Monday, November 30, 2009

Joseph: From Privilege to Suffering to Exaltation

The story of Joseph is one of my favorites in the Bible. It’s appropriate to consider for Advent for several reasons. First, it’s a story of innocent suffering followed by exaltation. Secondly, it’s one of the great stories of forgiveness in the Bible. And finally, the story of Joseph demonstrates the Providence of God, always at work in the circumstances of our lives. All of these point us to the coming of Christ and the salvation He brings us, so I’ll consider each briefly.

Joseph was his father Jacob’s favorite son. (Remember how Jacob loved Rachel and was tricked into marrying Leah? Well, Joseph was the oldest son of his favorite wife, Rachel.) As the favorite, he was a son of privilege. His father lavished gifts upon him like the famous coat of many colors. Joseph also knew he was destined to rule. He had everything going for him until that is he was sold into slavery by his brothers. In like manner, our Lord who existed in the “form of God” and had everything He could ever want, willingly made Himself of no reputation and took the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7). Throughout his time of servitude Joseph, like Christ, remained obedient to God even through periods of great suffering. When Joseph is wrongfully imprisoned he is silent just as our Lord, “as a sheep before its shearers is silent, opened not his mouth,” when He was accused of blasphemy and then crucified for our sins. Both stories have a happy ending as well. Joseph is exalted by God and placed second in command to Pharoah in Egypt. His dream of ruling over his brothers comes true when they come to him for grain and bow to him. Christ conquers both sin and death in the resurrection and now sits at the right hand of God in heaven. We know every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10-11).

The story of Joseph is also one of the great stories of forgiveness in the Bible. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and wicked in their dealings with Joseph, some of the brothers even wanting to murder him, before agreeing to sell him into slavery. What’s more they were deceitful and unloving to their father and younger brother Benjamin when they made it look like a wild animal had killed Joseph by smearing his coat of many colors with goat blood and tearing it and taking it to their father. If this happened today, these young men would deserve life sentences, would they not? They didn’t deserve Joseph’s forgiveness, not they ever thought they would need it. But, this is why the story of Joseph should point us toward the coming of Christ and the forgiveness of sins we can have through the shedding of His blood. None of us is deserving of the forgiveness God gives us, yet He is so merciful to us that He removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west! (Psalm 103:12) Joseph found it in his heart to forgive his brothers, not because they deserved it, but because he understood the Providence of God. My favorite quote in all of Genesis is at the very end of the book after Jacob dies and Joseph’s brothers are afraid Joseph will get his revenge on them now. They beg Joseph for his forgiveness and fall on their faces before him. Joseph says to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive”. (Genesis 50:19-20)

Joseph understood about the Providence of God, how God works in the circumstances of our lives to will and to do His good pleasure. He knew that nothing that had happened to him had happened by accident. He fully trusted God that He would work out His plan. This is evidenced by how he talks to his brothers about their guilt. “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Then again, “And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance, so now it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:4-7)

As we celebrate Advent, I hope the story of Joseph helps us look more clearly at Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)


  1. I am so enjoying your Advent series! And I love Joseph. We studied Genesis last year at CBS and it really opened my eyes to the parallels between Joseph and Jesus. It is so amazing how the Old Testament points to a coming Savior.

  2. One of my favorite people in the bible to study. can't wait to do this one with the kids :)

  3. Amy- yes, isn't it amazing how you start to see the whole Bible is about Christ?

    Debi- I love Joseph, too! Can't wait to hear how it goes!



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.