"And beginning from Moses and from all the
prophets, He interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning
Himself... And He said unto them, These are My words which I spoke unto you,
while I was yet with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are
written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning Me"
The Large Place Given to
Joseph in the Scriptures
Now we come to the close of the first of the
distinctive men. The man who closes that series and that course of individuals,
is Joseph. There is something very important, I think extra important, bound up
with this message. And I will trust that as we go on, we shall be gathering up
what has already been said without going back over it. At the outset, I am quite
sure that you must have been impressed in your reading of the Bible with the
very large place that was given to Joseph.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
The Greatness of the Cost
But if there is going to be a people and a
corporate vessel and instrument of so great and high a testimony, how great will
be the cost, how deep will be the discipline, how keen will be the trial. The
words are not too strong, "the word of the Lord tried him". I venture to
say that that is just the point at which our greatest trial takes place, our
most acute and poignant trial is there. The Lord has said... the promises are
so-and-so... but He seems so slow in fulfilment. He seems to be contradicting
even His own promises and we are not in the good of all that we have been led to
believe He wants, and we are going through it. And we are going through it on
the word of the Lord. Is not that your point of keenest trial? It is not that
the Lord is unfaithful, in the long run it is going to be all fulfilled, but in
the meantime it is true, we come to the Lord about something He has said and
promised, and He does not do it now. He keeps us waiting, He takes us through
experiences which seem a direct contradiction to what He has said. It looks as
though the Lord is not true to His word and not faithful to His promise, He is
not honouring what He has said. For a moment it is like that. Sometimes it is
like that and all seems dark as to the word of the Lord. It is not fulfilled.
The word of the Lord tries us. It tried him. Joseph evidently believed that
those dreams of his were not just dreams. They were prophecies and promises. God
meant that. It proved to be so. Oh, where is the fulfilment? Instead of his
brethren bowing down to him and making obeisance, he is in their cruel hands,
their victim, the victim of their spite and malice. Where is the word of the
Lord? He has seen himself exiled by his brethren and here he is in a dungeon.
Where is the word of the Lord? The word of the Lord tried him...
What is it for? God has an elect people in view
who are to take up the fruit of this man's suffering, to come into the good of
this man's discipline and know the value of this man's trial. He is pre-fighting
out the battle for a people, and that is very true. It was true of the Lord
Jesus in the full sense, but what about all these passages - "To you it hath
been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to
suffer in his behalf" (Phil. 1:29). "I... fill up on my part that which
is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which
is the church" (Col. 1:24). Why is this man going through it? "The body's
sake" is the answer. Why did Christ go through it? - for His church's sake.
"Christ... loved the church, and gave himself up for it" (Eph. 5:25).
What the Lord is after is a corporate vessel of testimony. He has paid the price
for that, but we do not come into it mechanically and automatically. We come
into it along the same line of suffering, that, baptized into His death, we too
may be in the likeness of His resurrection. Oh, what suffering is involved! What
discipline is necessary! But it is all training. You must recognize that aspect
of the experience, the painful experience and the years of trial for Joseph. It
was training, training to rule. Yes, it is training. It was the enlargement of
spiritual capacity for administration. There is no other way.
Food for the People of God
the Focal Point
Now I want to come to the real
point in this story and the real message for now and for our day. All
this is true in principle as a foundation and a background, but you notice the
testimony, the whole testimony for which Joseph went through all this, is
focused upon one thing: bread, food - the matter of keeping alive, the matter of
bread and keeping alive in a day of famine; keeping alive when death was making
famine its vehicle of operation.
There is a very serious crisis
involved in the world situation today upon this very point. It is the crisis of
spiritual stamina, the strength to endure, to go through. It is a matter of
whether there is the constitution to stand up to it. What has happened in China?
Thank God for all who have stood up to it and have gone through and are going
through, but many have been swept away - yes, Christians, and I believe
born-again Christians, have capitulated, surrendered, broken down and gone over.
That is the tragedy. That is not going to remain true of China alone. That is
going to spread, it is spreading. We are in a new situation, we have had world
upheavals, a lot of us have lived through two world wars, but they were not of
this kind. They tested Christians - yes, some failed under the test, others came
out gloriously. But it is not the same thing. Those two great world upheavals
were not essentially a spiritual issue, but the present is. It is God and
anti-God. It is a distinctly defined spiritual issue. The whole thing is against
the Lord and His Christ, and therefore it presents an altogether new situation.
Spiritual stamina is the need now
and from now onwards - not just to be a Christian, but to be able to go through
the full force of the spirit of antichrist unto God. It is so clear that is the
situation now, and it is not just a question of whether you are a Christian. It
is a question of whether as the Lord's you are marked down by this whole
spiritual system back of the world powers, marked down for death, for
destruction, simply because you are the Lord's and you are known. The great
question of this present and growing new situation is stamina, the power of
endurance, spiritual constitution and maturity of the spiritual life.
The tragedy of so much of our
evangelism - thank God for every soul born again, for every life brought to the
Master, but oh, what a cry that they should be built up and not be swept back
again by the on-rush of the counter forces - and that is what is happening. Oh,
build up these Christians, see to it that there is body, there is constitution,
there is maturity, that they are not left poor children to be carried away by
every wind of doctrine or to be swept away by the waves of adversity. Get them
on their feet. Yes, that is the need, that is the situation, that is the
message. Oh, do not think for one moment that in what I am saying there is any
hint or suggestion of taking away from evangelism. No, thank God for every bit
of it, however faulty or defective it may be. Thank God if it is bringing souls
to the Saviour. But oh, there is this other thing. You see, they have to meet
something new, it is spreading.
And let me pause here. You see, although that
thing may be fully developed as a system in certain parts of the world and
spreading as such, it is not just there. It is the breath of this thing that is
going beyond the system. We in our country are beginning to feel more than ever
the death in the atmosphere, something evil spreading over the world. It has not
come yet as a fully instituted system of things, it is not set up in our Western
countries, but the spirit of it, the breath of it, something indefinable is at
work. Men are becoming more and more impervious to the things of the Spirit.
There is something hateful and evil in the air. It is true. It is the spirit of
this thing that is in advance of the system. It is something from hell, and if
we are not at present involved in the ultimate issue that our dear brethren in
China and the East are involved in, we are involved in the battle, the spiritual
battle of the breath of death, spiritual death. We are in it and we are going to
be in it more and more.
There is an appalling lack of spiritual food in
our evangelism. How thin and superficial and empty it is. I am not talking about
Bible teaching - there is any amount of Bible teaching - but Holy Ghost
revelation to the spirit. That is food. We have yet to say, before this
conference ends, something on that very point. These men on the Emmaus road -
they had the Bible, but it did not save them. They needed a revelation. But we
are coming to that. You see what I am after. It is not Bible lectures or the
content of the Bible or the analysis of the Bible. It is the Holy Ghost
ministering that to the inner man to build him up.
Any instrument, individual or
corporate, who is going to fulfil that ministry is going to have a hard time and
is going through suffering. You may preach and lecture on the Bible and never
know anything about this, but if you are going to be a vessel through which the
Lord ministers real spiritual good to bring about this something which will
withstand the tides of death and iniquity, you have to go a very deep way. You
will not be allowed to have a shallow, superficial life. This is the story of
Joseph, this is the story of Christ, this is the story of every instrument ever
used by God for the purpose of really building up the spiritual Life of His
people. "I... fill up... that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ
in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." That is the language
of a man to whom we owe an incalculable debt.
The Lord has never Himself stayed at the point
of being born again. On this very matter of Life He has said "I came that
they may have life, and may have it abundantly" (John 10:10). He did not
just say "I came that they may have life" - that is your new birth, that
is your initial salvation. You have Life, the gift of God, His grace, Life... ah,
but the Lord never stopped there. "I give unto (my sheep) eternal life"
(John 10:28), that is the gift. But oh, see the afterward, and the increase of
capacity working out in the mighty fulnesses of Life! That is something more.
Christ risen and exalted; not only Christ crucified, but Christ risen and
exalted is the fountain of abundant Life. Joseph risen and exalted - fulness of
Life for others. Christ risen and exalted - fulness of Life for His
And coming back to our wonderfully detailed
story in Luke 24, you see the very change that took place in that short space of
seven and a half miles was the change from the local to the universal, the
change from the temporary to the eternal, the change from the earthly to the
heavenly. All the principles of Christ risen and exalted are there. From the
local to the universal - He is no longer the local Christ pinned to one place at
a time. He is liberated, released, free, bounding all space, and time and space
have been put out. Christ is risen. The church ought to be like that; no local
thing, but its spiritual influence and power universal to touch the whole world
by the Throne - that is the principle. We ought to be touching the world by the
Throne. Christ on the Throne is our focal point of influence over the nations.
When the church gets to prayer and touches the Throne, the nations ought to be
affected. That is not just language and idealism. That is how it ought to be.
They discovered that the local had given place to the universal, the earthly to
the heavenly, the temporary to the eternal. All these limitations down here had
gone. That took place in a very short time.
How much more should I say? I do not want this
to end with a lot of words loudly and emphatically uttered. I am so concerned
that we should see what all this means for our own time. I have come into this
conference with one word ringing in my heart - victory over death. That is to be
the church's testimony through to the end - victory over death. It means far
more than we understand, and when I say the church, it is just there that our
hearts faint. We have to come back and see that when we come to the end of the
Bible, when we come to those final scenes of the testimony in the book of the
Revelation, this testimony is not the testimony of all who believe, but it is
the testimony bound up with a representative company of believers. It is there.
And so, while it would be so imaginative, in a sense so foolish, to think of the
whole church as it is today being like that: the embodiment of this testimony,
expressing victory over death; and seeing how things are, we have to say, "Yes,
that may be true, but God will have a representative company there first." He
will never abandon His purpose, He will never give up His intention, and, as we
shall see in the case of the nations, this great nation which came in after
Joseph to take up the testimony, eventually failed in the testimony. But God had
a remnant even of that nation. It is not that the few of them will be saved, but
it is that the few will fully answer to God in His thought - yes, comparatively
few. But oh, may we be of the few!
I think I have said enough to convey to you
this: that there is a very real place for, and need of, a food ministry. However
great and pressing may be the need of a soul-saving ministry - and it is great -
there must be this other. The need of this other is equal, and in the light of
the end, I would almost say greater, to stem that tide which will carry away so
many. The only thing is real solid food for making constitution. Do you not
think that that is the reason why so large a proportion of the New Testament is
focussed upon the building up of Christians already saved? Yes, that is it.
Well, may our eyes be opened for we are truly
in the presence of a great crisis in the whole history of the things of God in
this world. There is no doubt about that and many will be carried away in the
famine, the famine of real spiritual bread. Oh, let us pray that the Lord will
raise up this Joseph ministry and fulfil it for keeping men alive.