Friday, May 15, 2015

Joseph as a Type of the Suffering Savior (part 3)


Genesis 40.

This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:34, 35.

Then were there two thieves crucified with him; one on the right hand and another on the left. — Matthew 27:38.

Did it depend on our remembering him — had it depended even on that penitent and pardoned thief remembering him — to fix and determine how soon Jesus should come to his kingdom, — who can tell but that he might have been left dying, or dead, — as Joseph was left languishing in the prison, — aye! to this very hour. Thanks be to God, it was the Father's remembrance of him, and not ours that was to bring our Joseph out of his dungeon to his royal court; — to bring Jesus from his cross to his crown. It is ours to ask him to remember us in his kingdom. Nor will he ever fail to do so.

He will not forget his having shared our imprisonment, our condemnation, our guilt and doom. All that he endured with us and for us, when he took his place beside us, and accepted as his own our criminality and our curse, must ever be fresh in his mind and heart. Joseph's fellow-sufferer might cease to think, in his prosperity, of the pains of their common distress; but our fellow-sufferer is ever mindful of the agony of the time when he made common cause with us, and bore instead of us our sin and sorrow. Therefore we may ask our fellow-sufferer to remember us with somewhat more of confidence than Joseph may have felt when he asked his fellow-sufferer to remember him. For have we not his own gracious words, — "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me" (Is. 49:15, 16).

II. The case of the chief baker stands out in sad contrast to that of his companion in tribulation (ver. 16-19). He had not been so ready to place his trust in Joseph, and to own him as entitled to speak for God. Rather, as we may too probably gather from the whole scope of the narrative, he had continued incredulous, perhaps contemptuous. When Joseph spoke so simply, — "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me the dreams I pray you," — he may have been inclined to rail at him, saying: If thou be such a favourite of heaven, save thyself. Wouldst thou be where thou art, if God were so with thee as to warrant thine assumption of being his mouthpiece? So this unbeliever may have derided Joseph's claim at first. But now his comrade's good fortune, as he perhaps accounts it, tempts and encourages him to try his chance. He may have the luck to get as favourable a response from the oracle; and, at all events, it can do no harm to make the experiment. He, too, will now tell his dream, and abide the issue.

Alas! it is only ominous of evil. The servant of the Lord can speak of nothing but judgment. And if the doomed man should still affect to be skeptical, and set coming wrath at defiance, three short days are enough to dispel his miserable delusion, and prove Joseph a true prophet, alike of death and of deliverance. "It came to pass the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast unto all his servants: and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. And he restored the chief butler to his butlership again; and he gave the cup into Pharaoh's hand; but he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them" (ver.20-22).

1. Thus "one is taken and another left." For that, in the first place, is a lesson to be learned from this prison-scene. It is as it was in the days of Noah; and as it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: "I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left" (Luke 17:34-36). Even so it seems good in God's sight. Any two of us may be together in the same prison or in the same palace, — in the same trial or in the same triumph, — in the same sorrow or in the same joy, — sleeping together in the same bed, — grinding together at the same mill, — working or walking together in the same field; both apparently alike good, — both destined surely to be alike safe. But how long can we reckon on our companionship lasting? How soon and how suddenly may that saying come true; "One shall be taken, the other left?" How does it concern every one of us, in the view of that separating and sifting day, to be looking out for himself individually. Whoever I may be with in bed, at the mill, in the field, my being with him then will avail me nothing. Let me give earnest heed myself to the things which belong to my peace, before they be forever hid from my eyes. And let mo remember the Lord's own solemn and emphatic warning: “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it (Luke 17:33).

2. If Joseph was "set for the fall" of one and "the rising again" of another, and "for a sign that should be spoken against that the thoughts" — if not of many yet of some—"hearts should be revealed" (Luke 2:34, 35), — behold a greater than Joseph is here. Jesus is still set forth before our eyes, crucified between two malefactors. His cross draws the line sharply between them. Both alike are sinners, breakers of the law. Both alike are guilty, justly condemned. Both alike are utterly helpless in their condemnation. But that central cross discriminates between them! It sets them, near as they are, at infinite distance apart!

On one side is the man of broken spirit, of contrite heart, accepting the punishment of his sin, consenting to lose his life that he may preserve it, — to have no life of his own, that he may owe all his life to Christ. On the other side is he who still seeks to save his life, — who even in the jaws of inevitable death will not give in, — who will not renounce his own poor conceit of innocence, goodness, and security, and agree to accept life in Christ, as the free gift of God.

On which of these sides art thou my brother? To which of these two crosses, on the right and on the left of Christ's cross, art thou billing to be nailed? Wilt thou be crucified with Christ,— trusting in him, praying to him, looking to him, believing his sure word, " To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise?" Or wilt thou be crucified without Christ, — near him, but yet without him, — setting him at naught, and thyself alone braving the terror of the Lord, of which his crucifixion is so sure and sad a presage and pledge?

3. If Joseph said to the man whose sentence of release he had pronounced, Think of me — and if he had some good ground for thinking that his friend ought to think of him, and would think of him — how much more may he who is greater than Joseph, and who procures for us — not by the interpretation of a dream merely but by what costs him something more than that — a sentence of release from doom and restoration to favour infinitely more valuable than the butler got — how much more may he, I say, prefer such a request to us — Remember me. Surely it is a sad thing if our hearts have not a better memory for Jesus than this man had for Joseph. And yet what need of constant watchfulness and prayer that such ingratitude may not be ours! And what reason to bless God have we in the fact, that so many means and appliances are provided for helping us always to remember him — his blessed word ever in our hands ; his gracious gospel preached to us; the holy sacrament of communion; his Spirit taking of what is his and showing it to us.

4. If it had been Joseph who had been asked to remember his fellow-sufferer, that asking would not have been in vain. Jesus at all events will not suffer any one of us to say to him in vain, "Lord, remember me, now that thou art come to thy kingdom!" "We have not an high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities."

When we appeal to him, by his remembrance of all his own sufferings to remember us in our sufferings, the appeal touches his heart. Remember, Lord, thy loving-kindnesses. Call to mind all thy dealings with the sick, the sorrowful, the poor, in the days of thy flesh. Call to mind all thine own trials and afflictions manifold. Remember us. Lord; and show in thy remembrance of us that thou art "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever."

(This and the previous two posts are from Chapter 54 of Robert Candlish's Studies in Genesis, published in 1868.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Joseph as a Type of the Suffering Savior (part 2)


Genesis 40.

This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:34, 35.

Then were there two thieves crucified with him; one on the right hand and another on the left. — Matthew 27:38.

In that position he was "charged with them and served them" (ver. 1). It was a double function. He waited upon them and was their attendant, — responsible doubtless in that capacity for their safe custody, — but not authorized to act as their superior, — only entitled to officiate as their servant. For they were evidently persons of some rank and consideration in Pharaoh's court, — although the precise position of each is about as hard to be ascertained as his offence;— and as unimportant and irrelevant, for any practical purpose, if it could be ascertained. They were chiefs in their respective departments. They may have been guilty of fraud, — of what in meaner men would be called theft. Under some such accusation probably they were suffering, having Joseph between them, ready to serve and be of use to them. Thus "they continued a season in ward."

The day, however, now dawns that is to decide their respective fates. In the morning, Joseph visits them, as usual; and finding them discomposed, he naturally asks the reason, "wherefore look ye so sadly to-day?” Carelessly perhaps, and as a mere matter of civility, they inform him, — "We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it." And they are somewhat startled, we may be sure, by Joseph's reply: — "Do not interpretations belong to God] tell me them, I pray you " (ver. 6-8).

For it might well be deemed a strange reply from such a one as Joseph must have appeared to them to be. Who was he that he should dare to speak in so high a tone, and undertake so confidently what he avows to be a divine office? A servant, — one who ministered to them in humble guise, — a prisoner, — a convict, — one whom they may have been disposed to treat with supercilious indifference or despiteful indignity, — a poor degraded Israelite, — in their proud eyes contemptible. What wonder if both of these more reputable victims of the frowns of power should have laughed to scorn the lofty pretentions of one who was more a victim than themselves?

They may have done so, both of them, at first. But if so, one of them at least speedily relents. For we begin here to recognize a distinction between them. And the distinction is vital and fatal.

I. The chief butler, at once and unhesitatingly, told his dream (ver. 9-15). His doing so, and the result of his doing so, are in several views not a little remarkable.

1. He acted in faith. He believed Joseph's own assurance, — for it was virtually an assurance on Joseph's part, — of his having a commission from God to interpret the dream. And it was this faith that made him tell it. It was no child's play, or holiday-sport, between Joseph and these men — no mere trick of ingenious riddle-reading and guess-work. It was not an affair of magic, or legerdemain, or vulgar fortune-telling — a conjuror practicing his sleight-of-hand maneuvers and manipulations — an oneiromantist, or dream-prophet, with his jargon of symbols and occult senses, affecting to weave the idle thoughts of a tossing bed into a plausible web of fate. Joseph at least is in earnest. His trumpet gives no uncertain sound. He assumes the prophetic character, as decidedly as Daniel did when he stood before Nebuchadnezzar — or Christ when he comforted the dying thief. He undertakes to speak for God — to speak as the oracle of God. It is avowedly on that footing that he invites his companions to tell him their dreams; he would not on any other footing encourage them to expect any satisfaction from him. And therefore, when the chief butler proceeded to act upon the invitation, it must have been from a decided persuasion, on his part, of the reality of Joseph's claim. But for some such conviction, we cannot imagine that he would have received Joseph's proposal otherwise than with ridicule and abuse. There was that, however, about Joseph which inspired confidence in his divine mission. "He spake as one having authority," and not as the soothsayers — "not as the scribes."

2. The faith thus exercised meets with an immediate recompense; as well it may, for it is of no ordinary sort. In opening his mind to Joseph, the chief butler virtually acknowledges him as a chosen servant of God, entitled to declare his will, and on his behalf to show things to come. He does so, in spite of outward appearances and outward circumstances.

He sees through the veil of suffering and shame a divine grace and glory shining forth in this seeming culprit. The truth being its own witness — the divine Spirit in Joseph's soul making his presence there even outwardly manifest — the man perceives that he is a prophet, one whom God has sent and sealed. And he makes known to him his dream accordingly.

3. The dream and its interpretation are both of God; being God's method of revelation — the method of revelation which he saw fit on this, as on other occasions, to adopt. It is idle to be speculating about the principles and laws of this sort of divine communication; estimating the probability of the dream beforehand, or laying down the supposed rules of its subsequent explanation. To dream about a vine, with its buds, and blossoms, and clusters, and ripe grapes, and to connect all the particulars of the dream with a scene in Pharaoh's palace — the dreamer himself doing his office as cup-bearer, pressing the grapes into the cup, and giving the cup into the monarch's hands — all that may seem natural enough, and well fitted to suggest sage remarks as to the working of the mind in sleep. Any shrewd deceiver, we may be apt to think, might take the hint and gratify the credulous dupe consulting him, with a flattering prediction in the line of what was obviously running in his head. But nothing of that sort will suit the parties here, or fit into their relation to one another. There is no room for the supposition of this being anything like an ordinary case of dream-telling and dream-interpreting, after the fashion of what has sometimes been reduced almost to a system or a science — the art of turning to account man's inveterate superstitious proneness to pry into futurity. The whole must be accepted as altogether the Lord's doing.

4. It is so accepted by the chief butler himself. If it was in faith, believing Joseph to be what he professed to be, that he told him his dream at first, much more now, in faith, he must have received the interpretation of his dream as from heaven. Joseph had not said, Tell me the dream, and I will see if I can find a possible or likely meaning in it. He had appealed to God, and announced himself as able and authorised to put God's own infallible meaning on it. It was on that understanding that the man had placed his case in Joseph's hands. Clearly, therefore, Joseph's word must have been to him as God's. "Within three days" thou shalt be, as it were, "in paradise," — taken from the prison to the king's palace and the king's presence — no longer languishing in the torture of condemnation, but safe from wrath and high in favour. Such salvation does Joseph announce to his fellow-sufferer.

5. Is it too much for Joseph to couple with the announcement of this salvation, so simple and touching a request as this: — " But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and show kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: for indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon"? Can anything be more reasonable? Can anything be more pathetic?

It is not here, as it was in the instance of one greater than Joseph, when he spoke peace to the poor criminal hanging on a cross beside him. Then the petition to be remembered in the kingdom came from the malefactor to the Saviour; here it comes from the saviour to the malefactor. The situation is simply reversed. It is his fellow-sufferer who says to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when thou comest unto thy kingdom;" — it is Joseph who for himself makes virtually this same request of his fellow-sufferer, — "Think on me when it shall be well with thee." There is no risk whatever, in the case of the one petition, of its being forgotten or overlooked. Alas! there is but too much risk in the case of the other. When it is the deliverer, the saviour — for such, to all intents and purposes was Joseph's position here — who begs a favour of the party delivered, there is but too great a likelihood of his finding that he has begged it in vain. What ground for thankfulness is ours when we reflect, that the party needing deliverance, when he begs a favour of his deliverer, can never incur the hazard of any such sad disappointment!

Joseph might doubt whether the man who owed so much to him would indeed think of him when he was once himself out of the fellowship of suffering which had made them so much akin. We may be very sure that Jesus in his exaltation will remember us. It is not that we can make out a better case, or show more cause why we should be remembered. Joseph's plea is stronger far, upon the merits, than any plea of ours can possibly be. He can appeal to his blameless innocency, his spotless righteousness. He has done nothing to deserve the dungeon; he is well worthy of a better destiny. And the man to whom he appeals is surely bound to him by most affecting ties, of communion in disgrace and sorrow, and communion also in sympathy and kindness, given and received. What, in comparison, is our plea? We have well merited the worst that can befall us. And the Man to whom we appeal is he whom we have pierced! But he will not neglect our appeal to him, as we, like Joseph's friend the butler, might be found but too apt to neglect his appeal to us. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Joseph as a Type of the Suffering Savior (part 1)


Genesis 40.

This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. Luke 2:34, 35.

Then were there two thieves crucified with him; one on the right hand and another on the left. — Matthew 27:38.

The successive steps or stages of Joseph's humiliation may be briefly recapitulated.
1.    He is sent by his father on an errand of kindness to his brethren — and with his whole heart he goes on that errand, determined to seek and find them, however far they may have wandered from home.
2.    He comes to his own, and his own do not receive him. A plot is formed against him the moment he appears in sight. The dreamer must be got rid of. "This is the heir; come let us kill him."
3.    They will kill him, if needful, themselves. But they think it better to deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. It is a shrewd device — like that of the Jews long after — to make Pilate do their work — to get him who came to visit them in love disposed of, not by them, but by the men of another nation.
4.    Joseph is valued and sold — cheaply valued, treacherously sold.
5.    As a servant he is found in Egypt, dwelling among Pharaoh's servants — and yet so dwelling among them as to give evidence of his being a child of heaven, gracious, true, and fair ; and to give promise, also of some high destiny in store for him.
6.    He is led into solitary temptation, assailed with solicitations appealing to three of the strongest principles in our human nature — appetite, ostentation, ambition; — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. He is virtually offered all that can gratify his utmost wishes for pleasure, pomp, and power — if he will only worship a devil.
7.    His tempter, foiled in flattery, tries persecution. A liar, like him who is "a liar from the beginning, and the father of it," Joseph's assailant prevails against him by false testimony, and so succeeds in having him condemned.
8.    Brought under condemnation, having guilt imputed to him, laden with obloquy, doomed to a servile punishment, Joseph is still so marked as God's own child, that amid all the darkness of his unmerited suffering, he is recognized, by the very officer appointed to carry out his sentence, as a righteous man.

Thus, with mingled evidences of grace and degradation — of a high character and a lowly state — Joseph comes to sound the depths of his appointed humiliation. And now we find him, even in the lowest of these depths — as it were, on the cross itself — still owned and honoured by God; appointed to be an arbiter of destiny, if I may so speak, to those between whom his cross stands; and that in such a manner as evidently to prepare the way for his own approaching exaltation.

It is the close of his humiliation, therefore, that is now to be considered.

Joseph in prison, at the extreme point of his humiliation, appears as the dispenser of life and death among his fellow-prisoners. He is the instrument or occasion of a decisive separation between the two whom he finds involved in the same condemnation with himself. He fixes authoritatively and conclusively their opposite destinations.

From the first, he is not altogether under a cloud; what he really is in himself, shines out from beneath his prison-garb, in spite of the drawbacks of his prison-state (ver. 1-4). Not only does he find favour, — the Lord being with him and showing him mercy, — in the sight of the keeper of the prison, — but even the captain of the guard, Potiphar himself, seems to have relented.

For it must be Potiphar who, receiving from the king the two officers with whom he is wroth, puts them where Joseph is confined, and charges Joseph with the care of them. As commanding the king's body-guard, he had charge of the state-prison, — which was indeed part of his own house, — with a subordinate keeper under him; — a common arrangement in old eastern despotisms. That being his position, it was easy for him to consign Joseph to imprisonment without trial, or with such trial as he might choose to count sufficient. And it was equally easy for him to have other state prisoners associated with Joseph, and placed under his superintendence, if he so chose. That he should have so chosen in this instance, need not appear strange or surprising. Perhaps he doubted all along the truth of the accusation against Joseph, and suspected its unworthy motive, although he felt himself constrained to yield to influence and importunity that he dared not withstand, and sacrifice to the malice of disappointed desire, one in whom he had no fault to find. Or if at first credulous, and naturally inflamed with sudden wrath, he may have begun, on cooler reflection and better information, to change his mind. Or he may have received such reports of Joseph's demeanour in prison, from his subordinate officer, as to cause a revulsion of feeling, — and his old confidence may thus be beginning to return. At all events, it is by his order and with his consent that Joseph is placed, — as it was by

Pilate's order that Jesus was placed, — between the two malefactors. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

God Hates What and Loves Whom?

“From the holiness of God flows a mortal and implacable hatred of sin. It is as much the nature of holiness to ‘hate iniquity, as to love righteousness’ (Ps. 45:8). Sin is ‘an abomination to his soul’ (Prov. 6:16), that is, to his very essence, and essential holiness: and neither sin only, but also the sinner is the object of his hatred. ‘For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord thy God,’ (Deut. 25:16). He therefore separates from himself, and from his chosen people, all whom he cannot make partakers of his favour: and so he cannot but inflict upon them that punishment which is the effect of his hatred. According to Solomon’s reasoning, Prov. 16:5, ‘Every one that is proud in heart, is an abomination to the Lord.’ And the consequence is, He shall not be unpunished. In the same manner David reasons, Ps. 5:4, 5, 6, ‘Thou art not a God that hast pleasure in wickedness.’ Thou hatest sin, and the sinner too, because of it. ‘Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity.’ And surely the fruit of this must be exceeding bitter: ‘Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing.’ And thus from the holiness of God, arises a hatred of sin and the sinner; from hatred, punishment.”

Herman Witsius,
Economy of the Covenant Between God and Man, 1.5.28

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