"And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance (Genesis 45.7)."
We concluded our last article on "Jesus seen in the life of Joseph" with the quotation of this text, and by commenting that there appeared to be a double meaning contained herein. Before attempting to continue opening up the meaning of the text let us again affirm certain truths found in this general subject.
All eleven of Joseph's grieving brothers, (Genesis 45.5) had been gathered before him, and he had begun to recount to them how it was the Lord's purpose that had brought all this to pass. This was no series of random events, as free-willers might imagine, that simply "happened". God had, from all eternity, purposed the coming together of the family of Jacob at this time. This was uniquely family business, and none of the family involved were missing. This also beautifully portrays the gathering together to Christ, by the Spirit, all His brethren for cleansing and instruction. None of them can be missing at the appointed hour, as none of Joseph's brothers could fail to be present when he revealed himself to them and freely forgave them their trespasses. Not a one could have "ducked out" or have been what the world calls a "no-show". They could not fall away nor perish because their Joseph must tell them, "I am your brother."
There were, however, others of Joseph's kin that were not present at this time, notably Jacob his father, and Dinah his sister. In type and shadow we believe their father Jacob represents the Father of the whole family of God, both in heaven and in earth. The case of Dinah is another matter and not so easily explained.
"And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land (Genesis 34. 1,ff)." Dinah, the seventh child, had six full brothers; Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. These were all the children of Leah, the first wife of Jacob. Dan and Naphtali were the sons of Bilhah; Gad and Asher were the sons of Zilpah; and Joseph and Benjamin were the sons of Rachel. Other than the account of the defiling of Dinah, Genesis 34, and her being named as a daughter of Jacob, Genesis 46.15, nothing is known of her. She was, however, a member of the family even though she was not involved, in any way, direct or indirect, with the onerous crimes of her brothers against Joseph. That being so, she did not stand in any need of forgiveness from Joseph as did the eleven brothers. But, she did need to be delivered from the famine that sent the family of Jacob to Egypt seeking corn. It stands evident then, that all the family, Dinah included, needed Joseph in one way or another. Some, the eleven brothers, needed reconciliation, forgiveness, and deliverance; the other, Dinah, needed restoration and immediate deliverance from the doom that had fallen on the whole of the land. All the family would perish with the rest of the world without the sure mercies of Joseph. But one of them, that being Dinah, had not actively sinned against him as did the eleven. Thus we believe Dinah, in some measure, represents those of the elect family, possibly such as infants, that, despite not willfully sinning against the Lord, nevertheless have fallen under the general curse.
Joseph did indeed have other kin (Dinah) which must be brought. Dinah would in due course be brought to Joseph's presence as surely as the rest. On one occasion Jesus uttered the following: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10.16)." We are very aware that some interpret this verse to mean the Gentiles, but we personally have never found anything in John 10 to satisfy us that this interpretation had any validity. Even so, whether we are right or wrong, we are very sure that Joseph delivered all his family, and gathered them safely to him; the deified sister as well as the wicked brothers. So will our blessed Saviour gather all His sheep to Himself. We have no desire to promote this view as being vital to the family of God, but rather, feel it would be wrong to avoid its mention, especially since Dinah was as much a part of the family of Jacob as were her brothers.
Returning now to the text at the heading, Joseph said "And God sent me." Before any of the sons of Jacob had been born God had purposed to send one of them ahead of the others that he might deliver them from the seven years of famine God had also determined to bring upon the world. Joseph was that chosen one God would send. He did not volunteer, as the account clearly shows, yet neither did he seek to avoid this awesome position given him by God. This was his lot in life and he had been fully equipped before time to occupy his position. His conduct from his youth, both among his family and in Egypt, was not a product of his family life or environment; otherwise the other brothers would have also manifested the same characteristics of conduct. No; as surely as the potter shapes the clay, God had shaped Joseph to do His will; and he did it.
"God sent me before you." No statement in all scripture more vividly portrays beforehand the coming into the world of our Lord Jesus than does this statement. In conjunction with this beautiful figure we learn that before the foundations of the world were laid, Jesus had been ordained as the Lamb slain (Revelation 13.8). Almost 750 years before the fact, the prophet Isaiah foretold of the Son to be given (Isaiah 7.14). Shortly before His birth the angel informed Joseph, the husband of Mary, that the Saviour of sinners was at hand (Matthew 1.21). Jesus, as Joseph, the son of Jacob had typified, was sent by God for a great deliverance; one that far exceeded in scope and grandeur that of Joseph's. See the parable of the vineyard in Luke 20.9-18 for a description of the Lord's being sent, from His own lips.
"And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity." The work was all for Joseph to perform; the benefits were all for the brothers to receive, but only by his grace. Did Joseph then offer these benefits to them? Did he imperiously attach a string of contingencies or conditional demands to his deeds? No; Joseph would freely assure their preservation, for it was God's will for him to secure them, and they contributed nothing to the fact. They had neither the power to assist, nor the inclination to resist. It was the day of his love and power, and their great need, and the one was as necessary to accomplish their preservation as the other was. No one but the most blinded skeptic would deny that God sent Joseph to preserve his brothers. It would require equally blind skepticism to deny that God also sent the brothers to Joseph. God sent Joseph before them, and God sent them following after him, though they knew it not at the time. Nothing did, and nothing could, prevent this family reunion, and the felt need of the brothers was just as necessary as the compassion of Joseph their tender and benevolent brother.
The religion of Arminians and assorted other free-willers would require that this text to be revised somewhat to read, "And God let me volunteer to go before everybody to make possible the preservation of everybody if they would just accept it". But there the text stands, in the sacred pages of God's word, "And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity." So long as the world remains this will be a comfort to every impoverished sinner that feels to be so much like the brothers of Joseph. We have sinned against our brother Jesus, and if now there is to be any hope for our deliverance it must come to us just like it did for them; by God sending our brother Jesus before us to preserve us a posterity. Observe well that Joseph did not say that he would preserve for them a posterity, but that he would preserve them a posterity. Clearly the sense of the statement is that they themselves were the posterity. Just so is the elect family today the posterity of God.
The word posterity, as used in the Bible, means remainder, or remnant. It occurs nine times in the Old Testament and is not found in the New Testament. Except for our reference here, and one in the book of Numbers, where it regards ceremonial cleansing, it refers to the cutting off of the posterity of various persons. Here, however, it is the preserving, or keeping of the posterity under consideration. Comparing then the story of Joseph with Jesus, does not the Good Shepherd preserve and keep the sheep, even restoring those lambs that become lost? We are reminded of the text, "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen (Jude 24,25)." And another, "Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (I Peter 1.5)."
Joseph alone had the power and authority to rescue his family from certain destruction in the coming famine. It is worth repeating again that all of the succeeding events over the years, since they sold their brother, were necessary links in the chain of God's purpose to save their lives by a great deliverance. How great then was their deliverance? Great enough to bring them back before Joseph time and again, though they were terrified and condemned each time they came. Their conduct in all this much reminds us of the response of Peter to the Saviour's inquiry in John 6.68: "Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." Joseph's brothers had no choice in the matter. God sent Joseph before them, and sent them after him. And there they were, to hear the words of life fall sweetly from the lips of their offended, but forgiving, kinsman.
"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 a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45.8)." This was the third time in his brief recitation that Joseph attributed to God the sending of himself to Egypt. Clearly Joseph attached much importance to this fact. This was the very basis of relieving the offenders of their sense of grief and being angry with themselves (Genesis 45.5). The brothers had thrown him in the pit; they had sold him for twenty pieces of silver; they had covered his coat with blood to deceive their father; but in all their actions it was the work of God being fulfilled as surely as if done by Himself. So said Joseph, and so it is recorded in God's Word. Some may feel we make too much of this episode, but it should be noted that God the Spirit has seen good to relate this wondrous story to us in detail. It is the sole account given in chapters 37 through 50 with the exception of the account of Judah and Tamar in chapter 38.
Joseph said he was made a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his house, and ruler of all Egypt. God had signally elevated him to this exalted position that he might be in position to care for his family at the appointed time. However, it would be a serious mistake to contend that Joseph felt towards the house of Pharaoh and the citizens of Egypt as he did towards his still beloved family. Indeed, by his wisdom he parleyed the seven years of plenty into a great windfall for Pharaoh, Genesis 47.14-26, but in no respect did he display the same emotions toward Pharaoh or the Egyptians as he did towards his brethren. From the entire account of the famine it appears that Joseph was very austere towards the citizens of Egypt; he took their moneys, and then their lands with no other obvious compassion, and turned it over to the King's treasury. On the other hand he lavished good things on his family. He secured their best interests and settled them in the favored land of Goshen. And mark it well, this was all because they were brethren. Trespassing brethren at that! He wept over them, spoke kindly to them, and supplied them with provisions to return to fetch their father from Caanan. He guided and counseled them in every step. This was all a vivid display of love to them he had for no one else in the world. His deliverance of the Egyptians was all incidental to the purpose of God for His chosen people.
Volume 7, No. 3