Joseph: An Unexpected Savior
Merry Christmas, everyone. And this time, I'm sure I got the right day. Thank you all for being here today. You all know how I like to give a Christmas sermon every July to observe the miniature nativity season. It just happens that the next moment of history in the series I am writing fits perfectly with the Christmas theme, even though it takes place before Moses' time. We're going to talk about Joseph's life and how it paints a picture of Jesus.
Let's briefly go over Joseph's story. Joseph had thirteen children by his four wives. He had one daughter, Dinah. He had many sons, including Judah, Levi, Simeon, Zebulun, Isachar, Naphtali, Dan, Gad, Asher and Reuben. But Rachel was the only wife he'd ever truly wanted. While he loved all of his family, it was Rachel who was his one true love.
Like her mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law, Rachel was unable to conceive. When God finally enabled her to bear, she bore Joseph. Joseph was the favorite of Jacob, since the boy was the firstborn of his true love. Rachel would later die giving birth to Benjamin, but this would come much later.
Jacob's parents treated him exceptionally well. Much better than his brothers. They gave him the fabled "Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". Of course, his brothers hated him for jealousy. Joseph also experienced dreams symbolizing a future wherein his siblings and parents would all be subject to his rule. This made his ten brothers hate him all the more. Nine plotted to kill him. If not for Rueben, they would have. Instead, Rueben pursuaded them to sell Joseph into slavery. To cover it up, they took Joseph's coat, smeared it with goat's blood, ripped it up, and brought it back to their father, telling him that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. How ironic that Jacob, who got where he was by using trickery, deception and manipulation, was tricked out of the thing he loved most of all.
Joseph had a horrific time for several years. He worked as a slave in Potiphar's house. He did well in this capacity, but he missed his home, his parents, and even his brothers, despite their betrayal. What little joy he had as Potiphar's slave was taken away by his master's wife, who harassed him sexually. When he spurned her advances, she framed him for rape and had him thrown in prison. It was in prison that Joseph interpereted two prisoners' dreams. The baker's dream that he would be excecuted in three days, and the cupbearer's that he would be restored to Pharoh's court. Both predictions came true, but it wasn't until Pharoh began to suffer nighmares that the cupbearer remembered Joseph. Joseph interpereted the king's nightmares, and in so doing, predicted seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. He advised Pharoh to stockpile food in the years of plenty.
Confident that Joseph was the man to do the job, Pharoh put Joseph in charge of the harvest. In fact, he made him the president of Egypt, subject only to Pharoh himself. He also gave him the name Zaphnath-Paaneah, meaning "The spirit of the gods (or God) is with him."
When the famine hit, it hit in Caanan as well. Jacob's sons came down to Egypt to buy food. They did not recognize Joseph, who was much older, dressed like an Egyptian and speaking Egyptian. Joseph yanked their chains for a while, leading them along to test their character. When his brothers refused to leave without Benjamin (whom Joseph had framed for theft) and Judah offered to take Benjamin's place, Joseph finally revealed his identity. The betrayal by the ten was forgiven, and Joseph asked his brothers to bring the entire family, down to the last grand-nephew, down to Egypt. They settled in the land of Goshen and lived happily ever after. That is, until a new Pharoh enslaved their descendants. But that's another sermon.
Joseph was, in his way, an image of Christ. He was the beloved child of his father. He left a life of ease and comfort and lived in a state of poverty and mistreatment. While Joseph did not die, he was counted as dead, but his death put him in a position to save his family from starvation. Though he had been forcefully stripped of all he had and placed in the position of the lowest slave. Joseph was exalted to a position of glory above all but the pharoh.
Jesus, likewise, enjoyed a luxurious existance as the prince of Heaven. As Joseph was sold into a life of drudgery, so Jesus willingly left His Father's kingdom to be born on Earth into a blue-collar family. Like Joseph, Jesus was mistreated, maligned and btrayed. And just as Joseph's apparent death led to his becoming the savior of all Hebrews, so Jesus' very real death serves as a means of salvation for the entire world. As Joseph rose to become the ruler of the entire Egyptian empire, subject only to the Pharoh, so Jesus went back to his position, second only to His Father. He was restored to an even more exalted position than before. It's hard to imagine a higher position, since He was already God, but now, He was more than just the creator. He is now the savior. Where He was deserving of respect because of what He is, He is now worthy of all love because of what He has done.
Our reading today is Isaiah 53. This is very significant. Anyone who has been following the Fursome Foursome or Oren's Monastery knows that Rabbi Coon, when he was young, was forbidden to read this chapter. This is not something I made up. This is actually true in many synagogues. Because it is a prophecy concerning the Messiah which points undeniably to Jesus, the jews tend to skip over this chapter. The reason for this is because many rabbis fear that if their people read it, they'll convert to Christianity. It's sad, really. A rabbi's first duty is to the truth, even when it's inconvenient. And you know what? They're right! Many, many adherents to the jewish religion have accepted Christ as savior after reading Isaiah 53 once a Christian has led them to the chapter IN THEIR OWN BIBLE.
God loves the Hebrew people. He has expressed again and again how He longs to draw Israel to himself. And while those who claim to speak the truth act to supress it, God has made sure that the jewish bible is full of indicators pointing forward to Jesus. The passover... the caduseus... and here in the story of Joseph, a man's life is used as a canvas to paint a picture of the Lord which has endured through all generations.
We see from these events that God loves His chosen people, both at that moment and for the entirety of the future. This is also the first clear incidence of God's promise to Abraham being fulfilled. God promised that through his children, all the world would be blessed. Because of Israel's favorite son, the nation of Egypt was spared from starvation. Joseph demonstrates God's compassion, mercy and benevolence. In forgiving his brothers, he also mirror's God's forgiving nature. These events also demonstrate God's providence. Using the famine, he moved Israel to the land of Goshen, where they would be able to grow until the day they were able to take the land which the Lord promised to them. And as far as our "river of history" goes, that's exactly what's going on. God is placing Israel and his family into a safe place where they can grow. Goshen was the cradle of Israel, if you will.
So let's rejoice! Not only does God love you so much that He sent His son into the world to redeem you, but He put dozens of pointers throughout history to make sure you knew about it.
Today's Reading: Isaiah 53
53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.