At the end of part one of this character sketch, Joseph had just been given the second place in the kingdom of Egypt behind Pharaoh. In addition, Pharaoh had given him a new name, a wife, and the job of making sure that Egypt survives the famine that is coming.
Joseph prepares for the famine during the days of plenty. He taxes the people but he doesn’t tax the priests and this isn’t the Levitical priesthood we’re talking about. To clarify, Joseph hasn’t become a pagan, but he does function in the culture that God has put him in, just like Jeremiah told Judah to do during their captivity in Babylon.
THE FAMINE BEGINS
The famine begins just like Joseph said it would. In Canaan there is a little family that God has His eyes on. Jacob tells his sons to go down to Egypt because he has heard that there is food there. If they don’t find food soon they are all going to die, he tells them. When they come before Joseph they don’t recognize him but he immediately recognizes them. Remember, Joseph looks like an Egyptian. Indeed, he even speaks to them through an interpreter, while understanding every word they say. By this time Joseph has learned to be discreet. He has learned that there is a time to reveal secrets and times to keep them to himself.
When they leave after the second visit to get food Joseph has a cup of divination put in Benjamin’s sack. Then he sends his servants out to fetch his cup and bring all his brothers back. He tells his brothers that the one whose sack the cup is found in shall be his slave. Now, Benjamin was the second son of the woman that Jacob loved, Rachel. He is the son that Jacob definitely did not want to lose. Consequently, when they find the cup in Benjamin’s sack, Judah steps up and says, “Don’t take Benjamin, take me instead because if you take him my father will die.” That’s when Joseph sends all of the Egyptians out of the room. He turns to his brothers weeping and says, “I am Joseph your brother.” Why did Joseph wait till then to reveal himself? It’s when he saw their love for the “Father.” When he saw that they loved him just as much as he did, that’s when he knew that the time was right.
So Joseph was put in a pit, sold into slavery, and placed in prison all as part of God’s plan. His being raised to Supreme power was all part of God’s plan. It also means that Joseph, made to look like an Egyptian, given an Egyptian wife who was the daughter of the high priest of sun worship, and given the task to see that this pagan, idolatrous nation survives was also part of God’s plan. Why? This all happened in order that all Israel would be saved (Rom. 11:26). Joseph didn’t have it all figured out until his brothers came walking through the door.
GOD HAS SECRETS
In the life of Joseph God did not reveal all the circumstances that Joseph would have to go through to get to the fulfillment of the dreams God gave him. God has and keeps secrets for a reason. In Proverbs 25:2 it says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.” The Hebrew is interesting here. The word conceal (Hebrew: satar) means to hide with the intention of provoking someone to look for it. The words search out (chaqar) mean to dig beneath the surface. It’s almost like God is playing hide and seek with us.
But sometimes God will keep something from us until the time is right for us to know. For example, we can see the Messiah clearly in the Old Testament, but the people in Paul’s day and those that preceded the Cross couldn’t see it because if they could have “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8). Now if Jesus is not crucified, He is not buried, if He is not buried, He is not resurrected, and if He is not resurrected, we are still in our sins.
So how important do you think it is for God to conceal things until it is time? If Joseph would have known what he was going to have to go through to get to the realization of his dreams he might have run for his life to get away from it all. Then Israel would have perished and the line of Messiah cut off as a result.
TWO STICKS (TREES)
There is one other thing I want us to look at in the life of Joseph that his life represents. Each week at Jewish synagogues all over the world they read what they call a Torah portion. Each Torah portion has a corresponding Haftorah that is kind of like a cross-reference to the original scripture for further study. The Haftorah for the Torah portion concerning Joseph in the book of Genesis is Ezekiel 37:16. The chapter begins with the valley of dry bones representing the whole house of Israel. This passage speaks of Israel becoming a nation again after they were dispersed to all ends of the earth. Amazingly, this prophecy was fulfilled in 1948, almost 2000 years after Israel stopped being a nation.
But beginning in v. 15-22 we see an additional word that God is giving Ezekiel. God tells him to take one stick (tree is a better translation) representing Judah and another stick (tree) representing Joseph and join them together. This of course is talking about Judah and the tribes of the northern kingdom becoming one again.
The Wild Olive Branch
Likewise, there is a passage in the New Testament that is very similar to the one in Ezekiel found in Romans 11:13-26 which speaks of the Gentiles, represented by the wild olive tree, and the Jews, being represented by the natural olive tree. The passage states that partial blindness has come upon the Jews until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. It also speaks of some of the natural branches being broken off and the wild olive tree branches being grafted in. I believe Paul was drawing on his knowledge of the Old Testament when God inspired him to write this and that Joseph, in a spiritual sense, represents the Church as far as the Church being grafted in.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe that the church has replaced Israel in any way. We are, however, children of Abraham by the new birth (Gal. 3:26-29) and just like Joseph we are to be a light to Israel and provoke them to jealousy (Rom. 11:11) causing them to desire the relationship we have with God.
I hope this character sketch of Joseph has been a blessing to you. I also hope that it stirs within you a desire to pray for Israel. Pray that they would recognize that Jesus is their Messiah that they have been waiting for and that He is still reaching out to them.