Since the 1990s, countless Christians have asked themselves the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” The acronym “WWJD” was once visible nearly everywhere on bracelets and bumper stickers.
The truth is, it’s often difficult to know what Jesus would do. In one sense, He had more options than ourselves. He could perform miracles, and was free born as the Son of God. Jesus was always in close communication with His heavenly Father.
In another sense, our Lord had fewer options. Unlike ourselves, Jesus had to keep the Law perfectly. He also had to know about and fulfill many prophecies, including the ones related to His suffering and death on the cross.
In this post, we’ll learn about Joseph, and what he do. This may lead you to wonder…
Does It Matter What Joseph Would Do?
The Old Testament helps us answer the difficult question of what Jesus might do in various situations because it presents forerunners or “types” of Christ. For example, like Jesus, Abraham left a comfortable home to sojourn in a foreign land. Isaac was also like Jesus because he trusted in his father Abraham. Isaac, who would have been a strong young man at the time, allowed his elderly father to nearly sacrifice him on an altar. Jacob was Christ-like because, as Jesus took on human flesh, Jacob wore Esau’s garments to obtain a blessing. Both men also went to a distant land (Christ descending from heaven to earth) to obtain a bride.
Without belittling the accomplishments of any other patriarch, I believe Joseph set the example that we most need to learn from today. If, like Joseph, we’re prepared to be either greatly humbled or greatly empowered, we’ll be ready for anything and everything that life may have in store for us.
Joseph and Jesus had much in common, to include the following:
- Both were specially beloved of their father.
- Both let it be known that they were destined to rule over others.
- Both knew what it was like to be envied, hated, betrayed, and falsely accused.
- Both were in possession of a special garment that was stripped from them.
- Both were sold in exchange for silver pieces and handed over to Gentiles.
- As Joseph was raised from a “pit” to the pharaoh’s side, Christ ascended from the grave to His Father’s right hand.
- Both Joseph and Jesus received all the power of the pharaoh and God the Father, respectively.
- Joseph preserved lives by feeding people. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus freed us from every sin and affliction. He feeds us spiritually through the communion bread and wine.
- They each reigned over both Israel and the Gentile world.
- While Joseph’s brothers were thinking he might have died, he was reigning over Gentiles. Similarly, adherents of Judaism are taught that Jesus is dead, and yet He presently reigns over Christians of all races.
Based on the typology and symbolism in the life of Joseph, I wrote the following in my June 2012 press release, “New Book Reveals Hidden Poetry and Symbolism in Genesis” (with minor editing):
Although Joseph’s reign didn’t last long, it presents a picture of heaven and earth in harmony. The pharaoh, representing people in power, accepted wise counsel from Joseph, the lowly prisoner; he, an unjustly imprisoned man, had been set free; Joseph, a type of Christ, married a Egyptian (a Gentile); the hungry were fed; former enemies (i.e., Joseph and his half-brothers) were reconciled; the pharaoh, a government leader, honored Jacob, God’s spiritual leader; and the Hebrews, representing Christians, lived separately from, but at peace with the unbelieving Egyptians. In other words, all was well with the world.
As I further explained, “Joseph extended the Garden of Eden typology from a husband and wife to the broader world of both fallen and redeemed people.” The Garden of Eden was a real place, but it was also symbolic of paradise, or heaven on earth.
Joseph experienced spiritual victory through difficult and heartbreaking trials. After he had grown in faith and character over many years, the Lord exalted him and allowed him to save many lives.
As was explained in part 1, we often have difficulty seeing biblical heroes as types of Christ because we perceive either real or imagined faults. For example, we may inwardly judge Joseph for having reigned in Egypt together with a pharaoh; for having married Asenath, the daughter of an Egyptian priest; and for not having led Egypt to believe in God.
In response to these objections, the pharaoh was a type of God the Father because he raised Joseph (a type of Jesus) from a pit to a throne. The pharaoh’s actions show that he trusted in the God of Israel. Whether they chose to believe or not, all the people of that region heard about God’s foreknowledge and His power over life and death.
We also have no reason to assume that Joseph compromised his faith. It’s simply wrong to judge Joseph and Asenath based on who her father was. This appears to have been a politically arranged marriage, intended to appease the priests. Asenath was unsuccessful in converting Joseph, if that was the plan, and I suspect that she became a worshipper of Yahweh.
One of the problems with understanding Joseph, as well as some of our politicians today, is the simple fact that Joseph was a politician. Therefore, he had to respect other people’s wishes in much the same way that God respects our free will. I will explain and defend some of Joseph’s other actions in part 7.
Although the primary legacy of Genesis is the Fall, by no means did this precious book leave mankind without hope. In particular, God gave Abraham the messianic promise, as well as promises of descendants, land, and a nation that would be a blessing to the world. These promises found their initial fulfillment in the lives of Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. These men were types of Christ in the following ways:
|Abraham||Prophet, Visionary||Pilgrim traveler who saw into the future by faith.|
|Isaac||Priest||Willingly laid down his life when his “old man” nearly killed him. Represents life from God at conception and after Mount Moriah.|
|Jacob||Warrior||Wrestled with the Angel. Like Jesus, he led a twelve-man “army.”|
|Joseph||King||Reigned over Egypt (the world) and over his brethren.|
Dominion in the Lives of Joseph and Jesus
The life of Joseph shows that God wants us to have a significant, positive impact in the world for His glory. Even from a prison in a pagan land, God raised Joseph to the top rung of Egyptian society. This was merely a “down payment” on the Lord’s promise that the world would eventually be filled with Abraham’s children through faith in Jesus. The New Testament makes it clear that this promise pertained to the spiritual children through the promised Seed, which was Christ (Gal. 3:16, 29).
Obviously, Joseph’s story wasn’t meant to teach us that God wants us all to attain a high political position. For that matter, even Joseph had to die to the dreams of power that he’d experienced in his youth. The primary lessons that I derive from this are that God wants His children to bless this world in every possible way, and that there’s no limit on what He can do through us.
For Christians who may, for whatever reason, may be reluctant to accept Joseph’s example, similar events are repeated later in the Old Testament, especially when David and Solomon extended Israel’s dominion to foreign lands. Even in the prophetic writings we find a predominantly earthly vision for national Israel, not individualistic expectations of an other-worldly salvation.
Israel was bound to fail, but not because the prophets were mistaken in having focused on what God wanted to do in this world. Simply put, Israel failed because of disobedience. In a typological sense, she was destined to fail because the nation had been founded on types of Christ such as Abraham and Moses, not on Christ Himself. Adam’s sinful legacy had only been reversed in a symbolic sense, through sacrifices and offerings.
These events happened, and were recorded for our instruction so that we would recognize the true Messiah; understand what He did for us; and know what God intends to accomplish through His universal nation, the Church.
Jesus was qualified to reverse the curse of Adam because He had authority, both as the Son of Man and the Son of God (1 Cor. 15:21-22, 45-47). The symbolism of Joseph’s reign will be fulfilled by the completion of Christ’s millennial reign (Rev. 20:4).
We talk a lot about Adam, but God also intended for Eve to play a central role in His plans. Figuratively speaking, the Church is Eve to the new Adam, which is Christ.
You’re beginning to witness one of the beautiful things about Genesis, which is how it gives us a preview of the entire Bible. Genesis sheds light on the rest of the Bible, and vice versa.
In order to understand the significance of Joseph’s reign over Egypt, we must first learn what it means for Christ to reign in the world, or to have a kingdom in the world today. That will be the topic of part 3.
We’ve all come under the influence of biblical literalism in some way because it’s part of our modern worldview. The scientific or analytic mind prefers propositional truth over artistic expression. Thus, it’s understandable that fundamentalist Christians want to cling to the Bible’s literal teachings. Do you agree, or do you think the study of Bible symbols and types could shed further light on the text? Feel free to comment below.