Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Joseph & Jesus (part 2 of 2)

Though sold into Egypt as a slave, we know that Joseph did not remain a slave. He first found favor in the house of Potiphar, and then found favor in the eyes of the warden of the prison into which he had been unjustly cast. Finally, due to God’s gift of dream interpretation, Joseph found favor in the eyes of Pharaoh. Owing to the Spirit that was to be found in Joseph, Pharaoh said to him, “Because God has enabled you to know all this, there is no one as wise and discerning as you are! You will oversee my household, and all my people will submit to your commands. Only I, the king, will be greater than you” (Genesis 41:39b-40).

Thoughts of Jesus should not be too far removed from our mind upon reading these words of Pharaoh. What do we find in the Ephesians letter? “And God put all things under Christ’s feet, and He gave Him to the church as head over all things” (1:22). This is so because the great and powerful God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above every rule and authority and power and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come” (1:20b-21). There was a people of God, a household of faith, chosen “in Christ before the foundation of the world” (1:4a). It is these people, identified by their adherence to the Gospel, and their submission to its claim that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, that faithfully submit to the commands of Jesus to love one another and to preach the message of the Gospel, through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

Returning to the book of Genesis, we find that “Joseph was thirty years old when he began serving Pharaoh” (41:46a). Likewise, Jesus was presumed to have been about thirty years old (Luke 3:23), when He begins to make His presence felt among His people in service of His Father. It is written that “Joseph was commissioned by Pharaoh and was in charge of all the land of Egypt” (41:46b). When Jesus appeared, He did so with the announcement that “the kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15b). To this, Jesus added that it was time to “Repent and believe the Gospel” (1:15c). In His day, the people would have known that word “Gospel” to refer to proclamations concerning Caesar, concerning the then ruler of the world, concerning the one called lord and savior. For His people, the connection of “Gospel” with “kingdom of God” was an unmistakable reference to the time of their God’s action on behalf of His people, to restore national Israel to sovereignty and independence, and to set Israel and its messiah-king over all nations. The call to believe the Gospel was to believe in the Lordship of God’s Messiah, in complete trust that God was fulfilling His covenant promises through that Messiah; and that this Messiah, as ruler of the people and nation that was destined to rule all peoples, had now been given charge of all the land.

Looking again at the life of Joseph, we see that “While the famine was over all the earth, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians. The famine was severe throughout the land of Egypt” (41:56). Joseph limited the provision of grain to the land of Egypt only. Turning to Jesus, we think about the fact that even though the entire world was gripped in the famine of the effects of death, and though all the world was in need of His touch and His healing presence, in the Gospels we find Jesus confining His ministry to the area of the land of Israel. However, returning to Genesis, we go on to see that “People from every country came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain because the famine was severe throughout the earth” (41:57). Similarly, though Jesus first instructed His disciples to direct their own ministries to the house of Israel, His parting commandment was to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a), and that they were to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8b).

Because Egypt was the one place in the region that had food (as indicated by people from every country coming to Egypt to buy grain), Egypt would have ascended in its might and power. Just as we are able to read that the people of Egypt sold their livestock, their lands, and even themselves in order to obtain food from Joseph’s hand, so too could we expect the people from other countries to be doing the same types of things. Because Joseph held such great power, being a ruler of Egypt and second only to Pharaoh, when the people would come to buy grain, they would bow down to him. We know this to be the case because, though they were sons of a wealthy and powerful man, “Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the ground” (42:6b).
Not only do we see this administration of grain to many nations at the hands of Joseph as yet another fulfillment of God’s covenant to bless the families of the earth through Abraham’s family, but more importantly, we are pointed to Jesus, as “the bread of life” (John 6:35a). As we can see in the case of Joseph’s brothers, throughout the duration of the famine, people had to come to Egypt multiple times to obtain their sustenance; but Jesus said “The one whom comes to Me will never go hungry” (6:35b). Additionally, we are directed to the letter to the Philippians, where it is said “that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow---in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (2:10). Not only will they bow, but all will acknowledge His power and His rule---just as many did before Joseph in acknowledgment of the power and growing rule of Pharaoh and of Egypt---and submit to the authority of His kingdom, when all are made to hear “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”

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