Read His Words Before Ours!
On trial before the religious leaders of my community, my life hanging in the balance, I (Stephen, a disciple of the resurrected Christ) recount God’s plan of redemption throughout history. (Acts 6:8-7:53) Through my words, I strive to make clear the purposeful story of God’s people, contained in the overarching narrative of the Old Testament, as shadows and patterns pointing to Christ.
Consider this a shallow, long-distance dive, skimming the surface of the water to get as far as we can, rather than a deep dive. Let’s look at how Joseph’s life and heritage reveal glimpses of Christ, and uncover our part in God’s grand mission as we live out our stories in God’s family tree.
Joseph was the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham.
Let’s pause here for a second.
If your eyes start to glaze over anytime you reach a Biblical list of “son of”s, let me encourage you to see them as a way to trace God’s promises throughout history. If we remember back to God’s covenant with Abraham, God promised the nations would be blessed through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3); then we can follow his descendants to the fulfillment of the promise in Christ.
Abraham’s long-awaited son, Isaac, had twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Of the two brothers, Jacob was chosen by God to continue Israel’s national lineage:
“As it is written: I have loved Jacob [Israel], but I have hated Esau [Edom].” (Romans 9:13; Malachi 1:1-3)
Jacob’s life and story are complicated, so for the sake of our skim-dive, let’s skip ahead in his life to his wrestling match with God. In Genesis 32:22-32, we watch Jacob wrestle with God, who changes Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “he struggled with God.” From Israel descend the Israelites, God’s chosen people, for whom struggling with God would be a continued theme for generations to come.
Israel fathers 12 sons, who father the 12 tribes of Israel. Among these is Joseph, the first-born son of Israel’s beloved wife, Rachel. Although he would endure many trials and tribulations, God used Joseph’s life to preserve the Israelite people, and he experienced great restoration in his family relationships. Eventually, Joseph assures his brothers, “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result—the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:20)
We typically don’t see or understand what God is doing behind the scenes of our lives. But, like Joseph, we can confidently believe He is trustworthy, and will bring good in the midst of the worst situations when we surrender ourselves to Him. He is altogether sovereign, wise, and loving; He works all things according to His plan and purpose of redemption. (Romans 8:28)
My voice wavers as my own words sink into my spirit. Casting a glance around me, I see a few listening intently despite their best intentions; everyone else is livid. Off to the side, one Pharisee is surrounded by a group of younger men, a sneer twisting his face. His gaze burns into mine, and I know how this encounter will end.
Do I believe my own testimony? I don’t understand how my violent death will bring good . . . but I know my God. He is trustworthy, sovereign, wise, and loving. I will follow Him wherever He leads, even to the stoning pit outside the city gates.
I take a deep breath, and return to my sermon.
We’ve barely skimmed the surface in our dive.
Through Joseph, the Israelites would settle in Egypt,
which led to the Israelites’ eventual enslavement,
which led to God’s miraculous rescue,
which led to their wandering in the desert,
which led to them receiving the 10 commandments,
which led to their continual failure and inability to uphold God’s law.
The Israelites’ continual failure to meet the standard of God’s law points to their need for a Savior. The overarching story of the Bible climaxes at the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God, who lived a perfect life to fulfill the righteous requirement of the law that we could not.
Not only did He live a perfect life, but He died on the cross to pay the penalty we deserve for our sins. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21) Because of Christ’s substitution in our place, we can receive forgiveness and have a relationship with God, Our Sovereign Creator, if we respond in repentance, faith, and obedience.
Since we barely skimmed the surface of the Old Testament, I encourage you to continue to hold up Old Testament stories next to Christ’s and see how everything points to Jesus, our Coming Hope. If we are in Christ, we are part of this amazing family tree from Adam to Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, and all who will receive the Promised Land and inheritance for eternity with Christ.
My breath comes in shallow wheezes as the stones pummel my body; I can feel broken ribs sabotaging my efforts to breathe. Mine is not a dignified death, but I do not regret unashamedly proclaiming God’s sovereign goodness and truth, even knowing it has cost my life. My head falls to the ground, and I taste blood and silt. My vision darkens, blotting out the mob before me until I am blinded by a light from the heavens. Home is on the horizon.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!