State Road, Del., Dec. 8, 1897.
Brethren Editors: – I cannot know that a subject will interest and profit others, because at the time it is interesting to me. But as that is all the guide I have, I allow myself to be guided by it. I will to-day submit some reflections on the character and calling of Joseph of old, and his relation to the people of Israel. As the best introduction to what I have in mind, I will name some reasons for objecting to an idea that has prevailed quite extensively, that Joseph was a type of Christ. It might be enough to say about this, that the inspired writers have not so referred to him in a single instance that I can recall; but there are difficulties that appear to me to be barriers in the way of using Joseph as typical of Christ to such an extent as to in value us in much confusion. Unless he was really intended as a type, we shall gain nothing by efforts to make one of him. Not only was he one of the people of Israel, but one of the twelve tribes; and he was prominent among them; so much so as in a number of instances the name Joseph is used for the whole nation of Israel. After the separation from Judah and Benjamin, the name of a son of Joseph is applied to the whole ten tribes nearly as often as the name Israel. While Joseph was one of the people of Israel, still he had an experience that they did not have; and he also had a mission that he fulfilled that they did not have, and could not have fulfilled. This experience and its fruit is what I propose to speak of. Some expressions with regard to him seem like holding him forth as representing all the God-fearing people in that nation. I will name some of those Scriptures where Joseph is named as representing the whole people of Israel. The prophet Amos, speaking of the idolatries of the people of his time, says, “It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.” Again, speaking of the distress of many of the people, and the hard-heartedness of the idolaters, he says, “They are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” The psalmist says of the God of Israel, “Thou that leddest Joseph like a flock.” And again, when Joseph is alluded to as representing the ten tribes, he says, “Moreover he refused the tabernacle, of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved.” These Scriptures are sufficient to show that Christ is not typified in them. The different tribes of Israel received blessing from Israel their father, and also from Moses, when they were about to enter the promised land. In both of these there is a recognition of the prominent place Joseph fills among the tribes, and also I think of what he typifies throughout all the generations to come. There is in both these announcements of blessings to be developed in Joseph, a special mention of his having been separated from his brethren. These vast and abundant blessings seem to be traceable to not so much any other of his afflictions, as to his long separation from his brethren. This separation was not only from those whose unfeeling and cruel treatment he had suffered, but also from his own brother Benjamin, who had not been with the others, either to share, or even to know, of their murderous designs. He is also separated from his father, and his father’s love, possibly conscious of the anguish that his father must be suffering without its being possible to afford him relief. If his own half brothers had no feeling of pity for him, can any be expected of prejudiced heathen foreigners? Can there be any reasonable hope that he will ever see the face, or hear the voice of friends or kindred again while he lives? It was perhaps a mercy to his father, that he had been led to believe that his son was dead, and that he had not even a suspicion that he was languishing in a gloomy dungeon in a heathen land. Twice in the narrative the prison is called a dungeon, and once it is said, “Where the king’s prisoners were bound.” David in one of his Psalms, says of this imprisonment; “Whose feet they hurt with fetters he was laid in iron.” This loathsome, intolerable imprisonment must have gone on for years. Even when a glimmering hope dawned upon him through the release and enlargement of the chief butler, by whom he sent forth a pathetic appeal to the authorities, even this fails. He is forgotten and lost sight of, to pine in his dungeon for two more of these sorrowful, desolate years. After the light shone upon all this, it was easy enough to see that good could come out of it. But the psalmist says that “the word of the Lord tried him.” Although he remembered the covenant made with Abraham, and had himself had intimations of future advancement, he must at times at least have felt that God had forgotten to be gracious, and that his promise must fail for evermore. He has not left us any record of the despair that must have settled upon him; but the psalmist could not have sunk deeper in the horrible pit and mire, nor Jonah, when out of the belly of hell he cried unto the Lord, and when he said to the Lord, “I am cast out of thy sight,” than did Joseph in his gloomy prison. It cannot be supposed that Joseph during his affliction had the remotest idea of what all this experience was to do for him. It seems to me that in this experience and its results, I see a kind of outline of the schooling that qualifies men for the ministry, and that Joseph is among his brethren as a gospel minister among the saints. He has been learning by the things that he has suffered; but he could not possibly know for what purpose these lessons have been taught him. He does not now entertain a hard thought or feeling for any human being. His brethren through all their prosperity had not learned to pity him; but he, notwithstanding their cruelty, had learned to pity them. He did not know that he was laying up food for his father’s house. It was for any and every one who was starving from the famine. There was no depth of sorrow or of suffering where he had not been; no cold and cruel neglect that he had not suffered; no pangs of hunger and thirst that he had not felt. His heart is full of love and pity and sympathy for the suffering and oppressed everywhere. No matter what the famine amounts to, or how long it lasts, Joseph’s corn will not fail. His resources will satisfy every longing soul. Israel did not know for some time that the corn that they were living upon belonged to the family, and had been stored on purpose for them. They expected to have to pay for all that they got. Egyptians paid for theirs, but they paid it all with Egyptian money. I will not say that all this experience is necessary to tit and qualify any and every gospel minister for his work. They do not all have so many to feed and to provide for as Joseph had. He not only had the stores, but he had the heart to use them; and he had the experience to apply them where they rightfully belonged. I think Jonah was a better preacher after he had to cry to the Lord from the depths of the sea. Indeed, I think he went to Ninevah just as soon as he was qualified to go. But he had learned lessons that were never taught at the feet of Gamaliel. If we trace all the blessings that showed themselves upon the head of Joseph, to those years of bitter experience, we will not contend that he suffered anything in vain. No money goes from the land of Canaan, or from the family of Israel, for this bread. It is without money and without price. There was a time when the order went forth from the house of Joseph, that the whole family are to dine with him at his table. So Joseph prepares a great feast. They all partake of the feast, but do not yet know the kindred that gives them right to this table. It is a feast to which no Egyptian can be admitted. Christ was made known to the disciples in the breaking of bread. So Joseph will be made known at this feast. This tender and pathetic scene has been reenacted many times from Joseph’s day until the present. Though they were seated as guests at the table, and though Joseph was present; while they knew not that it was Joseph, and knew not by what right they could be admitted, they must have partaken with much fear and trembling. When a man’s resources in the ministry are limited, and he lacks variety, and does not wear well, and is not outside of the stand a living illustration of the gospel of the grace of God, it would seem that he had not been through the depths that Joseph went through, because Joseph’s resources never failed. We may not know how long Joseph was separated from his brethren, but we know that it was a separation far beyond ordinary cases. There was little reason for hope that he should see them any more, or that they should ever even know of his condition, so as that he might enjoy their pity and sympathy. It may be a question as to which tends most to strengthen and intensify the love of brethren to each other, to be separated entirely from them, or to be permitted to mingle with them without any restraint. A condition of sorrow and distress for which there appears no relief, calls necessarily for sympathy and pity; and the suffering are drawn to those who are traveling in the same path. A sense of guilt and of just condemnation is as cruel a jailor as Joseph ever found in Egypt, and there is quite as little prospect of the doors ever being opened. Not only separated from their brethren, but also from the world and everything else. I have had kindred in the flesh, but I shall not offend them by saying that the tie that binds kindred in spirit, is a stronger and more cherished tie. I know also what the tie is when it becomes twofold. I have had some opportunity in the way of observation, and have not been without some of the lessons of experience, and am free to say that the pent op love to the brethren, and longing for indulgence for weary years, will grow continually stronger; and it will attain a magnitude and a fruitfulness that will seem like full compensation for past privations, and a more abundant entrance into the Redeemer’s everlasting kingdom. If all who are called to this blessed work of dealing out food to famishing, could care as faithfully for them, and feed them as well as did Joseph, I do not think they would incline to wander away, as we sometimes see people doing, voluntarily separating themselves from their brethren, and bartering away their privileges for some fancied worldly gain. Joseph’s brethren never wandered away from the home that he found for them, nor from the bread with which he fed them. It seemed to be always for their well being while sojourning in Egypt, to keep close within their own borders, as they were shepherds, and shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians.
The above reflections are respectfully submitted.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 66., No. 1.
JANUARY 1, 1898.