The Power of the Promise Part VII

Lessons from the Life of Joseph – Part I

Abram's slide into the Old Covenant led to trouble, discord and bitterness in his family. Eventually Hagar and Ishmael had to depart leaving Isaac, the son of promise, as the sole heir. Both Abraham and Isaac were eventually sealed in New Covenant faith by the terrible test at Mount Moriah.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.” Hebrews 11:17-19.

Jacob's Old Covenant scheming led to even more horrible consequences. He had to depart from his father's tent and during his absence he suffered under the law of sowing and reaping and was thereby purged of the Old Covenant and sealed in the New Covenant as Israel the conqueror!

The children of Israel (Jacob's sons and daughters) knew the history of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob but in general learnt nothing. We say in general because there were individuals in each succeeding generation who demonstrated outstanding New Covenant faith.

In Paul's list of the outstanding heroes of New Covenant faith he mentions Joseph next after Jacob in Hebrews II.

“By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.” Hebrew 11: 21, 22.

Whereas in the stories of Abraham and Jacob, Sarah and Rebecca respectively sought by human devising to obtain, what God had promised, by their own works of the flesh, in the story of Joseph his own brothers sought to prevent a promise from being fulfilled by their iniquitous evil devising and sinful works of their carnal minds. But before we examine this lowest level of religious unbelief we need to consolidate the new Covenant straight–line of truth.

The Abrahmaic Covenant Is The New Covenant

God's promise to Abraham was God's covenant with Abraham and is the everlasting covenant! God's promise or covenant with Abraham being the New Covenant was confirmed of God in Christ and was, infact, is unalterable and could not be displaced or replaced by any other covenant! Let us and Galatians 3: 16-18; Romans 4:13, 14; Hebrews 11:8-19 and 2 Peter 3:13, 14.

It is clear from these texts of scripture that the ultimate inheritance will be the New Jerusalem in the New Earth. But to live in the New Earth a person must have two qualifications: eternal righteousness and eternal life. And these are also given in the New Covenant promise.

So Abraham, by faith in God's promise, received God's righteousness and God's life in order to be qualified to receive God's kingdom with its capital city the New Jerusalem. Now it is also clear from the above scriptures that the promises were made to two persons (Gal. 3:16) Abraham and Christ, and Abraham could have received the promises only through Christ, (Heb. 9:14, 15).

So what about the others?

Well, remember that Christ and his body are one (1 Cor. 12:12, 27). Therefore all who are in Christ are one with Christ and are heirs according to the promise (Gal. 3: 29)! Read also John 15:1-4.

Therefore nothing can be against God's promises and nothing can replace or displace God's promises. When God later on was obliged to give his law in spoken and written form it was not to establish a different covenant, it was not to offer a new way of salvation, rather it was to “conclude” or “shut up” all humans under sin so that all humans might see their need of the promise and exercise faith in the Seed (Gal.. 3:21, 22). But most people, like Israel of Old, misunderstand the function of the law and either try to get salvation through the law or try to change the law so as to fit themselves with their sins into the New Covenant. But neither of these can work. The law must bring us to Christ to receive righteousness and life, and must then bear witness that the righteousness received in Christ is the very righteousness which the law demanded but could not give. Therefore the New Covenant gives the same, not a different, righteousness as described in the law. Read Romans 8:1-4.

The New Covenant And God's Eternal Purpose

The New Covenant and God's eternal purpose are in fact one and the same thing. It is what Paul calls “the mystery which was kept secret since the world began,” and yet it is the Gospel and preaches Christ and produces the obedience of faith. Let us read Romans 16:25-27!

Nothing can stand in the way of the New Covenant-eternal purpose. Open your Bibles and read 2 Cor. 13:8 and Romans 8:28 and 31.

When people attack God's New covenant by trying to fulfill God's promises in the efforts of their flesh or by trying to make the promise of non-effect, the only result is that the New Covenant emerges victorious in an even more glorious way!

“God had a knowledge of the events of the future, even before the creation of the world. He did not make His purposes to fit circumstances, but He allowed matters to develop and work out. He did not work to bring about a certain condition of things, but He knew that such a condition would exist. The plan that should be carried out upon the defection of any of the high intelligences of heaven–this is the secret, the mystery which has been hid from ages. And an offering was prepared in the eternal purposes to do the very work which God has done for fallen humanity (ST March 25, 1897). 6BC 1082.

Jacob’s Turbulent Family Life

After the mysterious and victorious outcome in his meeting with Esau Jacob, now Israel, crossed the river Jordan and settled for a while in Schechem. It was here that Simeon and Levi slaughtered the males of Schechem in retaliation for their sister's Dinah's defilement (Genesis 34). This event caused Jacob much anguish and grief and much humiliation. Cruelty and falsehood were manifest in the character of his sons and false gods were being worshipped by them in the camp. Jacob was terribly grieved at the behaviour of his children and while thus bowed down with trouble the Lord directed him to journey southward to Bethel. Jacob directed all his camp to put away all false gods. He repeated the story of his first visit to Bethel and the hearts of his children were touched and subdued. Genesis 35:1-6. Here we see the close connection between the wearing of jewelry, like earrings, and idolatry and we understand quite clearly that the New Covenant has no place for earrings or any other kind of idolatrous jewelry.

At Bethel Rebekah's nurse Deborah died. Thereafter in the journey from Bethel to Ephrath Rachel also died while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin. All of this grieved Jacob with inexpressible sorrow. And as if this were not enough Reuben, the first-born son, committed the terrible sin of having sexual intercourse with Bilhah his father's concubine and thereby forfeited the privileges and honors of the birthright.

At last Jacob arrived at his father's encampment in Mamre. Here he remained during the closing years of Isaac's life. To Isaac, infirm and blind, the kind attentions of this long-absent son were a comfort during his last years of loneliness and bereavement. Eventually Isaac died at the ripe old age of 180 years and Esau and Jacob buried him in Abraham's burial ground.

The sin of Jacob, and the train of events to which it led had not failed to exert an influence for evil – an influence that revealed its bitter fruit in the character and life of his sons. As these sons arrived at manhood they developed serious faults. The terrible results of polygamy were manifest in the household. The jealousy of the several mothers had embittered the family relation, the children had grown up contentious and impatient of control and Jacob's life was darkened with anxiety and grief. His sons, with the exception of one, showed little interest in the things of God and they departed widely from the Abrahamic faith and covenant.

Introducing Joseph

There was one son, however, of a widely different character to the others – the elder son of Rachel, Joseph, whose rare personal beauty seemed but to reflect an inward beauty of mind and heart. He listened to his father's instructions, cherished the Abrahamic promise and loved to obey God. And Jacob loved him more than all his children (Genesis 37:3). Israel's love for Joseph evoked jealousy amongst his brethren and they hated Joseph.

A New Manifestation Of Unbelief – Trying To Prevent The Fulfilment Of A Promise By Human Works

In Genesis 37: 5-10 Joseph told his family about the dreams he had been given. The dreams contained a promise that he would be in a position of honour and power above his brethren. They hated him and resolved to kill him. Eventually they sold him into slavery. They were making sure that the promise contained in his dreams would never come true. Israel was heartbroken yet again.

After the selling of Joseph into slavery, Judah fell into terrible immorality and deception, again this added more grief and sorrow to Israel.

The New Covenant Arrives In Egypt

Meanwhile, Joseph was going to Egypt. As he saw the hills of his father's tents in the distance he wept bitterly and remembered the stinging insulting words of his brothers when he begged for mercy. In the space of a few hours he had been changed from the favourite son to a despised and helpless slave. His heart was broken with uncontrolled grief and terror.

“Meanwhile, Joseph with his captors was on the way to Egypt. As the caravan journeyed southward toward the borders of Canaan, the boy could discern in the distance the hills among which lay his father’s tents. Bitterly he wept at thought of that loving father in his loneliness and affliction. Again the scene at Dothan came up before him. He saw his angry brothers and felt their fierce glances bent upon him. The stinging, insulting words that had met his agonized entreaties were ringing in his ears. With a trembling heart he looked forward to the future. What a change in situation–from the tenderly cherished son to the despised and helpless slave! Alone and friendless, what would be his lot in the strange land to which he was going? For a time Joseph gave himself up to uncontrolled grief and terror.

But, in the providence of God, even this experience was to be a blessing to him. He had learned in a few hours that which years might not otherwise have taught him. His father, strong and tender as his love had been, had done him wrong by his partiality and indulgence. This unwise preference had angered his brothers and provoked them to the cruel deed that had separated him from his home. Its effects were manifest also in his own character. Faults had been encouraged that were now to be corrected. He was becoming self-sufficient and exacting. Accustomed to the tenderness of his father’s care, he felt that he was unprepared to cope with the difficulties before him, in the bitter, uncared-for life of a stranger and a slave.

Then his thoughts turned to his father’s God. In his childhood he had been taught to love and fear Him. Often in his father’s tent he had listened to the story of the vision that Jacob saw as he fled from his home an exile and a fugitive. He had been told of the Lord’s promises to Jacob, and how they had been fulfilled–how, in the hour of need, the angels of God had come to instruct, comfort, and protect him. And he had learned of the love of God in providing for men a Redeemer. Now all these precious lessons came vividly before him. Joseph believed that the God of his fathers would be his God. He then and there gave himself fully to the Lord, and he prayed that the Keeper of Israel would be with him in the land of his exile.” P.P. 213.

Final Appeal

“There are those who have known the pardoning love of Christ and who really desire to be children of God, yet they realize that their character is imperfect, their life faulty, and they are ready to doubt whether their hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit. To such I would say, Do not draw back in despair. We shall often have to bow down and weep at the feet of Jesus because of our shortcomings and mistakes, but we are not to be discouraged. Even if we are overcome by the enemy, we are not cast off, not forsaken and rejected of God. No; Christ is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Said the beloved John, ‘These things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.’ 1 John 2:1. And do not forget the words of Christ, ‘The Father Himself loveth you.’ John 16:27. He desires to restore you to Himself, to see His own purity and holiness reflected in you. And if you will but yield yourself to Him, He that hath begun a good work in you will carry it forward to the day of Jesus Christ. Pray more fervently; believe more fully. As we come to distrust our own power, let us trust the power of our Redeemer, and we shall praise Him who is the health of our countenance.

The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in broad and distinct contrast to His perfect nature. This is evidence that Satan’s delusions have lost their power; that the vivifying influence of the Spirit of God is arousing you.

No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His divine character; but if we do not see our own moral deformity, it is unmistakable evidence that we have not had a view of the beauty and excellence of Christ.

The less we see to esteem in ourselves, the more we shall see to esteem in the infinite purity and loveliness of our Saviour. A view of our sinfulness drives us to Him who can pardon; and when the soul, realizing its helplessness, reaches out after Christ, He will reveal Himself in power. The more our sense of need drives us to Him and to the word of God, the more exalted views we shall have of His character, and the more fully we shall reflect His image.” S.C. 64-65.