Joseph, A “Type of Christ” (sermon text version)

We’re in the Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles and we’re catching up with Stephen.  The first martyr of the Church is in the midst of his speech before the Sanhedrin before he gets stoned to death.  He’s on trial for speaking against the temple (“this holy place”) and against the customs of Moses (the Law).  Of course, the accusations are false, but as is so often (especially these days!), the truth doesn’t seem to matter.  Stephen takes the words of Christ seriously when Jesus said what is recorded in John 15:

John 15: 18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’

Stephen is following Christ.  He’s a true disciple.  So he continues delivering a powerful speech recorded for us in Acts 7 and today, he’s telling the story of one of the favorite sons of the Jews: Joseph.

If you’ll recall, Stephen is artfully leading the Sanhedrin in agreement with him and is delivering a few “ouch” lines along the way.  Ones designed to prick the consciences of his listening audience, even if it will produce no change of heart, just as Jesus said.  Sometimes these things are simply evidence for the trial to beat all trials, the one that comes at the end of time: the one before the White Throne of Judgment in the last day.  Being proclaimed “guilty of sin” will require proof and refusal to obey Christ provides sufficient evidence every time.  Refusal to see that Jesus came as Deliverer has been the latest—and most striking example—of a worldly tradition going way back to the patriarchs.  Rejecting God’s chosen ones has a long pattern.

Joseph_And_The_Amazing_Technicolor_DreamcoatSo Stephen, obeying Christ to the very end, recalls the favorite son of the Jews: Joseph.  He was the favorite son of the patriarch Jacob who was also known as Israel.  If you’ve read or heard his story in Genesis or even seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, you have a sense for his story.

What may not be clear from the theatrical version often described as a heart-rending tale of reconciliation among brothers, the real lesson is the one that Stephen intends to point out: 

The Jewish religious leaders have chronically rejected the one who will deliver them.

The Jewish religious leaders have chronically rejected the one who will deliver them, such is the case with Christ and such is the case with favorite son Joseph….who might be called a “type of Christ”…a foreshadowing, a prototype, one in the pattern that will be perfectly shown in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Keep in mind that this upcoming history of Joseph is all in the context of Stephen answering the accusations that he was speaking against the temple and against the Law.  The false accusations made against Stephen.

Acts 7:9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt.”

The patriarchs Stephen is referring to are the 11 other tribes of Israel, the sons of Jacob, the brothers of Joseph listed in Genesis 35:22-26. 

These patriarchs sold 17 year old Joseph into slavery because he was kind of a brat, first off tattling on his brothers and then telling his brothers about the dreams he’s been having not due to a spicy falafel.  In his dreams, his brothers will bow to him.  Their sheaves of grain will bow to his sheaf.  Their sun, moon, and 11 stars will bow to him and now it’s not just brothers but mom and dad too!  In the musical about Joseph, the brothers sing,  “Not only is he tactless but he’s also rather dim, for there’s 11 of us and there’s only 1 of him.”

joseph prison rtStephen’s point in bringing up Joseph is that 1 was deliverer, the other 11 tribes were the rest of Israel. 

  • Who was in the holy land?  The 11.
  • Who was sold into slavery?  The one: Joseph.
  • Where did Joseph get sold?  Egypt!  Outside of the holy land that the Sanhedrin are having a fit about, and moreover, the heart of pagan territory!

As our Acts passage continues:  9b But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

God was with him.  Yup.  In pagan territory.  God was with him and made Joseph ruler over all the economics of Egypt and Joseph’s wisdom may not have prevented the languishing crops, but it did preserve the Egyptians through it.  Because God was with Joseph.

God was with Joseph in Egypt, but in the Holy Land, God has allowed a devastating famine.  Pagan territory? We’ve got Joseph and grain.  In the Holy Land, nothing but 11 starving brothers and their families.

God was with Joseph and so the 11 brothers, the patriarch Jacob the father and all his extended family head to Egypt to get food, starting with the 11 brothers, the sons of Israel. 

Why is there food?  Because Joseph the dreamer, the rejected deliverer had been sent there ahead. By God.

11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit.

Pause in the action.  Time out.  Pay attention.  The first visit.  Just like Jesus had a first visit.  Joseph recognized his brothers, but they didn’t know him.  On the first visit.  Continuing…

13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

Stephen brings up Joseph because he’s a type of Christ.  We haven’t had a second visit from Jesus yet.  That will be what we call the Return of Christ, the Second Coming.  At which point, Scripture tells us that two things are going to happen:

(1) Philippians 2: 8 And being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  People are going to bow down, just like the brothers did in front of Joseph only this time, it’s for keeps.

(2) Zechariah 12: 10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. 11 On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 The land will mourn, each clan by itself”…People are going to be mourning, crying unstoppably, grieving as for an only child!  People’s hearts will be broken because they know they have done.  This is a prophecy about Jesus that is yet to be fulfilled.  It will happen at the second visit when He reveals Himself as King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  Prophecy that looks much like the Joseph story…because Joseph is a type of Christ.

At this point in Stephen’s sermon, he knows that the Sanhedrin knows all this history, even what he didn’t state explicitly !  They know their Scriptures!  First visit.  Second visit.  These are details of the Word of God that are not lost on the Sanhedrin!

But Joseph was only a “type of Christ.”  He was not the Christ, only a foreshadowing of the One to come.  Jesus was and is the Christ!

  • Joseph was a type of Christ because he was among the brothers but was singled out and rejected.
  • Joseph was a type of Christ because he suffered unjustly!
  • Joseph was a type of Christ because he was sent as God’s chosen instrument for deliverance of a people who were famished and destitute, and who could not save themselves.
  • Joseph was a type of Christ because he was not recognized by his brothers until…he revealed himself!
  • Joseph was a type of Christ because he did this all—outside of the holy land, outside of the temple, outside of the Law of Moses…because he was …Pharaoh’s #2 guy…long before Moses who would carry Joseph’s bones out of Egypt.

So regarding the accusations of speaking against this holy place and the customs of Moses, God has done some of His greatest work in foreign lands, even pagan lands and before the Law.  Doing things outside of what man would think is wise… is often God’s way.

Joseph whose history the Sanhedrin knows even said as much:

Genesis 50:15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. 22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees. 24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

God will come to their aid…in Egypt!  God will deliver them out…remember from last week, God told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved and mistreated for 400 years?  At the end of that 400 years of God will have blessed the Hebrews with great land, flocks, and numbers.  But He also allowed them to be enslaved, Moses will lead these people out in the Great Exodus.  Moses will form another in the line of people who sets a pattern of deliverance, but we’ll leave that for next week.

In the meantime, what are the take home lessons for you and me?

  1. We must be careful not to put too much emphasis on what goes on INSIDE the walls of the church.  Deliverance is primarily done from the outside to bring people in.
  2. We must be on the lookout for God’s ways in saving and be quick to recognize where God is at work, often in places we don’t expect or through unlikely people.
  3. We must remember that God is doing things not only for the benefit of the Church but also for the witness to the entire world!  Pharaoh learned Joseph’s identity was more than just an interpreter of dreams.  Witness in pagan territory is our job right now
  4. And finally, we can see the wisdom of building off of what other people know, teaching them deeply from the Word which turns us from wimps to radicals.  We cannot be ashamed of the Gospel.

Because someday Jesus will make His second visit.  Until then there’s still time to witness, when He comes on the clouds it will be too late.  Let’s not just recognize a type of Christ.  Let’s recognize Him as the real deal.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on March 16, 2015

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