SECTION IV — Joseph’s Exaltation.
The startling suddenness and transcendent greatness of the change which passed over Joseph’s life in a few hours, seems almost too romantic to be true, but such transitions are not so sudden as they seem. Joseph had been quietly prepared for all this through the preceding years, and had learned his lessons so well that the mere outward circumstances of his promotion were much less to him than they seemed to others. He recognized in his new position simply a divine call to new service, a situation requiring new duties and divine support, and proceeded to fulfill his new responsibilities with the same simple fidelity as he had shown in his humbler positions. While virtually the ruler of Egypt and the entire world, he used his high trust as a place of service, and went throughout the whole land of Egypt with the same painstaking care as one of his humblest subordinates. The change that came to Joseph was sudden and complete. His prison was exchanged for a palace; his shame for the highest honor; his position of degradation for one of authority and prominence, and his lonely suffering life for a happy home and the fellowship of a beloved and noble wife and family; while as the years rolled on all that was lost was restored, the broken ties of home were healed, his dear father and fond brother were given back to his arms, and the very brothers that had betrayed him were reconciled to his affections and made to see the sin and folly of their crime in a manner so wonderful and delightful that it took out of the past every bitter memory and painful sting, and turned the saddest trials he had known into the sweetest blessings of his life and others. And the scene closes with that which to him was the highest of all enjoyments, the opportunity of returning good for evil, ministering to the happiness of those he loved, cherishing and nourishing his father’s house and his brethren with all the riches of his glory, and seeing them and the entire world blessed and even saved through the ministry of his suffering life. Surely this was, indeed, a transformation of suffering into glory and blessing. All this was the type of Christ’s exaltation, and the pledge of our reward.
(1.) It foreshadows the exaltation of Jesus, after the shame and suffering of the cross, to the resurrection life and heavenly glory upon which he entered.
(2.) The relation of Joseph to Pharaoh suggests the mediatorial office of Jesus Christ with the Father, administering as he does the government of the universe, and having all things delivered into His hands. Pharaoh answered every petition that came to him with the message, “Go to Joseph!” and so we have access unto the Father through Him, and receive the riches of grace and the blessings which we need and claim. All the treasures of Egypt were in Joseph’s hands; all the store, which saved and fed the famishing people, was given out at his orders; and so “it hath pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell,” “and of His fulness have we received grace for grace.”
(3.) Joseph was virtually ruler over the land of Egypt and the entire world, and so Christ has been invested with like power in heaven and in earth. He is established “far above all might and dominion, and every name that is named, both in this world and that which is to come, and is head over all things to the church.” Let us ever remember, when we look at the forces around us and our bitter trials, that
“He everywhere hath sway,
And all things serve His might;
His every act pure blessing is,
His path unsullied light.”
(4.) The marriage of Joseph, after his exaltation, has been applied by some interpreters to the gathering of Christ’s church to Himself in the heavenly places. It was not during His life of shame and suffering, but after His ascension, that He established the church, and her true place with Him — even in the present dispensation — the place where she should ever recognize herself as sitting, is by His side in glory. This also is part of His glory, and is to be His eternal joy, the church of His love and the partner of His nature and His throne.
(5.) The years of plenty, and then the years of famine which followed them, seem to foreshadow: the first, the dispensation of grace which is now proceeding; and the second, the time of tribulation which is coming upon the earth before the end, out of which He “shall gather His people to meet Him in the air.” It was during this time of famine that Joseph’s brethren came to him and were reconciled. And so it shall be during the days of tribulation that Christ’s brethren after the flesh, the Jews shall recognize Him, repent of their sins, and be restored to His friendship and blessing, and afterwards share with Him in their own separate national life, as in Egypt of old, the blessing of His millennial kingdom. This is to be one of the crowning glories of the once rejected Nazarene that “they shall look upon Him they have pierced, and shall mourn,” and shall be reconciled to the Messiah that they delivered to the Gentiles, and that God has made such a blessing to the Gentiles, as He made Joseph of old. This whole story, therefore, is the picture in some degree at least, of the millennial times, and, no doubt, the fulfillment will bring out many resemblances and correspondences which we cannot now foresee.
The story of Joseph is not only a picture of Christ’s exaltation, but is to us the pledge that the trials we endure for Christ shall “work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” In a little while the trials of the present will be exchanged for glories and enjoyments which will make us ashamed that we ever murmured or shrank in the brief ordeal, which was only God’s beneficent school to educate us for our kingdom. This is the chief lesson of Joseph’s life, to teach us the outcome of sorrow, innocently, bravely, and triumphantly endured, according to the will of God. It cannot harm us, and the recompense is beyond our highest thought. An ancient monarch found on ascending to the throne from which a usurper had long excluded him, that one of his faithful adherents was lying in a prison because he had dared to dispute the tyrant’s claim, and had been true to his exiled master through years of bondage. The victorious king commanded the noble captain to be brought into his presence and the chains struck from his limbs. He then ordered an attendant to weigh them in his sight and then bring from the palace treasures bag after bag of gold, and weigh them on the same scales. Then turning to his faithful friend, he said: “You have worn these chains for me, now you shall have their weight in gold; you have languished in a prison for me, now you shall have a palace, and all your sufferings shall be rewarded by their exact equivalent in riches and honor.” And so for us “it is a faithful saying, if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we suffer, we shall also reign.”
SECTION V — The Grace displayed in Joseph’s Life and Character.
Higher far than all his glory, is the glorious fact that he used it only for others. The crown of Joseph’s character, like his greater Antitype, is love. He stands ever as the highest type of Jesus, our suffering, forgiving brother, and our gracious and benignant Lord.
(1.) We see the beneficence of Joseph’s spirit in his kindness, even in his humiliation, to those about him. He ministered to his suffering fellow prisoners. And so Christ went about continually doing good, and all who are like Christ will live to use every station as an opportunity of service, and leave behind them even in the vilest and meanest place, only memorials of blessing.
(2.) We see, next, his graciousness in the use he made of his exalted power. Not for himself did he hold the scepter of Egypt, but for the people he served and saved. The abundance that came to his care was simply regarded as a trust for others, and husbanded for the time of their need. So Christ has been exalted to the right hand of power, not for His own selfish magnificence and enjoyment, but that He might be a Prince and a Savior. So he has received all the fulness of the Father that He might give it to the race for which He died. His heavenly life is as unselfish as His earthly, and could we behold Him now, it would still be the ministering priest, the girded servant, the gracious and ever-willing benefactor of all who need His help and care. He is not an Oriental despot, but a loving, toiling, ever accessible friend; never perplexed, never overwhelmed with any difficult situation, never preoccupied, but ever ready with open ear and heart and hand to hear our cry and help our need. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Seeing that we have a great High Priest that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. For we have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Like our exalted and beneficent Master, so must we also use our place of privilege and blessing for service and for others. We are trustees and stewards of the manifold grace of God, and the more fully we receive, the more fully we must learn that “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and that the very condition of keeping our blessing is that we shall “be a blessing.” A selfish Christian is as inconsistent and impossible as a selfish Christ. We, too, are come to our kingdom for such a time as this. Years of famine are coming to the souls around us; in a little while they shall be perishing for eternal bread; they need our prayers, our help; and even although they may not know it now as we do, yet the day is coming when they shall reap the blessings of our faith and our foresight. Let us be true to our trust, and thus worthy to stand with Joseph and his greater Master, as the dispensers of God’s blessings to a dying world.
(3.) The preeminent picture of Christ’s heart is seen in Joseph’s relation to his brethren, and his wise, and yet tender, forgiving love. In the wronged and injured brother we see the Savior, and his rejection by those for whom he died. In the long years of indifference and forgetfulness that followed, we behold a picture of the patience that waits while men go on in callousness and hardness of heart. In the troubles that at last overtook them and brought them unconsciously to their injured brother for help, we see how God at length compels the obdurate heart by bitter trials to come to Him, even though it may not yet know Him. In the position of those brethren at the feet of Joseph, unknowing, yet not unknown, we see the sinner whom Christ is drawing to Himself, but who yet does not even know that He is drawing, but is just driving on in some blind course of desperate heedlessness. In the wise and even stern discipline through which Joseph gradually brought them to reflection and the recollection of their sin, and awakened in their breasts the slumbering voice of conscience, we see the exquisite process through which the Holy Ghost convicts the hardened heart of the sinner, and lets its own memories and convictions gently prepare it to receive His mercy. In the deep tenderness that Joseph held in check through all this long ordeal, we see the love that Christ often bides under His sternest discipline and longs to pour out upon our breast when we are ready to receive it.
At length the hour of reconciliation comes; and as in our case, so it begins with Joseph, and not with the guilty brothers. God is the first to meet us in reconciliation, and it is His love that awakens our trust, and His grace that quickens our heart into grace. How fully Joseph forgives; how tenderly he meets the men that had so pitilessly sacrificed him; how generously he insists that they shall forget and forgive themselves; how he tries to banish every painful memory; how he receives them to his very heart and home, and feasts with them in the absence of all other guests; and how royally he provides for them and theirs, sharing with them his wealth and glory, and sending for them to dwell with him amid the abundance of the land and in its fairest region.
All this is infinitely more realized in the love of Jesus, who has been more cruelly wronged. He draws with wiser, tenderer influences of love and power. He it is who says “I will heal their backslidings; I will love them freely for mine anger is turned away.” Not only does he forgive, but he forgets; not only does he save from wrath, but He receives us to His friendship, feasts us at His table, feeds us with His own very life, shares with us His riches and glory, and takes us to be with Him where He is in all the riches of His kingdom and inheritance.
As we have already suggested, this will receive a literal fulfillment bye and bye in the actual seed of Jacob, the literal brethren of Jesus, but it is also fulfilled in the forgiveness and reconciliation of every heart that has learned to know Him as a “friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Have we learned to know Him by this tender name and this exquisite type, and shall we realize with a sweetness unknown before, and reflect upon others, in our turn, like Him, the meaning of these lines?
Yes, for me, for me He careth,
With a brother’s tender care;
Yes, with me, with me He shareth
Every burden, every fear.
Yes, o’er me, o’er me He watcheth,
Ceaseless watcheth night and day:
Yes, e’en me, e’en me He snatcheth
From the perils of the way.
Yes, in me, in me He dwelleth —
I in Him, and He in me;
And my empty soul He filleth,
Here and through eternity.