“. . . . Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him.”
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?”
“. . . . And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.”
The living Church of Jesus Christ are not the only admirers of Holy Writ. Untold millions of people who are ultimately lost have seen the sublimity of the Scriptures. The very heart of the Bible, the everlasting Gospel is seen and tasted by many who will never dwell in the celestial beauty of the new paradise of God.
We underestimate the effect produced by the Bible on the minds, hearts and souls of the unregenerated.
In my reading of so-called classical literature I have very often come upon scenes and persons and situations which have a distinct flavor of God’s special revelation. In fact, you may be able to see Christ reproduced, and saints copied in the most often read classics.
I could cite many examples.
I will just mention two outstanding cases.
You all know that the great theme of the Bible is Christ’s substitutional suffering and death for His people: a revelation of the love of God.
Well, Charles Dickens really should have chosen a different title for one of his best loved novels: The Tale of Two Cities. he should have called it: The Great Substitution. And I do not doubt at all that it was inspired by Christ’s vicarious suffering on the cross of Calvary. Sydney Carton’s journey to the guillotine on the rough tumbrel to the place of execution where he sacrificed his head for Charles Darney, or the Marquis St. Evremonde, is Dickens’ reproduction of Christ’s via dolorosa.
And if you should doubt, then study the last whisper into the ear of his “god” before his ascent to the “cross”: “A life you love!”
The other example you will find in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
The simple M. Myriel, later exalted to the bishopric of D., is plainly Hugo’s conception of Christ, but then not so much in his vicarious atonement as in his unspotted holiness, righteousness, and sweet humility.
Moreover, you will find a combination of Job and Joseph in the sufferer Jean Valjean.
Oh yes, Hugo was entranced with Christ’s constant admonition: Love your enemies! Attend to Valjean’s saving of his arch-enemy Javert!
And thus I could go on and on, and cite examples where wicked men, writing largely for wicked men have seen and tasted the good Word of God, have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were fructified in their imaginations to reproduce the great mystery of Godliness in the sphere of this wicked world.
There ever is a species of humanity who taste of the heavenly gift, and say: it is sublime!
But they never did the Word of God. Their very admiration of the great Vicar will condemn them in the day of days.
Joseph’s story is no fiction.
Joseph’s story is authored by the Holy Ghost.
And it is beautiful, enthralling, sublime.
Look at the cluster of murmuring brethren: they are visibly scared.
Jacob, the patriarch is dead.
They never trusted Joseph’s tears and kisses. They could not conceive of so great forgiveness on his part.
I have heard the title of a worldly song which came over the air waves: “Doing what come naturally!”
Well, that was the tenor of their thoughts about Joseph.
Oh yes, they knew and remembered the awful past. Listen to these pregnant words: “all the evil which we did unto him!”
If you take time to study the life of Joseph, you will find that for a long time his life was a veritable via dolorosa, a way of suffering. From his earliest recollections he remembered how his father petted him, with the resultant hatred of his brethren.
When his good soul heard and saw the evil deeds of his brethren, it was love of God and love of his brethren that prompted him to bring to Jacob their evil report. But how was he rewarded? You know.
Sharing Jacob’s anxiety for the welfare of his brethren, he traveled to Dothan;—and walked into the evil hands of his brethren. Amid his cries for mercy, he was stripped of the hated coat, and cast into a pit. He saw the bargain of Judah, and felt the lashes of the slave.
Later he was tempted by a whore.
Still later he found himself in the dungeon, and even there he was forgotten by the man whom he helped.
Oh yes, they remembered “all the evil they did unto him.”
But now this same Joseph is on the throne, and has all the power and majesty of the great Pharaoh. Whom he willed he saved and whom he willed he destroyed.
Joseph will peradventure hate us!
And will certainly requite us!
He will do that which comes naturally!
How can he ever forget and forgive all the evil we did unto him, all the years of heartache, loneliness, pain and sorrow. How can he forget his long years of suffering: Oh, but we will have to pay for it now. Most certainly he will requite us all this evil!
And they sent a servant to Joseph.
And this servant carried a message from Joseph’s father, now dead. That is, the message is really from the brethren of Joseph, but through this messenger they make it appear that Jacob left a special tidings for Joseph, to be revealed to him after his death.
How childish, yes, and evil!
Do these brethren think that Joseph could not see through this thin veneer of lies? If Jacob really had been concerned about what would befall the brethren after his own death, he certainly would have spoken directly to Joseph. Moreover, why this servant? Why did they not confront Joseph personally?
But Joseph shows the grace of God which dwelled so richly in him.
When the brethren follow this servant, fall down before his face, and confess their sin, Joseph wept.
Those tears were precious in God’s sight.
They are the tears of loving-kindness.
And listen to his wisdom: Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
How seldom do we find this pure motive of loving-kindness to the undeserving?
Note: he will not requite anything at all, even though he has all the power to do it.
Do you not see that Joseph knew God? It was the wisdom of God which told him that there is one who judges and that one is God.
Now let us look into our own heart and history: how often did we judge this way? When it was in our power to revenge ourselves? When we could and did use hard speeches, evil faces and words against those that wrongfully used us? Were we always filled with loving-kindness and say: Am I in the place of God?
When I think on this my spirit is overwhelmed in me, and I feel guilty.
It seems as though Joseph went to school with Jesus of Nazareth. It seems as though he stood on that unknown mountain in Galilee when Jesus preached His Sermon on the Mount.
Now let them say that the Old Testament is hard and cruel, but the New Testament sweet and tender.
Listen to Joseph as he talks to those evil brethren: Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
Do you notice how beautiful the life of grace is?
Sin is very ugly, but loving-kindness is beautiful. Who can find fault with Joseph in not punishing his brethren? But contrariwise, dealing kindly with them?
I can easily see that Joseph throughout all the dreary years in Egypt had prayed constantly for his brethren, and asked of God to forgive their sin and their trespass.
An attitude such as we see here is not born in a day. Behind it lies years of self discipline, self condemnation and abhorrence of self.
And, positively, such an attitude of Joseph shows a liberal portion of the heavenly Gift, and that is Jesus.
And also this: such an attitude is the fruit of both the fear of God and of wisdom. Joseph was a man of like passions as his brethren.
That they acted cruelly and that he acted in loving-kindness is due to the fact that Joseph had a great portion of the heavenly gift in him. That makes all the difference in the world.
Then you become a copy of the Christ of God. Then you begin to think, speak and act like Christ. That is the only explanation of the beauteous picture of Joseph in the Bible.
Victor Hugo’s Christ is a phantom.
Charles Dickens’ Christ is a mirage.
But the prefiguration of the Christ of God in Joseph is beautiful.
And it fills us with holy jealousy on the on; hand; and on the other hand leads us to pray: Oh God, make me like Joseph!