Posts Tagged 'Joseph'

God and Iniquity, Part 1

We hear a lot about sin. Not that we do much about it, mind you. But we hear a lot about it. What we don’t hear a lot about is something called iniquity. It’s used well over 200 times in the Old Testament and often it’s mentioned along with sin.

Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. (Exodus 34:7 | KJV)

The word translated “iniquity” is a Hebrew words that looks like this: avon. And it refers to something that is “bent, twisted or distorted.” An iniquity is a bending, or a twisting or a distortion of God’s law. In the hierarchy of bad behavior, “iniquity” is the worst of all. It’s worse than sin; worse than a transgression. It’s the deliberate planning and scheming to do that which is opposed what God wants. Take a look at now a modern translation translates Exodus 34:7 –

maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:7 | NIV84)

“Rebellion” is a deliberate turning away from the direction God wants you to be going in. That’s a good picture of what “iniquity” is all about. Of course, “sin” is rebellion too, but it’s different.

Sin

One of the best definitions of “sin” is found in a letter the apostle John wrote:

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4 | NIV84)

You may think that sounds a lot like a sin – breaking God’s law – and you wouldn’t be wrong. But it’s worse than that. While every iniquity is sin, there are degrees of punishment for sin and some sins are worthy of greater punishment than others. For example, if you read about God’s law in the Old Testament, if a person commits adultery, their punishment was death. But if a person stole something, the punishment wasn’t nearly as severe.

A classic verse about “sin” is what king David thought about it:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalms 51:5 | NIV84)

At first glance, that looks ridiculous. How could an unborn baby be sinful? He hasn’t done anything yet! But that’s not what sin is all about. Think of “sin” as not necessarily something a person does but rather the state he is in. A sin can be an action, but it’s what every human being is. He is a sinner by default. In the Old Testament, “sin” comes from a Hebrew word that means “missing the mark” or “falling short.” By now you’re likely thinking of a rather famous New Testament verse about “falling short.”

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…(Romans 3:23 | NIV84)

So “sin” is a lawlessness but it’s also part of who every human being is – he isn’t living up to God’s standard.

Transgression

Back in Exodus 34:7, the word “transgression” is mentioned along with sin and iniquity. It’s also mentioned in Psalm 32:5 –

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”–and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalms 32:5 | NIV84)

Those three things – sin, iniquity, and transgression – form the unholy trinity of evil. Like iniquity, a transgression is a sin; it’s the breaking of one of God’s laws. It’s an act, not a state. For example. When you’re out driving around and you drive 60 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone, you are transgressing a law of man. There’s nothing bad about going 60 miles per hour, but when you go against a posted law and do it, you’re transgressing a law. You’ll be punished accordingly, and if you change your driving habits, you’ll never be punished again.

So if you look at what David wrote in Psalm 32:5, knowing the difference between the three members of the trinity of evil, you can see what David was getting at. Jack Wellman brilliantly sums it up like this:

David said he will confess (means agree with) his transgressions (his willful acts of disobedience) to the Lord, and God will forgive the iniquity (his bending, twisting, and distorting of the law that grew in the degrees worthy of greater punishment), of his sin (the transgressions of God’s law).

Over the net few weeks, I’d like to take a closer look at the relationship God has with our iniquities. Let’s begin with the fundamental fact that God finds them. Like it or not, we can’t anything from Him, let alone our iniquities.

And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found. (Genesis 44:16 | KJV)

Famine

It all started with seven skinny cows. You’ll recall that Joseph, the brother who had been sold into Egyptian slavery by his brothers, had risen to the heights of Egyptian polity because the Lord had given the Pharaoh a dream of an impending famine. The poor guy couldn’t make heads or tales of this crazy dream involving these ugly, skinny cows, but Joseph could:

Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon. (Genesis 41:29-32 | NIV84)

Well, what’s a Pharaoh to do with information like that? Again, young Joseph had a solution:

Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine. (Genesis 41:34-36 | NIV84)

What Pharaoh couldn’t possibly know, and what Joseph didn’t understand yet, was that this whole famine – a famine that would impact a large portion of the Middle East – was for the sole purpose of reuniting Joseph with his family. Can you imagine? The lengths that God will go to in an effort to make things right and accomplish His great purposes always astounds me.

Power

From prison to pinnacle in a few verses! That’s the way it is with the Lord sometimes.

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:41-43 | NIV84)

Joseph’s rule over Egypt was very successful. The seven years of extreme prosperity resulted in tons and tons and tons of produce being carefully stored away against the coming famine. During this time, two sons were born to Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim.

While Egypt was ready to face the famine, Canaan wasn’t. Apparently word spread among the people of the eastern Mediterranean that food could be bought in Egypt.

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.” (Genesis 42:1-2 | NIV84)

These brothers of Joseph were a supine, useless lot with no ambition and even less initiative. But they made the journey. It had been some 20 hears since Joseph had seen them. He recognized them but they were clueless about him. Of course, now Joseph was no longer a young, gangly teen. He was grown man, around 40 years of age, dressed professionally and clean shaven. And Joseph wasn’t a fool. He knew his brothers. He would take this occasion to test them. Over the course of two visits, Joseph treated his brothers very, very harshly. His purpose in this test was to see if his brothers had changed in the intervening two decades. Joseph demanded that if the brothers ever needed to come back to buy more food, they would have to bring Benjamin with them. He was the youngest and stayed back home with Jacob.

The famine ravaged on, and it was time to go back to Egypt to buy some more food. Jacob didn’t want Benjamin to go, but he reluctantly gave in and this time he sent his whole brood to Egypt for a supply of groceries. At first, Joseph treated his brothers royally, and especially young Benjamin.

When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him. (Genesis 43:34 | NIV84)

Now it was time to test his brother’s intergrity. Had they changed? Or were they the same shiftless, scheming, good-for-nothing, no account fools that had beat him up and sold him into slavery? He had Benjamin falsely accused of purloining an expensive silver cup.

Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. (Genesis 44:12 | NIV84)

Of course, Joseph arranged to have the cup put there for the purpose of the test. The punishment for this was death. What would these brothers do? Once before they were willing to sacrifice one of their own regardless of the pain it would cause their father. Would they do it again? Or had they changed. Apparently they had changed. The brothers refused to abandon Benjamin, and Judah, the very brother who was responsible for selling Joseph into slavery, stepped forward and in one of the most touching speeches in literature, offered his life for Benjamin’s. It’s not unimportant nor co-incidental that centuries later, a descendant of Judah would offer His life so that others could live.

And that’s the background to the verse that started this whole thing: Genesis 44:16 –

And Judah said, What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants: behold, we are my lord’s servants, both we, and he also with whom the cup is found. (Genesis 44:16 | KJV)

The sentence that we need to look at is this: “God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants.” The NIV84 translates it slightly differently: “God has uncovered your servant’s guilt.”

“Iniquity” involves “guilt,” but just what were the brothers guilty of? Think about that for a minute. They certainly weren’t guilty of stealing the cup! That was a trick. These brothers were guilty of nothing. Except for something they had done two decades earlier. Something they thought they had “gotten away with.” But in truth, nobody gets away with anything. God will always – always – uncover or “find out” a sinner’s iniquities. You can’t hide anything from God. Adam and Eve tried that. Earlier in the book of Genesis, we read this exchange after Adam and Eve sinned:

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid. (Genesis 3:9-10 | NIV84)

And man has been hiding his iniquities – his sins – ever since. God knows what you  and I are guilty of, even if we have managed to hide our actions from everybody on earth. God knows and one day, all will be laid bare for the universe to see. God knows your iniquities and He uncovers them.

 

 

 

 

A Real Prince

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Joseph led interesting life. It was a “long and winding road” that got him from his highly dysfunctional family to the throne in Egypt. If we could pinpoint the main theme of Joseph’s life, it would have to be this: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Did you know that’s a Biblical attitude? It is, both in the Old and the New Testaments:

As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil, for he brought me to this high position I have today so that I could save the lives of many people. (Genesis 50:20 TLB)

And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans. (Romans 8:28 TLB)

Joseph’s life story begins in Genesis 37 but is interrupted by the events of chapter 38, which tells the story of a man, Judah, who is the complete antithesis of Joseph. It’s a good contrast that serves to show the sterling character of a unique man.

When we first meet Jacob’s favorite son, we see a typical spoiled child. His brothers were jealous of him because his father favored him. Joseph also had a talent they didn’t have – he could actually interpret a person’s dreams. This just added to the hostile feelings the brothers had toward him. Because of this dysfunctional family environment, a series of negative events overtook Joseph and he wound up in a dismal Egyptian prison. But Joseph was a young man with not only a positive outlook on life, but he also had faith. He had faith enough to spare. That faith, coupled with the fact that in spite of Joseph’s terrible circumstances God had a plan for this young man’s life, led to an unbelievable, sudden turn of events that brought Joseph from the pit of a forgotten prison cell to the pinnacle of the throne room in one of the great nations of the ancient world.

Genesis 39:1 – 12

Joseph was as different from his brothers as day is from night. Just look at how his brothers reacted to stressful situations and compare that to Joseph. When faced with bad situations or unfortunate circumstances, his brothers always reacted in the most negative ways you can think of;  jealousy, deceit, lust, immorality, and hatred were their favorite ways of dealing with anything or anybody that challenged them or their way of life.

Joseph, in contrast, was a young man of almost super human moral strength who never yielded to feelings of bitterness, self-pity, or even despair. Rather, he maintained a positive, cheerful outlook and in every – every – situation he faced, Joseph demonstrated his absolute and unshakable faith in God.

Because his brothers’ hatred, Joseph had been sold into slavery and taken to the land of Egypt. The prospects for this seventeen year old young man were nil. At least that’s how it looked. God, though, was in control and had plans for young Joseph.

The Lord greatly blessed Joseph there in the home of his master, so that everything he did succeeded. Potiphar noticed this and realized that the Lord was with Joseph in a very special way. (Genesis 39:2, 3 TLB)

Joseph had been purchased by Potiphar, an official in Pharaoh’s court. It became obvious even to a pagan like Potiphar that “the Lord was with Joseph.” As happens with God’s people when they are living right and thinking right regardless of where they are, God blessed Joseph and that blessing overflowed and benefitted the entire household of Potiphar. There’s a lesson here for Christians. Our obedience to God not only helps us, but it also impacts those around us.

Life was good for Joseph and Potiphar’s family. But things were about to change.

One day at about this time Potiphar’s wife began making eyes at Joseph, and suggested that he come and sleep with her. (Genesis 39:7 TLB)

Potiphar trusted Joseph in every way; the young man had the full run of the house and was in charge of his master’s personal life. Joseph was a busy young man.  Potiphar’s wife was also busy! But Joseph, exercising that super human morality, resisted her constant temptations. What a contrast to Judah, the man in the previous chapter.

So he stopped and propositioned her to sleep with him, not realizing of course that she was his own daughter-in-law. (Genesis 38:16 TLB)

Potiphar’s marriage was probably not the best to begin with, but even in a land full of idolatry, Joseph maintained his integrity and his high view of marriage:

Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in the entire household; he himself has no more authority here than I have! He has held back nothing from me except you yourself because you are his wife. How can I do such a wicked thing as this? It would be a great sin against God. (Genesis 39:8, 9 TLB)

Joseph was right about that. Adultery, or any sexual sin, is not only a sin against another person or persons, but it is also a sin against God.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 NKJV)

The time-worn phrase, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” was given originally in the context of sexual sin. You don’t commit that sin because your body is where the Spirit of God resides. It has nothing to do with smoking, alcohol, or fatty foods. Sexual sins are the only sins a Christian is told to “flee” from. Albert Barnes’ comments on this are worth a look:

Flee fornication – A solemn command of God – as explicit as any that thundered from Mount Sinai. None can disregard it with impunity – none can violate it without being exposed to the awful vengeance of the Almighty. There is force and emphasis in the word “flee” φεύγατε pheugate. Man should escape from it; he should not stay to reason about it; to debate the matter; or even to contend with his propensities, and to try the strength of his virtue. There are some sins which a man can resist; some about which he can reason without danger of pollution. But this is a sin where a man is safe only when he flies.

Well, Joseph did just this and he ended up in prison.

Genesis 39:13 – 23

Falsely accused, our moral stalwart was tossed into prison for a crime he didn’t commit. It happens sometimes; life doesn’t treat you fairly. It was a case of “he said, she said,” and of course Potiphar sided with his wife even though he probably didn’t believe her. Joseph was, after all, just a slave.

Joseph never once failed God. You can’t say that about the rest of his family! Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob continually fell short of God’s expectations. They continued to have faith in God, though. But Joseph remains the classic example of a believer in God who actually lived what he believed.

It was a bad scene, to be sure. And it was unfair. But Joseph maintained his integrity and his faith even while in prison. And he even kept up his positive and cheerful attitude.

But the Lord was with Joseph there, too, and was kind to him by granting him favor with the chief jailer. (Genesis 39:21 TLB)

Here’s another important verse to remember. A good attitude and keeping a check on your actions are vitally important, but will get you only so far. Joseph’s good rapport with the chief jailer was made possible by the Lord.

Genesis 41:1 – 13

Because of a lie, Joseph spent two years in prison. Imagine that. How would you feel if your whole life was derailed – put on hold – for two years because somebody told a lie about you. Well, Joseph instinctively knew God had not forgotten him. Others might have, but God hadn’t. God had a plan for this young man, and neither a lie nor a cuckold husband was going to stop it from coming to pass. In fact, that’s the central theme of chapter 41, as expressed by Joseph in verse 32:

…God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon.

That was spoken by Joseph in regards to a dream he interpreted while in prison. That was something Joseph did to pass the time. He interpreted the dreams of a butler and a baker in the previous chapter, and now in this chapter, he’s going to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:14 – 32

Pharaoh was greatly troubled by his dreams but was greatly impressed by what the butler said abut a former cell mate of his:

And it came to pass, just as he interpreted for us, so it happened. He restored me to my office, and he hanged him. (Genesis 4:11 NKJV)

So Pharaoh sent for Joseph. We have to give Joseph some credit. In Pharaoh’s presence, Joseph didn’t take credit for being an expert dream interpreter; he gave the full credit to God. Unlike the pagan diviners that worked for Pharaoh, Joseph did not claim to have any innate ability to interpret dreams or to make predictions. He regarded this “ability” he possessed as a gift from God. The dreams that Pharaoh had were no problem to interpret:

“Both dreams mean the same thing,” Joseph told Pharaoh. “God was telling you what he is going to do here in the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:25 TLB)

The dreams concerned what God was about to do to Egypt. The “one true God” was about to do something to Pharaoh’s domain. Joseph used the Hebrew word for God, ha Elohim, which denotes His distinctiveness. In the land of many, many gods, Joseph’s “one true God” was about to act on His own. This kind of testimony took a lot of courage to give.

The meaning of those dreams, too, took a lot of courage to give. A devastating famine was about to hit Egypt. It would be so bad and last so long that people would forget about what life was like before the drought and famine.

The double dream gives double impact, showing that what I have told you is certainly going to happen, for God has decreed it, and it is going to happen soon. (Genesis 41:32 TLB)

Genesis 41:33 – 45

Well, here we go again. Joseph is not only released from prison, but he gets promoted. Based on past experience, I might be a little leery about this promotion! But I’m not Joseph, and God is the one who ultimately in control. The promotion, though, was based, not on the interpretation of the dreams, but on the added advice Joseph gave Pharaoh –

My suggestion is that you find the wisest man in Egypt and put him in charge of administering a nationwide farm program. Let Pharaoh divide Egypt into five administrative districts, and let the officials of these districts gather into the royal storehouses all the excess crops of the next seven years, so that there will be enough to eat when the seven years of famine come. Otherwise, disaster will surely strike. (Genesis 41:33 – 36 TLB)

We call that Reaganomics, but it was the Lord’s word to the Pharaoh through Joseph.

Turning to Joseph, Pharaoh said to him, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, you are the wisest man in the country! I am hereby appointing you to be in charge of this entire project. What you say goes, throughout all the land of Egypt. I alone will outrank you.” (Genesis 41:39, 40 TLB)

Genesis 41:46 – 52

It had been 13 years since Joseph landed in Egypt as a slave. For some three years of that time he was in prison. But now Joseph is second only to the Pharaoh in the land of Egypt. How did that happen? Of course, God was the One who was in control of not only Joseph’s life, but he was also in control of the land of Egypt, regardless of what Potiphar or Pharaoh thought. So, ultimately, Joseph was where he was because God wanted him there. But there may be another reason, that also shows how God works in history.

The Pharaoh at this time was actually one of the Hyksos kings. He was not a native Egyptian. The Hyksos were Bedouins, who lived in the Arabian desert. They were a nomadic people who, for some time, had come into Egypt and took over its throne. This would make the Pharaoh at this time closer in nationality to Joseph than to the Egyptians. In other words, there would have been a kind kinship between Pharaoh and Joseph. This may explain Pharaoh’s kindly disposition toward Joseph. Only God could make that happen!

The Hyksos were eventually expelled from the land of Egypt, which explains this verse:

Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. (Exodus 1:8 NKJV)

There’s no denying that Joseph was a special individual. He was a man whose life was order by the Lord and anointed by Him. And through all of life’s ups and downs, Joseph remained completely committed to God.

HEBREWS: THE DOCTRINE OF FAITH, PART 3

The Futurists

Very little is said in the Bible about the faith of the Patriarchs, but what is said is significant: each had a faith that looked beyond death. The thing that distinguishes the faith of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph is their unshakable conviction that nothing, not even death, could frustrate the plans of God. Their faith in the future was so strong that they spoke with confidence of what would happen after they died. Without exception, their faith was stronger than death and their prophetic words were fulfilled. In a sense, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses’ parents were the original futurists! Verse 13 is the verse that best describes these people:

They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.

The Greek verb behind “did not receive” means none of the patriarchs or Moses’ parents were in possession of the promises. But because they had faith, they could “see” the promise at a distance; they knew it was coming closer but that they also knew they wouldn’t live long enough to see come to fruition. Each of these “futurists” looked to the future through eyes of faith. But they never denied the reality the present.

1. The faith of Isaac, Hebrews 11:20

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.

The one who has faith possesses  both the eyes of the prophet and a quiet confidence in the future of God’s people. Isaac’s example of faith demonstrates this. His faith in blessing Jacob and Esau when he spoke of their future is such a classic picture of Biblical faith and its willingness to trust in God’s Word. This willingness is understandable, given his past. Isaac was probably in his early 30’s when his father Abraham was prepared to offer him on the altar. Isaac’s willingness to trust was demonstrated even back then by allowing his father to bind him upon an altar. The story of Isaac’s blessing is found in Genesis 27:27—29 and 39—40. The author of this letter glosses over the details of how each son was blessed; he’s not interested in details, he’s interested only in showing Isaac’s willingness to demonstrate his faith in the future. With each blessing, Isaac spoke out of a firm confidence that God’s promises could not possibly faith. The blessings themselves are quite different, but the important thing is to notice Isaac’s faith and the fact that the patriarch’s faith spoke of marvelous blessings that would not be fulfilled until the far, far future. Isaac had an unwavering trust in God and God’s plan for his sons and he was not afraid to voice to his faith.

Isaac was an unremarkable person for most of his life. He was a man who dug wells everywhere he went. That was his claim to fame: digging wells all over the Middle East. The only thing that really distinguishes this otherwise milquetoast man is the truly remarkable demonstration of faith at the very end of his life.

2. The faith of Jacob, Hebrews 11:21

By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Josephs sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.

The story of Jacob’s faith in blessing the sons of Joseph is seen in Genesis 48, and like Isaac, the blessing went against the natural order of birth. Sometimes faith insists that you do something like that. Remember, God’s ways are not always our ways. Sometimes faith opposes the human way of doing things. Both Isaac and Jacob showed genuine faith in recognizing that it was God’s will to give the greater blessing to the younger son, and the fathers both accepted God’s sovereign plan and went with it; they did not resist it.

Jacob’s life is perhaps one that exemplifies human nature in all its dubious glory. Had it not been for the grace of God, Jacob would have most certainly been a lost soul. He was a thoroughly disreputable character.

So Jacob is not only the picture of Biblical faith, but also of the dreadful human condition. From his birth, Jacob was one who was always struggling, always trying to “get ahead” by hook or by crook. Jacob was a deceiver; he was a con man who who was always working some angle to get something, even it was wrestling with God!

Jacob’s life proves the old proverb: the sins of the father are visited upon the children. Or as we might say, “what goes around comes around.” As Jacob was a smooth operator, so his sons deceived him and broke his heart.

But near the end of his life, he finally demonstrated obedience and faith. He blessed Joseph’s sons as a sign that he was looking ahead to the future fulfillment of God’s promises. Even though famine had forced Jacob and his family to emigrate to Egypt, his ties to the Promised Land remained and his confidence in the Word of God remained.

But what about the fact that Jacob blessed Joseph’s sons while leaning on a staff? Why does the Bible go out of its way to mention that? Jacob was handicapped; for years after he wrestled with God he needed a staff so he could walk. Even with his death just around the corner, old Jacob would not rest and face it lying down! The fact is, Jacob never stopped struggling. His life was a life of sin and deception, chicanery and craftiness. His life blessed no one. But his death did.

The profound lesson from Jacob’s faith is that it’s never too late; God can take any life and straighten it out. Somewhere in the dark crevasses of his heart, Jacob had a measure of faith that, perhaps, lay dormant for most of his life. But when it counted, the faith rose to the occasion and old Jacob was able to lay hold of God and God’s promises.

4. The faith of Joseph, Hebrews 11:22

By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.

Technically Joseph is not considered to be a patriarch, but had it not been for Joseph, it’s hard to imagine there ever being a nation called Israel.

This man’s faith, like that of Isaac and Jacob, looked far beyond his death. The reference is Genesis 50:24, 25—

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

At the time of his death, there was no indication that the Hebrew people would be leaving Egypt any time soon, but in faith Joseph knew there would come a day when they would leave and he did not want any of his mortal remains left in Egypt. At the time Joseph uttered his prophetic words, the Israelites were contentedly settled in Goshen, decades before the terrible time of oppression. But Joseph was a futurist. He knew he would not leave Egypt alive, but he also knew God would eventually lead His people back to the Land of Promise.

5. The faith Moses’ parents, Hebrews 11:23

By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

The king’s edict was that every male infant should be cast in the Nile River, effectively drowning them (Exodus 1:22). But Moses’ parents defied that terrible edict, not because they loved their son more than other parents loved their sons, but because they “saw he was no ordinary child.” Now, every parent thinks their baby is the most exceptional baby ever born and that their infant is smarter, further advanced, and more genetically perfect than any other infant, but the Greek word asteios, usually translated “beautiful,” is perhaps better rendered “princely.” But what exactly does that mean? These parents, futurists, somehow had prophetic insight that this child, this strangely beautiful child, had a special destiny to fulfill and that he must, against all odds, survive. It was the purpose of the king to weaken the Israelites by causing the death of their baby boys, but this one—this princely baby—had to live, and it was up to his parents to make that happen.

His parents kept their baby at home for as long as they could, then one fateful day they placed him in an ark of bulrushes on the Nile, instead of in the Nile. In faith, they let their precious baby boy go, in hopes that he might live. As painful as that must have been, these parents trusted the future to God, whose love they trusted at least as much as their own for their son. They knew that God had a plan for him and that somehow God would preserve his life. And God did just that, in a way no Hollywood screenwriter could have conceived!

Moses’ parents refused to be bullied by the threat of Pharaoh. They stood against the law of the land and they set a pattern for the people of God forever.

People who possess real Biblical faith are futurists in the truest sense. They live in the present, but their hope is in the future. But they know the future isn’t set by other people or by the state, but by God and His unshakable promises. They are the optimists in the pew. They are the cheerful individuals who, no matter what’s going around them, are convinced that God is control and they always live above the circumstances, not under them.

(c)  2012 WitzEnd

Joseph: A Picture of Christ

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Introduction

Studying the life of Joseph, we are struck the many similarities between his remarkable life and that of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Very often, in God’s providence, He gives us examples to help understand spiritual truths. In this respect, we may say that Joseph is a type of Christ. By studying his life, we can better understand the life of Jesus.

Like Jesus, Joseph was despised and rejected; he was a man of sorrow and well acquainted with grief. Like Jesus, Joseph was cast away by men, yet exalted by God to become a Prince.

It is interesting to observe that in all the dark times Joseph endured, good things were happening as well. When demons tempted Christ, the angels strengthened him. God always gives a way of escape for His suffering children, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Every single trial endured for Christ will bring about more grace and more blessings from heaven.

1. Joseph was hated by his brothers, but loved by his father, Gen. 37:3, 4

Like Christ, Joseph came to his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet, of note is that while his brothers wanted nothing to do with Joseph, and in fact they despised him, Joseph’s father loved him greatly. And so it was with Jesus. Our heavenly Father was “very pleased” with His Son.

This should be a wonderful consolation to believers. There are times when we may face “persecution” as we live our faith, or we may have to live with the jeers and taunts of family members who don’t understand our faith or devotion of Christ and His Word.

2. He was hated for his words but honored for his vision, Gen. 37:8, 9

Joseph’s words of wisdom and the revelation of his dreams were considered offensive by his brothers. How they hated Joseph! Yet, Joseph shared his visions because they were the very manifestations of God’s will!

Stephen was hated and stoned to death by men; but God opened heaven in a wondrous vision for him.

We as believers might be hated more for our words if we were more like Joseph or Jesus, faithfully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel as revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

If the Word is not proclaimed then the visions will cease and that which we have learned will become stale and formal.

3. Joseph was cast into a dark pit, Gen. 37:24

The teaching of the Bible is very clear, especially in the case of Job. The ungodly, even Satan himself, can have no power over us except it be given them by God the Father. The fire could not touch Daniel and his friends in the furnace, because their task was not yet completed for the Lord.

Paul and Silas were thrown into a prison, but there was nothing that could take the joy from their hearts or come between them and their fellowship with God. As they praised God, the prison released them.

Christ was cast into the pit of death, but He triumphed over death, hell and the grave. There is nothing to fear.

4. Joseph was sold as a slave, but he late prospered, Gen. 37:28; 39:2

Like Jesus, Joseph became of “no reputation,” becoming a slave. But he would become a prince; a prosperous man. The man who does the will of God always prospers. John 17:4 says,

I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

Sold for 30 pieces of silver, yet of incalculable worth, our Lord did all that He was to do. So it is with us, it doesn’t matter what value the world may put on the servant of God or upon their work, whoever works for God will prosper because he pleases God.

5. Joseph was falsely accused, yet the Lord was with him, Gen. 39:7—23

Many unrighteous and blasphemous charges were brought against Jesus Christ. The pure in heart will not only see God, but often they suffer for His sake. If your heart is right and you pursue God with your whole heart, at some point, you will be challenged. Matthew 5:11—12 says,

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

6. Joseph was neglected by the butler, yet remembered by his master,

Joseph was forgotten by his cell mate, but the Lord remembered him. Paul wrote to the Romans,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.—8:28

You don’t have to be discouraged, even when it seems like those you may have helped have forgotten you. No good deed goes unnoticed by God! The Lord knows where His faithful ones are. The Lord needs no letters of commendation!

As co-laborers for Christ, let us all be faithful wherever we are, even if it seems as though you in dark, damp, forgotten dungeon. The true servant of God is always prepared for the pit or the pinnacle. Let us, In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.


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