God had lost control, that the disciples would never recover, that a senseless, meaningless crime had been committed, that a sinless righteous Man had died for no good cause. That's why I said that the cross is brilliant in the mind of God, because it's the perfect example of our lives that, in that moment, when all seems lost, all is won.
So how do we live in a way that is consistent with these truths?
The answer is simple. We keep asking ourselves one question, am I in the place of God? This is the theme throughout the Bible. Most of your problems come when you try to sit in God's chair. The only way to survive is to get out of God's chair. You do what is right and let God determine the outcome. Do not presume to know what is important to God and what is not. You don't have the information, and neither do I. We are not God. Joseph never put himself in God's chair, but simply, faithfully, obeyed believing that God would bring everything together for good.
I don't know what it is that you're dealing with, but I want to cheer you on. Stay the course. Be faithful. One more day, one more hour. You're nearing the shore. The land is near. The promised land is just around the corner. Keep loving, keep serving, keep following, keep trusting and let God do immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine. For when you're in the midst of life's most fierce battle, chances are that's when you're most centered in the will of the Father. And He's about to bring salvation. Though this was meant for evil, God is going to use it for immeasurable good.
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