So far, Joseph has been shown to us as a type of Christ, a living prophesy of the coming Savior who would suffer on behalf of his people and reconcile them to himself. Just as Joseph’s actions saved not only Israelites but Gentiles, so too would the Christ save men and women from every nation. What a wonder it is that the Bible’s central message of the Savior and salvation is being told as history unfolds in the story of Jacob’s sons. When we began our journey through Genesis we noted the keen observation of Martin Luther that everything in the Bible resides in the Book of Genesis in seed form.
Among the most important doctrines taught in Genesis broadly and the Joseph story specifically is the providence of God; that God rules over the affairs of mankind such that nothing happens apart from his sovereign decree. That great and comforting doctrine is stated outright in chapter 45: “And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (vv. 7-8a). And in chapter 50 Joseph reiterates by saying to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (vs. 20). Joseph’s brothers acted sinfully but God overruled their actions and intentions for the purpose of saving his people.
From the moment Joseph’s brothers first stood before him seeking to buy grain, he became an agent of God’s gracious providence. Through Joseph’s wise actions God was working to produce his purpose of redemption. And in chapter 43 we see a glimpse of Gods good intentions as Joseph welcomes his brothers through the doors of his own home and lays a feast before them. Just as his “rough” treatment of them was the pressure used to cause them to grieve their sin, the feast was an expression of the abundant goodness behind those actions. Behind every act of God’s discipline lays a feast.
“There is a long chain [linking together] God’s ways, counsels, decrees, actions, events, judgments, mercies; and there is white and black, good and evil, crooked and straight, interwoven in this web; and the links of this chain, partly gold, partly brass, iron, and clay, and the threads of his dispensation, go along through the patriarchs’ days, Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and are spun through the ages of Moses, and the church in Egypt, and the wilderness, and come through the times of the kings of Israel and Judah, and the captivities of the church, and descend along through the generations of prophets, Christ, the apostles, persecuting emperors, and martyrdoms of the witnesses of Jesus, slain by the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, till the end of the thread and the last link of the chain be tied to the very day of the marriage of the Lamb. Now, in this long contexture of divine providence you see, not one thread broken…Though this web be woven of threads of [different] colors, black and white, comfortable and sad passages of God’s providence, yet all [makes] a fair order in this long way… All is beauty and order to God” (Samuel Rutherford, Trial and Triumph, 110-111).