The story of Joseph and his brothers is filled with shadows of Israel’s Messiah. In a very real sense, Joseph is a messiah as he saved both Israel and Egypt from the famine. But consider these points:
- He told his brothers that they would serve him.
- He was betrayed and sold for silver by his brothers.
- He was abused and imprisoned (buried).
- He interpreted dreams about resurrection after three days.
- He was released from prison by Pharaoh (resurrected by God).
- He revealed himself to his brothers at the end.
- He saved all of Israel.
- He saved Egypt and the people of the surrounding nations.
The parallels between Joseph and Yeshua (Jesus) are astounding, but the prophetic foreshadowing goes even deeper than this in very subtle ways.
Judah and Joseph both represent Messiah Yeshua in different, overlapping ways.
||Ancient Jewish tradition expected two messiahs who would redeem Israel together. The first was Mashiach ben Yosef (Messiah son of Joseph) who would suffer for his people and atone for them with his blood. The second was Mashiach ben David (Messiah son of David) who would defeat Israel’s enemies and usher in a peaceful era in which Israel is the chief of all nations. In the prophetic story of Joseh, one might expect that Judah, the ancestor of David, would play the role of the King, while Joseph would be the Servant, but they each play both roles. Judah is clearly the leader of his brothers, but also offers his life in exchange for theirs. Joseph, on the other hand, has also given his life for his brothers–unintentionally–and they all came to bow before him. Both of them are Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Yosef simultaneously. Perhaps because both Messiahs are actually one in reality: The suffering servant sheds his blood to pay for Israel’s freedom and returns later as the conquering king to break their chains and set up his throne in Jerusalem.
(Sorry, I’m getting carried away on a tangent, but Wow! What a tangent!)
Egypt represents the world. A few years after Yeshua was crucified, buried, and resurrected, the Israelites who had returned to the land of Israel were exiled again and scattered across the Roman Empire and beyond. Likewise, a few years after Joseph was brought out of prison (resurrected), the Israelites were exiled from Canaan by famine and took refuge in Egypt. The people of Egypt are the people of the world among whom the Israelites now live.
When Jacob finally met Joseph’s sons, he didn’t recognize them because they looked like Egyptians. Today, Many who are children of Israel are, in all outward respects, indistinguishable from the world. Israel does not recognize them, and only direct revelation from Messiah when he returns will allow Him to see them.
Finally, going back several years, Joseph was brought out of the prison–symbolically resurrected–and elevated to sit at the right hand of Pharaoh, who–at least in this respect–plays the role of God, the Father.
(I did say that the patterns are subtle. They don’t precisely align with the events of Yeshua’s life, death, resurrection, and return, but all of the elements are present, if somewhat rearranged.)
Read Genesis 47:25, keeping in mind that Pharaoh was, prophetically and in part, foreshadowing the role of God in the story of Messiah’s salvation of Israel:
And they [the Egyptian people] said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” (Genesis 47:25)
It’s a pitiable statement that most of us skim over no matter how many times we read Genesis. It seems sad that the Egyptians had to give up everything and became slaves of pharaoh just to survive, but consider the alternative. There was no hope of survival. Crop after crop had failed, and, without Joseph, they would have long exhausted their stores and died. They would all have been lost without him. They could live as slaves to Pharaoh or die as slaves to hunger. Either way, they were going to serve.
Right here in this forgettable little verse is the hope of all the world.
And the people of the world said to Yeshua, “You have saved our souls. May it please Adonai Yeshua, we will be servants of God.”
We were all lost, spiritually dead because of sin. Not a single person in all the world can save themselves from that famine. It doesn’t matter whether we think it’s fair or not. Would you deny the existence of droughts, hurricanes, and earthquakes because you don’t like them? Then where’s the value in protesting your innocence in the face of the Creator of Heaven and Earth?
And why protest becoming servants of God? We were created to serve Him. Clement of Rome, when addressing competition for status in the Corinthian church wrote,
The heavens moving by his appointment, are subject to him in peace. Day and night accomplish the courses that he has allotted unto them, not disturbing one another….Even the smallest creatures live together in peace and concord with each other. All these has the Great Creator and Lord of all commanded to observe peace and concord, being good to all. But especially to us who flee to his mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever!
Why do we, who reflect the image of the Creator in function and form more than any other of His creations, struggle so hard and continuously against the purpose for which we were created?
Here is what it means to “be saved”: You are created to serve, but are lost in your sin without the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua, Messiah ben Yosef. “Flee to his mercy” and be restored to your rightful place as a servant of God. You were designed to be God’s hands in His Creation and not just to do your own thing. Like any other purposefully designed tool, you will be happier, more fulfilled in doing that for which you were made. And when you pass on or if you are still alive when Yeshua, Messiah ben David, returns as the conquering king, you will hear him say “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” While those who have refused his yoke, choosing to starve in their sins rather than to be fed in His service, will feel His wrath.
There’s no magic formula, no “Sinner’s prayer”, that can save you. It is only Yeshua’s blood, your commitment to serve and obey Him, and God’s grace to honor both the blood and your decision. Without His blood, we are lost. Without a commitment to obey God, we are lost. Without God’s mercy, we are lost. Thank God that He has made all of these available to us! There is nothing left for us to do but to repent from our sins and obey His Word.
You don’t have to understand the spiritual physics of blood atonement. You don’t have to understand why God created the world the way that He did. You only have to believe that He has created you for a purpose, that He wants the best for you, and that He has provided a way for you to be restored to your full potential.
This is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
If you have declared your allegiance to the King, your trust in Him, and your commitment to obey His commandments, then you are indeed a child of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and a true servant of the Most High.