Joseph found out—God really is in control

By Bill Ireland

Our Old Testament is full of prophetic references to the life of Christ. Some are hidden in the Psalms and books of the prophets, and some are contained in the actual events of people’s lives.

One of the most striking pictures of Jesus emerges from the life of Joseph, as described in Genesis. He was a son of Israel (Jacob) who was uniquely favored by his father. He sensed he had a special mission to fulfill for his people, and shared this revelation with his brothers. But they were offended by his seeming arrogance, and rejected him.

One day his father sent him to visit his brothers as they were working in the field. Their envy and resentment finally boiled over. They seized him, intending to kill him. But at the last moment, they decided instead to turn him over to the gentiles.

That was the last they saw of him for a long time. They may even have forgotten about him—but for the displeasure and guilt they sensed from their father.

Unbeknownst to them, their brother went on to become a great ruler among the gentiles. He endured a long period of exile and obscurity, but eventually assumed his rightful place and saved a great part of the world from disaster.

If you see in that story a neat summation of the life of Jesus and His subsequent role in history, you’re on the right track. It predicts the Lord’s ministry with uncanny precision, and accurately depicts His relationship to His Father, His people Israel (represented by the twelve brothers), and us gentiles.

Think for a moment about what that means. This story in Genesis was written about 3, 400 years ago—and 1,400 before Jesus was born. (This is universally acknowledged, so there is no possibility that it was written after the fact to bolster a later narrative—as some people say about other prophetic books.)

Joseph and his brothers were going about their lives much as you and I do—responding to events, acting according to the impulse of the moment (or so it seemed). But God was behind the scenes, orchestrating those events to tell the story of His Son, the Messiah who would come centuries later, be rejected by his own people, and be accepted as a king by much of the gentile world.

And it’s all right there—in a book read and accepted as Holy Scripture by the Jewish people to this day.

Reading this, we can only be amazed at God’s unfathomable wisdom—and His absolute sovereignty over human affairs. If He can pull off something this perfect and intricate using the lives of ordinary people—what can He not do in our lives? And what is He doing right now that we may completely unaware of?

When you’re tempted to view your life as a series of random, meaningless events, remember Joseph. And remember all the Scriptures that tell of God’s unique purpose for each of us:

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created (James 1:18 NIV).

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:28-29 NIV).

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. … (John 15:16).

As we know, the story of Joseph has a happy ending. He eventually reconciles with his brothers in a dramatic, emotional reunion. Their terror turns to joy as they realize he's moved by forgiveness–not retribution. But this occurs only after a series of dreadful, bewildering events that cause the brothers to fear for their lives. When their long-lost brother reveals his true identity to them, it ushers in a period of peace and—dare we say it? Happiness.

What does this portend for the Jewish people and their relationship with their estranged brother, Jesus? You probably have your own beliefs. But one thing is clear—the story isn’t over yet.

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