Light from the Sidra


Genesis 41 - 44:17; Zechariah 2:14 - 4:7

“How long, O LORD?” is the cry of many a believer in God as he or she goes through troubles. It is difficult to imagine that Joseph did not feel the same way during his early years in Egypt, especially as things went from bad to worse through no fault of his own. He did not appear to be guilty of any great sin but his brothers sold him as a slave. He worked hard but ended up in prison. He helped his fellow prisoners but remained incarcerated.

We have read the ending so we know what happened. We know that things got unimaginably better, so we can say, “All’s well that ends well”. But Joseph did not know that when in slavery and in the dungeon. What kept him going? Some might even ask, “What kept him sane?” He knew the principle of Psalm 27 before it was put into writing. There David writes:

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD. (Psalm 27:13-14) 

Here is a patient trust that the Most High knows what he is doing and is worthy of our confidence. Anything else: doubt, mistrust, self-sufficiency, complaining, resentment or anger are all sin. How do you compare with Joseph?

And yet, Joseph was far from sinless. I, for one, will not indulge in the sort of justifications concocted by some to prove all Scripture’s heroes to be faultless. The young Joseph at home showed clear signs of priggishness despite his obvious concern to serve God and do well. Jacob detected this when Joseph recounted his dream of all the family bowing down to him and Jacob rightly rebuked him. It seems to me that his first dream was from God for it was fulfilled, but the events foreseen in the second never took place and appear to have come out of an over-active imagination. Joseph was in danger of pride, which is not only a serious sin but is also the destroyer of effective leadership. God had a great role for him but first of all he needed to be prepared. In the mystery of God’s ways, the hatred of his brothers and life in a pagan environment would be used by the LORD to make him better fitted for rule. Do you see your tough, perhaps incomprehensible, experiences in such a way? To do so is to have understanding and to have faith.

This Sidra shows us the LORD’s extraordinary exaltation of Joseph to the position of second ruler in Egypt, next only to Pharaoh himself. From that position he began to be a blessing to the world - for many came to Egypt in the famine - and also to his own people, even though they were unaware of who he was. These are facts of history but, as with all the great events in the history of Israel, they have significance. They picture the redemption in Messiah. In last week’s Sidra the sufferings of Joseph were considered and lessons drawn concerning the Messiah’s sufferings. Now we see Messiah’s exaltation reflected in the promotion of Joseph. One point to note here is that the same person experiences both suffering and exaltation. The Rabbis have struggled to understand those prophecies of the Messiah which indicate he both suffers and rules and they have arrived at a theory of two Messiahs: Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David. But is it not clear that both of these men, Joseph and David, first suffered before they ruled? Both of them picture the coming Messiah as a sufferer and a ruler. This is the sort of Messiah Scripture leads us to expect.

Last week we considered Joseph in his sufferings as a picture of Jesus the Messiah suffering for us. Joseph’s exaltation to rule also foreshadows Jesus the Messiah in his present reign from heaven. This is what Psalm 110:1 leads us to expect, “The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” Messiah will rule from heaven, gradually subduing those who oppose him, until the day when he returns to renew all things. The Rabbinic idea of a Messiah who – Hey Presto! – changes the world in an instant is unbiblical. That is never God’s way. Jesus is ruling now and as sinners hear of his salvation some repent while others do not. But in the meantime he graciously gives good things to all the world, and to Israel, just as Joseph did. Do you believe in Messiah Jesus? No? His grace will mean you still enjoy many good things in this life, just as any Egyptian did who disliked his Hebrew “Prime Minister”, but the day is coming when Jesus will return from heaven in glory and power to judge (see Daniel 7:13-14). Then it will be too late to repent, then resistance will be futile.

Joseph was God’s man and one of his outstanding characteristics in this Sidra is his desire for reconciliation, not vengeance. Here is the heart of the LORD in a man he has been moulded. From the moment his brothers arrived on the scene he began to work for a reconciliation. Clearly, he was already longing for it. He devised a scheme for discovering their true heart attitude to their father and their youngest brother in order to know whether there was true grief and repentance over their treatment of him. Here is a mark of a man or woman of God. How do you compare? Are you more at home with destructive gossip or with peacemaking? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 New Testament).

When you think of the situation in Israel now, are you thinking about justice and vengeance and the moral high ground or about how eventual reconciliation can be achieved? Justice is important, as is morality, but the sons of God are focused on reconciliation.

Reconciliation is the focus of Jesus the Messiah. As we shall see in the next Sidra, he is always working towards reconciliation with his own people, Israel. Why then is he so hated? What has he done to Israel that so many in the nation abuse his name and reject him? Despite all the hatred of the nations against the Jewish people he has overruled from heaven that they should not get their way and destroy his people. He has also shown his love through his true people among the Jews and the Gentiles, as they have reached out to Israel with practical love and the message of God’s forgiveness. Some show gratitude and some do not. One day all of Israel will be reconciled to him and will trust him as their Messiah. Next week’s Sidra describes Joseph’s reconciliation to his brothers, and it pictures Israel’s reconciliation with the saviour-ruler they have rejected. Does your view of the Messiah contain such a scenario? Scripture’s view does.

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