December 11 – Genesis 45-1-15

Main focus: Jesus is the greater Joseph, who went down into the grave and was exalted onto a throne to save not just one nation but a people from all nations.

Of the figures we’ve chosen for our Greater series, Joseph might be the hardest to get. The Bible itself calls Jesus the last Adam, Isaac was an only son (almost) killed as a sacrifice, and David was the king of Israel just like Jesus. But Joseph? How does he fit in?

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The story of Joseph spans Genesis 37-50, so we’re turning this week to Genesis 45:1-15, which provides an excellent little summary of his life. There we find Joseph speaking to his brothers who, decades before, had sold him into slavery because they thought he was cocky (and not that he deserved being enslaved, but if you go back and read Gen 37, he kinda was). If you recall all the twists and turns of Joseph’s life, you’ll remember him working in Potiphar’s house only to be accused by his wife of assaulting her, after which Joseph was thrown into the pit of a prison to rot.

So here was Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob the Patriarch, having been rejected by his brothers and sent off to live the hard life of an Egyptian slave, descending further into humiliation as a convict. You couldn’t have blamed him for wondering why God would allow all this evil to befall him. But the Lord never left Joseph, even in prison (Gen 39:21), and here in Genesis 45, when Joseph has been out of prison for about 9 years, he says perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, “it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Gen 45:8). Later in chapter 50 he’ll say it another way to his brothers: “you meant evil…but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Gen 50:20).

In our discussion we’ll dive into what was going on here. How did Joseph understand the events that brought him to Egypt? It certainly sounds like he couldn’t fully excuse the actions of his brothers—he said to their faces “you meant evil,” after all—but he was able to see the way in which God could use his hard and humiliating experience to bring about good things for Joseph and his people. We’ll also discuss why we think God took Joseph to such a low point before raising him to such a high position, to get a sense for how God was working both for his glory, since only God could do such a thing, and for Joseph’s own good, since he got to experienced God’s reversal of his situation firsthand.

But all along God was also developing another narrative of the reversal of fortunes, of salvation through a rejected son, and of taking his servant from humiliation to exaltation. By now the parallels are likely quite clear: the pattern set by Joseph is ultimately fulfilled and perfected in Jesus. We’ll turn to Philippians 2:5-10 to see this pattern of humiliation and exaltation completed in Jesus who also became a servant, went down to a pit (the grave), and was exalted to a throne. And in Joseph’s story we get a sense for how God could use the death of his only son: “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Gen 45:7).

But, quite obviously, Jesus’s fulfillment is infinitely greater. Jesus was not just a favorite son of a rich sheep herder but the eternal Son of the God of the Universe. And he was subjected to an incomprehensible humiliation, not merely entering some squalid jail cell but dying the death an eternal God should never suffer. But of course there’s more: Joseph forgave his brothers but Jesus can actually forgive sins, Joseph reigned over one nation but Jesus is the King of Kings, and Joseph saved one nation of people from famine but Jesus saved a people of every tribe, tongue, and nation from sin.

Thus Jesus is the Greater Rescuer, plunging into the wretched depths of death so that he could raise us out of the abyss of sin. This should lead us to a point of worship this Christmas. We’ll close by probing again the notion of how this comparison we’ve been doing between Bible characters and Jesus isn’t mere trivia but can do far more than that, helping us see the grand sweep of the biblical story and stirring our hearts to worship Jesus. We’re still a couple weeks out from Christmas, and we can use that perspective to ask how we want to grow in our worship this year. Perhaps we can clear out of our minds all the hoopla and festivities and all the junk we’ll give and get in the weeks to come and take a moment to register how we want our hearts to respond to Jesus our Rescuer.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Genesis 45-1-15 for us?

• What stood out to you from the passage?

• Look at verse 5—how does Joseph explain what brought him to Egypt? (you can also look at Gen 50:20)

• Why do you think God took Joseph to such a low point before raising him to such a high position?

• Could someone read Philippians 2:5-10?

• How can Joseph’s story help us better understand what Jesus accomplished? 

• In what ways is Jesus’s story better?

• In what ways do you want to have your heart stirred to worship Jesus this Christmas?

• Jesus is the Greater Joseph, the Greater Rescuer—how can this help us worship Jesus this Christmas?