Bible Studies on the Real Heroes of the Faith Hebrews 11
Part 9: Joseph Part 1 – The BIG prophetic picture

By I Gordon

Well, we’ve been talking about the heroes of the faith and what a life our next ‘hero’ had! He is one that knew the valley’s and peaks of life well. He knew rejection, he knew fame. He knew both slavery and kingship. He had experienced the pit as well as the palace. Out of all the characters in the book of Genesis more is written about this one than any other. I’m speaking of course about Joseph who experienced amazing highs and tremendous lows and had a whole life of walking by faith. Like Daniel, Joseph is one of the few characters in the Bible where nothing bad is written. And I mean nothing... which is quite remarkable given the amount of detail that is written about him. If it was you or me... well, I think we both know they’d find something and not have to look too far! Especially you! But not so with this man Joseph.

Approximately half of Genesis is taken up with the stories concerning Abraham and Joseph. But the narrative concerning this man Joseph is the longest of all. Which makes me wonder why? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Moses to write more about Joseph than any other? We’ll come back to that! So what examples of faith do you think of when you think of his life? Imagine being sold into slavery by your own brothers at only 17 years of age. He was required to live by faith very early on. Down in Egypt, he started to excel in Potiphar’s home. So much so that he caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife who tried to seduce him. Yet Joseph’s faith and commitment to God stood strong and so she told a lie about Joseph and he was thrown into prison. There his faith was tested again. The Psalmist, speaking of Joseph’s time in prison, says

Psalms 105:18-19 they afflicted his feet with fetters, He himself was laid in irons; (19) Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him.

Of course the word of the Lord given to Joseph as a young man would come true but until it did his faith was severely tested. And yet his faith shone strong and in the right time he was exalted from prison to power – from the pit to the position of authority at the right hand of Pharaoh. But even then in this position of power he still had to live and rule through faith as there were extremely challenging times. Not least of which was the 7 year famine that hit the entire region. So there are many times of faith in the life of Joseph, I wonder which act of faith the author of Hebrews is going to focus on... which one is the most important in such a rollercoaster life?

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.

Argh, yeah, ok then... that’s obviously the one I thought they’d go to! Joseph, at the time of his death, spoke about the exodus and gave instructions concerning his bones. That, is seems, was the most important thing in Joseph’s life to focus on concerning faith. Is this a mistake or are we not seeing the full significance of these words just yet? Maybe, just maybe, God appreciates and focuses on things we often overlook!

Now this study will be in two parts. We will look at what we can learn personally from what Joseph went through next time, but today is more the prophetic than the personal. It is a BIG picture sermon. I kept thinking of that initial question – why is there more written about Joseph than any other in Genesis? So let’s start with a survey of Joseph’s life.

Overview of the life of Joseph – Read carefully and think!

The Bible tells us that Joseph was Jacob’s most loved son. But his bothers hated him for it. Things came to a head when Joseph revealed prophetically to both his brothers and parents that he would one day rule and they would bow down to him. So his brothers conspired against him. Wanting to kill him, they betrayed and sold him into the hands of gentiles for a few measly silver coins. Joseph was taken as a slave into Egypt where his master’s wife tried to seduce him. He was tempted by her day after day the Bible says but didn’t sin. He simply replied ‘how can I do this wicked thing and sin against God?’ She then bore false witness against him and he was falsely judged and thrown into prison. There, with the king’s cupbearer and baker who had offended the king, Joseph declared that one of them would live and one would die. And so it was, for the king restored the cupbearer but the baker was put to death. Joseph himself was then raised from this prison and was exalted to the right hand of Pharaoh. Everyone in the land was commanded to bow the knee to Joseph and he ruled Egypt on Pharaoh’s behalf. Upon his exaltation Joseph, though Jewish, took a Gentile bride. And he ruled with great wisdom. Eventually though, a time of great difficulty came. It was a 7 year period of tremendous famine that affected all the earth. It caused people from all lands to come to Joseph to save them because the times were so hard. Among those were Joseph’s own Jewish brothers, the sons of Jacob - the very ones that had despised and rejected him all those many years before. Joseph knew them but they didn’t recognise him. Their eyes were blinded as to who this great leader actually was! They didn’t realise it was that brother of theirs that they had no time for. But through the great difficulty of this time and with circumstances not going well for them, an interesting thing happened in the hearts of Joseph’s brothers. They started to think about what they had done to their brother Joseph 22 years before. A guilty conscience testified against them. So much so that they said "We are truly guilty concerning our brother... Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us." And before long Joseph could not hold himself any longer! But we great amazement and weeping he revealed his identity to his brothers as they too wept and hugged and were reconciled.

Why tell this story in such detail? Why would the Holy Spirit write more about Joseph than any other? Can you remember in the movie Shrek where Shrek tells donkey that ogre’s are like onions... they have layers? Well I’m not an ogre expert so I’ll just have to trust Shrek on that one but I know the Bible has layers. Why would the Holy Spirit write more about Joseph than any other? Because this story isn’t just about Joseph,it is about Jesus. It contains not only the gospel of what Jesus did 2000 years ago but also insights into the present age and things still to come. Shrek would be impressed - It has a lot of layers! And who but God could orchestrate the events in the life of one of his saints so that it actually told a whole different and more wonderful story spread over thousands of years?

The points from the story I just told you can be seen in the following chart [1] with the parallel in the life of Jesus. As you will see it covers the part, the present, and the future.

Events fulfilled in the 1st coming of Jesus
(from the start of Joseph’s story till being exalted to the right hand of Pharoah)

Event

Joseph

Jesus

BELOVED OF HIS FATHER

Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children (Gen 37:3).

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Matt 3:17).

ENVIED AND HATED WITHOUT A CAUSE

And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more they…hated him… (Gen 37:4).

…the chief priests had delivered him for envy (Mark 15:10).
They hated me without a cause (John 15:25).

HE FORETOLD THAT ONE DAY HE WOULD RULE

… my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it (Gen. 37:7).

…you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64).

REJECTED AND CONDEMNED TO DIE

they conspired against him to kill him (Gen. 37:18).

We will not have this man to reign over us (Luke 19:14).
But they cried, saying, Crucify him! Crucify him! (Luke 23:21).

STRIPPED OF HIS CLOTHING

…they stripped Joseph of his coat…that was on him (Gen 37:23).

And they stripped him (Matt. 27:28).

THROWN INTO A PIT (alone and forsaken)

And they took him, and cast him into a pit (Gen. 37:24).

So shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt. 12:40).

SOLD FOR SILVER COINS INTO THE HANDS OF GENTILES

…they sold Joseph to the lshmaelites twenty pieces of silver; and they brought Joseph into Egypt (Gen. 37:28).

and they bargained with him [Judas] for thirty pieces of silver (Matt. 26:15).

RAISED FROM THE PIT

…and they drew and lifted Joseph up out of the pit (Gen. 37:28).

…he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:4).

EVERYTHING HE DID PROSPERED

And…the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand (Gen. 39:3).

and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand (Isaiah 53:10).

RESISTED TEMPTATION

He was tempted by Potiphar's wife but didn’t sin (Read Gen. 39:7-12).

For such an high priest was fitting…who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners…(Heb. 7:26).
…He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

FALSELY ACCUSED

‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me’ (Gen. 39:17).

At the last came two false witnesses, And said… (Matt. 26:60).

NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS

And Joseph's master…put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were bound (Gen. 39:20).

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals--one on his right, the other on his left. (Luke 23:33)

PROMISED DELIVERANCE TO A CONDEMNED MAN

Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up your head, and restore you… (Gen. 40:13).

Today you shall be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43).

Events fulfilled in the current church age
(from the exaltation of Joseph to the start of the 7 year famine tribulation)

Event

Joseph

Jesus

EXALTED TO HONOR AND GLORY OVER THE WHOLE LAND

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See I have set you over all the land of Egypt (Gen. 41:41)

All authority has been given to Me (Matt 28:18)
God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9).

ALL PEOPLE COMMANDED TO BOW TO HIM

They proclaimed before him, "Bow the knee!" And he set him over all the land of Egypt. (Gen. 41:43).

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow (Phil. 2:10).

PROVED TO BE A GREAT COUNSELLOR

Pharaoh said to Joseph, Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you are. (Gen. 41:39).

and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor… (Isa. 9:6).

UPON HIS EXALTATION HE TOOK A GENTILE BRIDE

Pharaoh gave Joseph… Asenath… to be his wife. (Genesis 41:45)

I promised you to one husband, to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2)

PROVIDED BREAD TO SAVE ALL IN NEED

And all the countries came…to Joseph to buy grain (Gen. 41:57).

…I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall never hunger (John 6:35).

Events still to come and fulfilled leading up to the second coming of Jesus
(from the seven year famine tribulation to the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers)

Event

Joseph

Jesus

SEVEN YEAR FAMINE AND HARDSHIP

…seven years of famine will follow them… The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. (Genesis 41:30-31)

He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' (Dan 9:27)
For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now (Mat 24:21)

HARDSHIP CAUSES PEOPLE FROM ALL COUNTRIES TO COME TO JOSEPH

And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in the entire world. (Genesis 41:57)

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language... (Rev 7:9)

JOSEPH’S BROTHERS FORCED TO SEEK HELP

Jacob said, "Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die." (Genesis 42:2)

I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. (Hosea 5:15)

JOSEPH’S BROTHERS DID NOT INITIALLY RECOGNIZE HIM

And Joseph knew his brethren, but they knew not him (Gen. 42:8).

But their minds were blinded... Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)

DIFFICULT TIMES LEAD JOSEPH’S BROTHERS TO THINK OF WHAT THEY DID TO JOSEPH

Then they said to one another, "We are truly guilty concerning our brother... Therefore behold, his blood is now required of us." (Genesis 42:21-22)

He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. (Isaiah 53:3)

REVELATION AND RECOGNITION

I am Joseph…whom you sold…God has made me lord of all…come…unto me… (Gen. 45:3-9).

They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child... (Zech 12:10)

WEEPING AND RECONCILIATION

Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them.

(Genesis 45:14-15)

On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be

great...The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves. (Zech 12:11-12)

FULL SALVATION AND PROTECTION

Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives... I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

(Genesis 50:19-21)

And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." (Romans 11:26-27)

Let’s concentrate on some of the things still to come. We’ll look at one particular and prominent aspect in the life of Joseph and that is his meeting and reconciliation with his Jewish brothers. What does this teach us concerning future events?

Joseph's brothers think of what they did to Joseph (in difficult times!)

Genesis 42:8-22 But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. (9) Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, "You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land."… (17) So he put them all together in prison for three days. (18) Now Joseph said to them on the third day, "Do this and live, for I fear God: (19) if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, (20) and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die." And they did so. (21) Then they said to one another, "Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us." (22) Reuben answered them, saying, "Did I not tell you, 'Do not sin against the boy'; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood."

What an amazing story this is and what great prophetic insights it gives us. This passage teaches us about part of the process that the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, have to go through to be reconciled to their Messiah Jesus. We see here that Joseph knew them but they didn’t know him. And yet during this 7 year period of great difficulty an amazing thing starts to take place – the trials of that time lead them to think of what they did to their brother over 20 years before. They start to think that their current hardship is a result of their actions in rejecting and wanting to kill their brother Joseph. They can recollect it all in crystal clear detail. Their conscience has never let them forget any of it. They can hear his cries, they can hear his pleading... and they also remember blocking their ears and hardening their hearts. ‘Therefore’ they conclude, that’s why this distress has come upon us. Reuben even remembers the words he spoke on that day and the warning he gave. All of this speaks of the coming 7 year tribulation period, Daniel’s 70th ‘seven’ which will be a time of great hardship but will cause the nation of Israel to turn again to their rejected Messiah Jesus.

But first a story... Recently a Jewish man called Asher, a believer in Jesus Christ, wrote in to the website wanting to know why I had a love for the nation of Israel and I in turn asked him how he came, as a Jewish man, to believe in Jesus as His Messiah. He started the letter as follows:

“My story began in 1971. I was a university student and I heard a Jewish evangelist named Arthur Katz teach that Jesus had himself claimed to be the Jewish Messiah! I was intrigued and repelled in equal measure. Art spent the day with me as we went round and round about this message. I had about 10 years of Jewish and Hebrew education and I felt compelled to overturn this outrageous claim. In the back of my mind, however, I could not shake the nagging thought that if we indeed had rejected our own Messiah, it would easily explain the past 2,000 years of suffering and sorrow in a way that no rabbi, author or sage had ever been able to do!

I ended that day by praying a prayer suggested by Art to "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" to show me if Yeshua was really who he had claimed to be. God began to answer me within the hour! I took a year off from school and sought to find the truth. Eighteen months later, the accumulated weight of fulfilled messianic prophecy and numerous additional miracles like the "re-appearing book" caused me to "fall on the Rock and be broken". I did not love Yeshua. I did not like Yeshua. I did not trust Him for anything beyond my salvation. But the Jewish God and the Jewish scriptures had persuaded me that Yeshua was my long-lost Messiah, so I bowed my heart to Christ as I had promised Yahweh I would do if He would provide me the evidence. My "life-verse" could be John 7:17 (Classic Amplified Version):

"If any man desires to do His will (God’s pleasure), he will know (have the needed illumination to recognize, and can tell for himself) whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking from Myself and of My own accord and on My own authority."

That was 44 years ago next month. He has made Himself and His goodness so real to me so often over those years that I have grown to like Him, love Him and do my best to trust Him with even the smallest matters. I still get so excited when He helps me or whispers to me that I am filled with joy!”

For Asher, the thought that they the Jews had rejected the Messiah was the only thing that could actually explain the last 2000 years of Jewish history. This was something that no Rabbi or Jewish sage had been able to explain. Asher had the same thought that Joseph’s brothers are having here – it is because of their hatred and rejection of Joseph that these events have now come upon them. And remember again – this is all teaching us something about the process that the nation of Israel will go through in the 7 year tribulation. Hearts that had been hard will break. Thoughts that had been closed toward Yeshua, their Messiah, will return to him again. Consciences that had been seared will come alive again... and they will see that they are guilty.

The events of this world are playing out this grand story. [2] Everything is moving in the world towards the completion of this story. Players and nations are moving into position. As Jan Markell on her radio show often says – “thing are not falling apart – they are falling into place.” The fall of Syria, the decline of the US, the rise of Iran, Turkey and Russia (in an alliance at that) it is all prophetic. And in the middle of it all sits little Israel, with few friends. At the end of last year the U.N. General Assembly’s 2015 session adopted 23 resolutions criticizing specific nations. One on Syria, a regime that has murdered more than 200,000 of its own people, one on Iran, and one on North Korea. And 20 for Israel! Abba Eban, one of Israel’s founding fathers and greatest statesman was well known for his quotes [3] and said the following about the U.N

“If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstaining.”

That made me laugh but unfortunately it is true. On March 24, 2016, the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) wrapped up its annual meeting in New York by condemning only one country for violating women’s rights anywhere on the planet – Israel. It is part of the crazy world we live in but the Lord is using all of this to play out this story and bring the nation He chose, right from the time of Abraham, back to himself. The Lord, through the prophet Hosea, said this to the nation of Israel:

Hosea 5:15 I will go away and return to My place Until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; In their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.

That is what we see prophetically pointed to here in Genesis 42. And look again at what Reuben says to sum up their thoughts in verse 22 : ‘Now comes the reckoning for his blood.’ Joseph’s brothers see themselves as having his blood on their hands, and now comes the reckoning. The interesting thing is that Joseph, himself, wasn’t out for revenge but was using this as a means to be reconciled to his brothers whom he still loved. Again, this is all a picture of Jesus. The blood of Jesus speaks a better word than Abel’s for the blood of Jesus cries out for mercy, not revenge. And we were all guilty - we all had the blood of Jesus on our hands. Both Jews and Gentiles played a part in the death of Christ and it was all of our sin that put him on the cross. We all had blood on our hands. The ironic thing is that for those that can see it this very same blood provides our very cleansing. Oh the plans and ways of God!

What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
what can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! Precious is the flow, That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know, Nothing but the blood of Jesus

As we follow the story of reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers we see that Joseph finally reveals who he is and there is great weeping, hugging and amazement. This also is a pointer to what will happen for the nation of Israel once they see that it is Jesus who was and is their Messiah! What a time that will be. The prophet Zechariah portrayed it like this:

Zechariah 12:10-13:1 And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (11) On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. (12) The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, (13) the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, (14) and all the rest of the clans and their wives. (13:1) On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

To close, let’s look at the final scene with Joseph and his brothers where the full plan and ways of God are seen.

Conclusion - Oh the plan of God!

Genesis 50:15-21 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" (16) So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: (17) 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (18) His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. (19) But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? (20) You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (21) So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

I will talk more about this in detail next time as we look at what it means for our lives personally, but for now I just want to focus on one last aspect to wrap up this prophetic ‘big picture’ view of this great story. There is one verse that really stands out here and talks about the wonder and majesty of a God who creates beauty from ashes and can cause even the hurtful things for our good. In response to Joseph’s brothers concern that maybe Joseph is inwardly holding onto bitterness and resentment towards them (for all they did to Joseph), Joseph replies:

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.”

Despite all that had happened to Joseph, he could still see that God had a far greater plan to use from the events for not only his own good, but for the saving of many other lives. He could see that man works on one level but God works on one far greater! We can learn from this on several levels:

Who is this God that works out His plan and ways with such depth, amazement and wonder? Contemplating these things, the Apostle Paul concluded with thoughts on the great plan of God to first save Gentiles and then the nation of Israel with the following conclusion:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)



[1]  This chart was originally listed on the following site: https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/newsletter/july-1985/08_joseph_jesus
I have changed and added some things as I see them but that is the original source.

[2]  The greatest story is always redemption. That a sinner, with a heart that is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, could through the greatest miracle of God, come to find themselves adopted into the family of God, dearly loved and dressed in the very righteousness of Jesus Christ, is the greatest story ever told. It is the most wondrous story ever. But how this redemption plays out for the nation of Israel is also a grand story.

[3]  He also said the now famous line ‘the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!’