Click here to listen to the Issues, Etc. interview with Deaconess Pam Nielsen on this week’s Sunday School lesson.
Joseph was raised from the depths of prison to the second in command of the Egyptian empire after he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams. A strange thing to happen to a slave boy from a family clan in Canaan. Jacob and his sons were not a nation, just a family living in the desert, tending to their flocks. Yet God preserved Joseph’s life in this strange and far off place. He provided everything he needed to survive in the land of Egypt among a people who were not his people, but who became his people. So it was when the famine struck after 7 years of bountiful harvest, that all people of the world came to Egypt. They were drawn there by the promise of food.
Jacob’s family was hit hard by this famine as well, and he sent his sons to Egypt, where they had heard there was food. And so they went. 10 out of the remaining 11 brothers went to Egypt to buy grain. These brothers who had participated in the delivery of Joseph to the sons of Ishmael as a slave, now came before Joseph just as his dreams had foretold so many years before. The stars would bow down before Joseph and ask for mercy. And mercy they would receive, along with grace beyond what they had expected. For when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he forgave them for their misdeeds, for their hatred of him, for their desire to see him dead. Until that time, Joseph’s brothers carried this burden of their sin around. They told Jacob a lie to cover up their sin. And this sins stuck with them, followed them around. When Joseph confronts them as spies, imprisons them, and demands they bring their youngest brother back as proof that they are not spies, the brothers attribute this distress to their sin against Joseph. Jesus deals with our sin, revealing the depth of our depravity to us, cutting out the cancer and healing us with overflowing mercy. And if that is not enough, grace follows and heaps blessing upon undeserved blessing. For the sons of Jacob, Joseph not only forgave them, he also welcomed them into Egypt, into his own home with open arms. Pharaoh allowed him to bring the rest of their family, all their possessions, all their flocks, and gave them the choicest lands in all Egypt.
Joseph provides us with a wonderful portrait of the living Christ. His story is story of the cross. Like Joseph, we have a Cross to bear. It can be painful at times, and certainly difficult. But God shows us through Joseph, that in the midst of these trials and difficulties, He is there, providing for us, protecting us, strengthening us, and giving us faith to believe and trust in Him. The Cross confronts us with our sin in the presence of the crucified one. Just as Joseph’s brothers came to realize their sin and were brought to repentance by the tests and love, mercy and forgiveness of their living brother, so too are we brought to repentance, faith, and healing by the crucified, risen and Living Christ. That is amazing love.