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Home School of Biblical Theology Doing Biblical Theology - N0 11 - Joseph’s story [2]

Doing Biblical Theology - N0 11 - Joseph’s story [2]

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 Doing Biblical Theology - No 11

Joseph’s story [2]:- ‘God’s salvation plan – fulfilled but also to be continued.’  

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Genesis 45:1 - 50:26              

 

 David Calderwood

 

There’s no place like home, as the old saying goes. But, how long do you think you would need to live in a place before you call it home?

 

 

I came to Australia when I was 16, almost 38 years ago. And it quickly became my home because my wider family is here, and all the significant developments of my life have occurred here.

 

 

As Joseph’s story concludes, he had lived in Egypt more than 90 years. All the significant events in his life occurred there. He had wealth, influence and the lifestyle to go with it. His wider family had been with him for 50 years.

 

 

But Joseph does not call Egypt home, and the last camera shot is on Joseph’s coffin and the promise he forced from his brothers, “Take my bones back home when the time comes.”

    

 

Once again we see the pattern of unfinished business which has been throughout the patriarchal narratives of Genesis 12-50 , covering four generations and over 200 years.

 

 

God’s promise from Genesis chapter 12:1-3 was tied to the Land of Canaan. And so, verse 24, Joseph anticipates that in the future they will require, and get God’s help to get them out of Egypt and back to the place of promise.

 

 

But there is unfinished business hinted at for all the key players in yet another pattern of transition. Jacob and Joseph are dead. God has not passed on his promise directly to anybody in the next generation as he had done to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Again the same question arises. Where do we go from here?

 

 

But the clues to the future are found in each of the key players, so let’s consider each.

 

 

Jacob dies in Egypt having lived there for 17 years, and having seen God’s promise partly realised, but confident it will be totally fulfilled by God for those who come after him. His last request, 49:29-33, to be buried at Mamre in Canaan reveals his ongoing confidence in God’s promise given to Abraham, Isaac and then himself.

 

 

The source of his confidence is recorded for us. Turn back to 46:1-4. Jacob is at Beersheba, a very important place to Abraham and Isaac with respect to God’s promise. Once again he is leaving the land of promise, but this time as a man of faith who seeks the Lord’s blessing on his decision and journey.

God’s response is marvellous: I will go with you to Egypt; you will live out your days reunited with your beloved Joseph; and there I will make you a great nation as promised.

 

 

They get to Egypt and settle in the land of Goshen, 46:28-47:12, and in this event we see the Lord act to secure another part of his promise. While in Canaan there had been ongoing problems in maintaining separation from the local inhabitants.

 

 

But in God’s providence, the Egyptians hated shepherds and so the political, spiritual and religious separation of his people was assured. When the time came they would be a distinct nation to return from Egypt to the land of promise.

 

 

Chapter 48. Jacob becomes ill but, verses 3-4, his frailty is set against the absolute security he has in The Lord Almighty and the confidence for the future that gives.

 

 

In this context he does something quite strange. He adopts Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, guaranteeing them a part of his inheritance, and then gives priority to Ephraim, the younger one, over Manasseh the older one.

 

 

Jacob clearly sees this as integral to the fulfilment of God’s promise, but we are not told precisely how. The scene reminds us of the time when Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau and hints that Jacob expects the Lord to do something incredible through these boys in the future.

 

 

In the temple history of 1 Chronicles 5:1-2 , we are told that in this Ephraim replaced Reuben as the son of promise and thereby inherited the headship of the whole twelve. Certainly this connects us to the rest of the Old Testament, and is especially the emphasis of the later prophets who described God’s covenant people as Ephraim.

 

 

Judahis the next key player to emerge in the final scene of the drama. In chapter 49 Jacob formally passes the baton to the next generation, anticipating the future, verse 1, and conferring inheritance, verse 28..

 

 

Of all the brothers, the one to watch out for one is Judah or one of his descendents. Through him the future is full of hope in terms of God’s promise and purpose in salvation.

 

 

Look at verses 8-12. He will be an impressive King-like character, who will use his authority and power wisely in both subduing his enemies and also ruling his own people. But unlike other kings, this king-like character, verse 12, will be physically appealing and outstanding.  

 

 

But even more visionary his Kingly rule will be forever and will extend to all nations of the world, who will live in glad obedience under his rule, and enjoy the good life of incredible blessing. In other words, this king-like person will restore the the Garden of Eden conditions

Jacob’s confidence is that a descendent of Judah will be the crusher or bruiser mentioned in Genesis 3 and promised through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and now Judah.

 

 

God’s unfinished business will be completed. And this connects us to the rest of the Old Testament and King David where the crusher if further identified as Messiah, God’s king and saviour, who would be a descendent of King David, and this takes us to Jesus.

 

 

Turn to Luke 1:31 Jesus is introduced in words that summarise Genesis 49:8-12 . How good is that to see God’s promise finally fulfilled in Jesus.

 

 

But even that’s not the end of the story. Turn with me to Revelation 5:1-6 . We are in the control room of the universe. The question is raised – who is qualified to control the universe and make happen everything that God has determined should happen?

 

 

The answer is in terms of Genesis 49:8-12 and the person Jacob could only see in his mind’s eye of faith – The Lord Jesus. And how has he achieved God’s purpose in salvation? By his death as a sacrificial lamb, taking upon himself the penalty for our sin, and then be raised to life as King and Lord and sharing that good life of blessing with us.

 

 

Friends this is Biblical Theology: One story line tracking God’s actions to achieve his purpose in salvation from one end of the bible to the other.

 

 

Joseph is obviously a key player, and Jacob’s blessing of Joseph tells us how we are to think of Joseph’s part in God’s plan of salvation. Look at verses 23-26. Joseph very existence speaks of God’s determination to complete unfinished business.

 

 

And that is Joseph’s own perspective, 50:19-26. He is not in the business of revenge, but in the business of being God’s servant in the fulfilling of God’s purpose and promise. Like the great Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides, Joseph is a provider for God’s people.   

 

 

But even though he knows God’s hand in every event of his life, and in the tremendous blessing he currently enjoyed, Joseph knew that another chapter in God’s purpose would be written, and that once again the focus of God’s work would return to the land of promise.

 

 

The last of the key players is often missed, and that is ‘The sons of Israel’. Turn back to 35:10-11 The Lord changed Jacob’s name in the context of the covenant promise to make him into a great nation.

 

 

Now turn to 47:27 and the term Israelite appears, again in the context of them becoming a great nation as God’s promise is fulfilled.

Then the very last thing Joseph does is to get ‘the sons of Israel’ to promise they will take him back to the Promised Land in the time when God comes to their aid.

 

 

As I’ve already said, this is a really important point that is often missed. The future of God’s promise is not necessarily tied to one person now. It lies with the ‘sons of Israel’ as a group.

 

 

Ephraim and Judah will play key parts as the future unfolds, but God’s promise now rests with the developing nation Israel as much as with an individual. Israel the nation becomes God’s servant through whom he will fulfil his purpose in salvation.

 

 

And once again we see this connecting through to Jesus and ultimately it is what connects us back to the Patriarchs.

 

 

If we jump forward to the prophet Isaiah we find him writing about this very idea. His task from the Lord is to spell out to God’s special people, the nation of Israel, or Ephraim as Isaiah often calls them, why they are in exile in Babylon and what the future holds.

 

 

His message is that God is punishing them because as his servant nation, they were supposed to model to the world what it mean to be God’s people, and thereby to be part of God’s purpose in achieving salvation in terms of the covenant promises made to the Patriarchs.

 

 

But ‘the sons of Israel’ failed as God’s servant nation. Their sin was so awful that it brought God’s judgment on them. But what of his promise to achieve salvation by undoing sin and restoring the Garden of Eden conditions?

 

 

God affirmed this would happen as planned but through an alternative servant, from one special son among the sons of Israel. One who would come from the tribe of Judah, and the line of David.  

 

 

Listen to Isaiah 49:5-6 It is through the obedience of the true servant of the Lord, whom we know as Jesus, that God’s salvation for the whole world will be achieved. God’s servant Jesus will do what God’s servant nation could not do. And thereby we have become true sons of Israel, true sons of the promise.

 

 

Friends all the clues of God’s unfinished business that come though the key players direct us to the main player; The Lord Almighty.

 

 

Look at 50:19 Joseph knows it is not about him. It has been God’s show from start to finish. Behind the evil actions of his brothers, there was God’s controlling hand and purpose.

 

 

And that wonderful perspective summarising Joseph’s life also brings us full circle in the story of Genesis 12-50 and summarises that equally well. The story starts and finishes with God’s initiative. Genesis 12 : 1 And God said to Abram. Genesis 50:20 But God intended . . ..

 

 

And at an even bigger picture that has been the main feature of the whole bible story thus far. Genesis 1 God speaks in creation making clear his purpose in creation. Genesis 3 God speaks into the new situation of rebellion and alienation, making clear that his purposes for the world would be achieved in spite of sin.

 

 

God is the main player who gives significance to each of the key players in the story.  And God’s message into his world as the story of Joseph concludes is that his salvation plan and purpose has been fulfilled in past events, is being fulfilled in current events, and will be completed in the future.

 

 

God’s last message to his people through Joseph is simple. Ultimately you don’t belong here, but under my plan you are here for good and you will enjoy my blessing because you are not on your own here. I am always with you.

 

 

But one day my intention is to bring you home to the land of Promise and the truly god life of blessing I created you for and always intended that you would enjoy.

 

 

And friends that is God’s same last message he speaks to his people through Jesus.

 

 

Turn with me to Hebrews 1:1-3 . God speaks to us more clearly today in Jesus than he ever did to people like Abraham or Joseph. We have heard his final word.

 

 

What is that word? It is the promise that purification or forgiveness for sins and restored relationship with God has been achieved by Christ’s death and resurrection.

 

 

Now look at Hebrews 2:8-11 Jesus is the crusher who would put everything right in God’s world restoring it to what God intended it to be.

 

 

God’s people were made for something better than sin and its penalty, death. So Jesus was sent by God to rescue his people. Christ’s death is where we best see God’s grace in that Jesus died when he didn’t deserve to die, so that we could live freely God when we didn’t deserve to live at all.

 

 

God’s whole intention, again using an event driven from a human perspective by evil, was to bring his sons home to the good life of glory or heaven forever.  

 

 

And as with the story in Genesis God’s purpose to save us and bring us home has already been achieved in the past in history at the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

 

As Christians, united with Christ we already enjoy the reality that we have a place in heaven secured for us.

 

 

But God’s work is still unfinished in our lives until the time comes when we actually go home to heaven and occupy the place that is currently reserved for us.

 

 

And that thought takes us to the last chapter in the bible and the beautiful picture of what it will be like to be finally home and enjoying the good life God always intended for us to enjoy and giving him the praise and worship he always intended to have from his people.

 

 

Listen to Revelation 22:1-7

 

 

Friends there only needs to be one appeal in the light of this wonderful picture – Appreciate and serve the Lord Jesus now as you will appreciate and serve him then. He is the secret of the good life you long for and were made for.

 

 


 

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 April 2012 18:01  

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