We’re learning about the story of Joseph in the Old Testament this week, whose brothers sold him to slave traders. He was eventually imprisoned, and seemed to have a life that kept going downhill, until he was released from jail to help the King of Egypt, Pharoah, interpret a dream. He became Pharoah’s right hand man in ration planning before a famine. Eventually his brothers came looking to buy food from Egypt. The brothers didn’t recognize Joseph as the prince, and here’s what happened next:
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. (Genesis 45:1-3 ESV)
So they went up out of Egypt and came to the land of Canaan to their father Jacob. And they told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.” And his heart became numb, for he did not believe them. But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (Genesis 45:25-28 ESV)
There is meaning in this story as we look backwards, and forwards.
First, looking back, Joseph’s father is Jacob, a scoundrel who impersonated and stole from his brother. Jacob’s direct encounter with God changed him to a humble man with a new name, Israel. God shows him mercy, and then his brother shows him mercy. Now we see his sons carrying on the legacy of jealousy and hatred…except for one…Joseph, who seems to have taken on Jacob’s best qualities. God can work with just one…it’s all he needs to change the world, and he does.
Looking forward, here’s what happened next:
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21 ESV)
There is a beautiful line here: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
This doesn’t mean everything that happens to you is something God likes, and did intentionally for someone else’s benefit even though it hurts you. I think this is a statement about God’s ability to redeem the ways humanity hurt and destroy one another.
God redeemed this situation in many ways.
Relationally he healed the rift between Joseph and his family. Relationships are healed. People are released from guilt, loneliness, fear of being found out, etc.
Secondly, the nation of Israel is once again intact. Jacob/Israel knows his legacy is secure with a son like Joseph in a position of power. Even though they were starving with few resources, he now knows they will survive this famine.
In fact, Joseph eventually establishes his family in Egypt. Sadly it doesn’t last…the ultimately end up slaves there after Joseph is long forgotten by a new king. But that sets the stage for the Exodus, the pivotal event in Israel’s history, that we’ll study for several weeks starting next week.
But more importantly – this sets the stage for Jesus to come into our world.
Question: How does this set the stage for Jesus?