Dr Clifford Denton.
Miketz: Genesis 41:1-44:17.
16th December 2023/Tevet 4
Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. Genesis 41:42
Picture by Helen McNeill
The subject of the making of a man of God is frequently a theme for a Christian book or sermon. Joseph and King David are often the subjects of such studies because the Bible gives such detail about their lives.
There is no easy road to walk when God chooses a person for a particular purpose and moulds their character. Whilst Joseph rose to a high position wherever he found himself, the journey was a long and difficult one. We can review in a few chapters his rejection by his brothers, being sold into slavery, serving in Potiphar’s household with honour but thrown into prison with dishonour, but to rise to be second to Pharaoh throughout the land of Egypt as saviour of the entire nation throughout the famine.
This was a long journey from when Joseph was 17 years old to when he was 30 years old and appointed to high office. Even after he interpreted the dreams of the butler and the baker whilst in prison, he remained there for another two whole years. Two years is a long time to be in prison not knowing when and if there is any way out. These were perplexing events for one on a special assignment for God! Could doubts have come into Joseph’s mind when he recalled those vivid dreams all those years ago? His character was being formed and also put to the test.
Yet Joseph was chosen by God and eventually the vision that he had all those years before, of his brothers bowing down to him, was fulfilled at the right time. God used the famine to humble the brothers and bring them to Egypt for help.
God surely knew the heart of Joseph. Despite what seemed like trickery on his part to bring first Benjamin and then his father Jacob to Egypt, there was love in his heart for his family and the strong hand of God was on his life. Also, despite the cruel way that he had been treated, Joseph had good plans for his family as God also had. His love was evidenced by the tears he shed secretly when his brothers had gathered to be with him in Egypt – tears out of love, such as Yeshua wept for Lazarus and for Jerusalem.
There must have been periods of seeming silence from God as Joseph’s character was being formed. In hindsight, all that God intended was brought about at precisely the right time, whether it was the timing of his release from prison or the saving of Egypt from famine.
These things were also hidden to Jacob, now an old man, but who also had been specially chosen by God. In next week’s portion we will come to the point where Jacob meets Pharaoh and describes the 130 years of his life as being few and evil (Genesis 47:9). This is not what we might expect for one so specially chosen by God to be the founder of the entire nation of Israel! Yet it is so often the pattern for a man of God to be humbled throughout his life’s journey.
When God chooses a person, their life can be turned around in a moment, such as with the dreams that brought Joseph to prominence when he was able to interpret them, but the journey is challenging and unique for each person.
Embedded in the account of Joseph are patterns pointing to the life of Yeshua, just as they are for other prominent Bible characters, including Isaac and David. Joseph was despised by his brothers, yet he loved them He was imprisoned but exalted to high office to be the saviour of the covenant family. Just like Yeshua, Joseph began his special ministry relating to the grain harvest at the age of 30 years. These are just a few of the ways we can compare Joseph’s ministry with Yeshua’s.
It has been a long-held expectation among Jews that the Messiah will be modelled on Joseph as well as King David. However, we must look at this from the other direction. It is not that Messiah was to be a fulfilment of the type of Joseph, but that Joseph was in the image of the Messiah. After all, at Creation, God made all mankind in His image – God is not made in the image of man, but man is made in the image of God. Aspects of Yeshua’s character were in Joseph. Similarly, through the ministry of His Holy Spirit, He develops something of His character into us for the purpose He has for our life.
We must take this understanding into our own family. Every believing parent should pray for and nurture their children in the ways of God, to conform to the image of Messiah in whatever ways are chosen for them. Sometimes a child will seem very special from birth and possibly grow to a prominent position in the Church or nation. We need to understand that this will not necessarily be an easy journey. The early years of a child’s life are the formative years when parents must have a special care for their children, with this need to persevere in mind, preparing them for the later more personal walk with God. They must not lose faith when perplexing times come on that journey. If the child learns to submit to God for His purposes, then there will be learning experiences along the way from childhood into adulthood. Parents bear God’s authority for the early developmental years of their children. In those early years there is usually no clarity on what special work God may have for an individual child, so it is for both parents and children a walk of faith.
Care is needed that not only one of our children is singled out however gifted they may seem to be. Yes, we may recognise something special in one child’s personal call by God, but we must not make Jacob’s mistake and favour this child at the expense of others. Indeed, every one of our children is born in the image of God and is equally important to Him in distinct and specific ways that will eventually be revealed. Some aspect of Yeshua’s ministry, however humbly applied in our life and service, is intended for each one. Every child must be known as a gift from God and as a gifted child for whatever purpose God may gradually reveal in their lives. Whatever purpose God has for them we, as parents, have both privilege and responsibility to walk with them – every one of them equally, whether a future plumber or a future president – towards the fulfilment of that purpose.