Of course, the writer did not divide his narrative into chapters, but in our chapter division the story of Joseph occupies no less than eleven long chapters, and then you have other references to him such as Jacob's blessing of Joseph and the reference to him in the psalms. "He sent a man before them; Joseph was sold for a servant: his feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in chains of iron, until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tried him" (Psa. 105:17-19). The margin says, "His soul entered into the iron". "The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of peoples, and let him go free" and so on. Then Stephen in his great discourse brought in Joseph. This man has a large place.
It is rather surprising, and we may ask the question, 'Why did the writer of these books take all this time and all this trouble to give such a full and large place to this one man?' and I expect you have been caught in the fascination of the story. You start to read this story in Genesis 37 and you do not want to put it down till you have finished, you must see this thing through, it just grips. Now there must be some reason for that. If one person wrote these books, then there must be some very good reason for his deciding that, with all he had to write, the tremendous amount that he had to crowd in, he gave so full an account of the life and experiences of Joseph, and of course he had very good reason.
Joseph Ends the Individual Line
We have already mentioned one part of the reason. It is that Joseph does end the individual line. He marks a climax in a certain phase and form of God's movement. He is the crown of that movement. Joseph gathers up in fulness and finality all the testimony of all those who preceded him. You will find in Joseph all the features of those who went before. Whereas they represented some particular feature, Joseph is cumulative of them all. Then Joseph, gathering up in fulness and finality all that has preceded him, passes it on to a family nation and has gathered up all that is required for a corporate expression. He is the link between all the individuals and the corporate, the nation. He gathers up and he passes on for corporate continuance of the testimony.
If you think about that in the light of the Lord Jesus you will say, 'Well, without considering all the parts and the details, that is true in an infinitely greater way of the Lord Jesus'. He gathered all the parts of the past in Himself and handed them on to the church. God knew the meaning of things, the Spirit of God was alive to all that was intended in these figures and these types. God was acting in full view of His Christ and His church, and that is why the Spirit of God Who made men write, made this man write so much about Joseph. I think we should not be wrong if we said that there is no greater type of Christ in the Bible than Joseph. I leave that with you if you want to dispute it, but we could very easily spend hours, without exaggeration, upon the typical aspects of Joseph's life as pointing to Christ. It is like that. It is very comprehensive.
Joseph Suffered for the Family of God
Well now, having said that, let us come to this matter and try in his case, as we have done in each other case, to sum him up and to put him into some concise form. Joseph is the man who went the way of suffering and death and resurrection for the sake of the family of God and the perpetuation of the Lord's testimony in a spiritual family. That summarizes Joseph, that is the ultimate verdict upon his life.
I am taking it that you know the details of his story. Joseph's ultimate verdict upon his own experience, his own life, with all that at one time looked like tragedy, heartbreak, misfortune, accident, with all the anguish, his own verdict upon it all was this - "Ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Gen. 50:20). That is the summary, the verdict. You have to wait to get to the end before you can really say a thing like that, but he did say it at last. "God meant it..." - what? The jealousy and the envy, the hatred and the malice of his own brethren; they are selling him into Egypt after having put him into a grave. Taking him up again, that terrible thing that happened in Egypt resulting in his being flung into the dungeon and kept there and forgotten - yes, what the psalmist calls "his soul entering into iron" - "God meant it for good." And what was in God's mind and intention was, through it all, to send him before to preserve life. This is the issue again. It is this whole matter of Life coming up, to preserve Life. It is the battle again over this issue, it is the testimony of Life. Joseph most certainly was the embodiment of this great truth of Life triumphant over death, death destroyed and Life victorious.
Joseph's Spiritual Greatness
But look again. What a great man Joseph was spiritually, in this sense how cumulative he was, for he gathered up all those features of the individuals constituting this line of testimony who had gone before. Adam, as we saw, opening the door to death, death entering through Adam, and that is the world and the realm in which Joseph lives out and fights out the battle. For Joseph undoubtedly it is a matter of life or death. That is the significance of his life, he is up against that thing. Do I need to argue it? Look on to the great antitype. The hatred of his own flesh and blood towards him - and the Lord Jesus. "For envy they delivered him" (Matt. 27:18) it says distinctly. The envy, the jealousy, and through all that, murder and death. Oh, those counsellings to put Him to death! They "took counsel against him, how they might destroy him" (Mark 3:6). You are reading the story of Joseph and Christ in one. Actually that is what Joseph's own brethren did and what Christ's brethren after the flesh did. Joseph is precipitated into this great issue in a typical and prophetic way. So he took up the issue which came in with Adam.
Abel - here again we find the hatred, the malice, the envy, the jealousy of his brother Cain leading him to murder. And Abel was the victim, the shepherd victim, who offered his lamb, and in offering his lamb involved his own life and had to offer his own life with it. What a picture of the great shepherd of the sheep, Who was the Lamb and the Shepherd together in one. Joseph took up Abel and what was true of him.
Abraham - we said that the one inclusive thing about Abraham was his detachment from this world and his attachment to heaven. Was that true of Joseph? Most certainly it was. The testimony for which he was standing involved him in having to let go everything of this world and finding his everything in heaven. Of course, it is type, it is imperfect type, but there it is, there is no doubt about it. Here is quite a young man, and if a young man were involved in a situation like this, well, it would be goodbye to this world's prospects. See him, then, cast into the grave, into the pit. See him taken out and sold as a slave to an Egyptian household. See him maligned and lied against. See him forgotten in the dungeon. What sort of position is that for a young man of worldly prospects? But it is quite clear from all we read about him that he never lost his faith. He clung to heaven, he clung to God, when everything else here was apparently impossible. How he took up Abraham's position into himself, how he was baptized into that Cross whereby the world is crucified!
What was the only feature of Isaac? We said that Isaac is only explained and defined in one word - that is: resurrection. In the sovereignty of God, he had to be a young man whose life had to be lived on one issue: that he was raised from the dead and that he knew for his life the meaning of resurrection. You can never know that unless you are baptized into death. We are not given the inner story of how Isaac felt about it all, how he felt when he discovered that he was the victim in view or when he discovered that his father was going to slay him. We do not know how he felt about it. He went through something, he must have gone through something, but God raised him. And Joseph took this up, he went into a very deep death and God raised him and brought him up.
And as for Jacob, we said about Jacob that he had to have the experience of a deep application of the Cross to his self-hood. Many people who have written about Joseph have said a lot about that side of him. Strangely enough, the Bible does not say anything about it. It is there, no doubt. Perhaps he was a young man; when you are seventeen years of age you are capable of a lot of mistakes. They have made a lot of the fact that he 'told on' his brethren and took back stories to his father about his brethren's misdemeanours. The Bible does not make anything of it - men do. Perhaps it was there. Yes, and he talked about his dreams in which he was more important than his brethren. The Bible does not make anything of that. It has Christ in view. It may have been true. There may have been faults and weaknesses, failures... yes, much unworthiness, and Joseph was no exception, but did not God take him in hand! If there was that side, and no doubt there was, he went through enough discipline to have put him well alongside of Jacob. If Jacob went through it to break that strong selfhood, there is no doubt about it that Joseph entered into that meaning of the Cross where the self-life was thoroughly dealt with.
there is no doubt about it that Joseph entered into that meaning of the Cross where the self-life was thoroughly dealt with.
So he gathered them all up in himself. How comprehensive he is! What is it all for? Well, as we have said, the end in view is the testimony of God, the testimony of Christ in terms of Life and coming to the place of the throne, absolutely in dominion, in ascendancy; the testimony of Life to be found in an elect people. That is the principle and it is no small thing. And the Lord Jesus, in a far fuller and deeper way than in Joseph or all the patriarchs or all the other representations put together, went that way for the same object: not that it should remain in Himself as an isolated, independent unit, but that all should be handed on to an elect people, that that elect people should be the vessel of His testimony. That is a tremendous thing to foreshadow in one life, and that is the end. There is no getting away from it, that is the end God had in view.