A Pattern Of Faith And Love
Mr. Donald L. Norbie of Greeley, Colorado, serves with our Lord in a variety of ways, primarily in assembly building and student work.
There are many heroes of the faith whose lives are recorded in Scripture. They were men and women marked by great moments of faith and holiness. Yet most of them also have histories that are marred by accounts of unbelief and failure. Only a few have unsullied records in Scripture and Joseph is one of these. As such, in many ways he is a type of Christ and also a pattern saint for believers today.
Life was not easy for Joseph. His early days at home saw him surrounded by brothers who envied him because of his place with their father (Gen. 37:4). Envy led to hatred and a vicious rejection of him. This culminated in their decision to kill him when he came to visit them as they cared for their flocks (Gen. 37:20). Their decision was modified at Reuben’s suggestion. They sold him to a trading caravan enroute to Egypt. Joseph watched with terror as twenty pieces of silver were counted out. He entered the dark realm of slavery.
The parallels to the life of Jesus are obvious. He too knew the envy and hatred of brethren (Matt. 27:18). Silver, thirty pieces, passed from hand to hand as He too was sold. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (John 1:12).
Joseph waited his fate in a dark pit as his brothers deliberated. Jesus waited silently in Pilate’s court. The air was heavy with hatred as they cried, “Crucify Him!”
And believers, too, have their moments of rejection by the world.
At times one may even know the keen hurt of betrayal by his brothers in the faith.
What was Joseph’s response? His heart constantly moved toward his brothers in love. His statement, “I seek my brethren” (Gen. 37:16), expresses his longing toward them. One of the most touching scenes in Scripture is his revealing of himself to his brothers in Egypt. As they are filled with fear, he cries, “Come near to me” (Gen. 45:4). His compassion and love are overwhelming. There is no desire for revenge, only forgiveness.
And surely this marked the Lord Jesus. He loved men and longed to save them. He wept over Jerusalem. On the cross His lips repeated, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). They spit in His face and ridiculed His claims. He showed no spirit of revenge, only forgiveness. And in all this He is a perfect example for the believer today (1 Pet. 2:21-23). We too readily lash out in self-defense. Our love can be very thin.
Joseph was a model in disciplining others. He came into a position of power and his brothers were at his mercy. He might have used force to compel a confession. But he wisely desired an internal change of heart. He used circumstances to cause his brothers to remember their past sin. Time was necessary for this and Joseph did not disclose his identity until conviction was apparent. This change was evident when Judah was willing to remain in Egypt as a slave so that Benjamin could go free (Gen. 44:33). It was at this point that Joseph knew repentance was real and he wept loudly before them, and said, “I am Joseph; does my father yet live?” (Gen. 45:3).
The hand of God is still heavy on Israel in judgment. But conviction will yet come and repentance. “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn…” (Zech. 12:10). The weeping of Joseph and his brothers as they are reconciled pictures vividly the coming repentance of Israel. In the meantime, God waits patiently in His discipline. And churches must do the same, as they discipline erring members. Repentance is the result of God’s working, not man’s conniving.
Joseph is a pattern for faith. During the dark hours of testing, when he was betrayed by Potiphar’s wife and spent years in prison, he never wavered. His confidence in God was strong. God was for him; God would vindicate him. As a result, his attitude and actions were positive towards those around him. His godly character caused his superiors to trust him and to give him responsibility over others. Potiphar “made him overseer over his house” (Gen. 39:4). The jailer “committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners that were in the prison” (Gen. 39:22). Joseph used adversity to develop character rather than becoming bitter. Faith can trust God for ultimate justice.
When Joseph came into power as a ruler in Egypt this same faith produced a delightful humility. He could see God’s hand in all the circumstances of life. As he revealed himself to his brothers, he said, “So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 45:8). Joseph, by faith, saw God’s hand in all the circumstances of life, and he stood in awe and humility before the Almighty. Even man’s evil could be turned to good by this heavenly alchemy. “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
The Lord Jesus revealed confident faith through the darkest trial. The Father was with Him. He refused to become bitter when He knew the hatred and rejection of men. In faith He “committed Himself to Him that judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23). In His moment of death He could pray, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Confidence in the Father characterized His every step. And like Joseph He is marked by humility and gentleness in His resurrection triumph. How gently He reassured his disciples’ wavering faith. He was very gracious in restoring a defeated Peter.
Through all the vicissitudes of life the believer needs the shield of faith. The God of Joseph is still able to work the fragmented puzzle of life into a meaningful pattern. God does work in all things for the believer’s good and His glory (Rom. 8:28).