Christian Basics: Two Ways Joseph Points Us to Jesus and Why You Need to Know Them
This is the great message of the Joseph story: a world-wide catastrophic famine was coming, and God appointed a savior. By two dreams God showed seventeen-year-old Joseph—and his family—that he was the one. Here are two ways we see a type of the Savior Jesus Christ in Joseph’s life.
1. Joseph was chosen to be the savior of all the land; Jesus was chosen to be the savior of the world.
Joseph: Joseph would save his family, the family of Abraham. Yet this was not an end itself. God chose Abraham to be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:3), and in Joseph this began to be fulfilled. This is why at the end of chapter 41 we read that “all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere” (Gen. 41:57). God chose Joseph, the descendant of Abraham, to bless many nations.
“All the world” translates וכל־הארץ (ve cāl hā eretz) “and all the land.” הארץ (eretz) sometimes refers to land in general, sometimes to the Promised Land, sometimes to a nation, and sometimes to the earth in general. Context must decide how it should be translated in each case, and here things are not conclusive. The adjective כל (cāl) “all” indicates breadth, however, and the context shows that the famine extended at least across all of Egypt, the Sinai, and into Palestine. And so we have a range of translations that all highlight the very wide breadth of Joseph’s saving work: NIV84 “all the world”; NIV11 “everywhere”; KJV “in all lands”; ESV, NASB “all the earth.”
Thus, in Joseph we see a type—a dim picture—of the coming international Savior who would ultimately bring salvation to people from all lands and places across the globe.
Jesus: The salvation that Jesus brought was for people spread all over the earth (see Rev. 5:9). This is why at the birth of Jesus, Simeon sang:
“For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)
God had prepared a savior for the Gentiles and Israel. And that is why the apostle John continually raises our eyes to see that Jesus is a world-wide Savior.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
2. Joseph preserved life for a time; Jesus provides a new world for us to live in forever.
While Joseph provided food for a famine lasting seven years, and even a place for his family to relocate, his salvation points to the great salvation of Jesus who will provide an eternal rest of blessedness and goodness for his people forever.
At the end of time, we will see that Jesus’ salvation will have brought about the consummation of the new heavens and new earth, which is why John is able to call Jesus “The Savior of the World” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14). Not everyone will be saved, but at the final judgment we will nevertheless look back on a “saved world”: a completely renewed heaven and earth where God’s people will live and worship. (I urge everyone to read “God’s Immeasurable Love”, a sermon on John 3:16, by the great Presbyterian theologian Benjamin Warfield.)
Living Out of Gratitude to the Savior
Just as the people coming in to Egypt for food and life submitted to Joseph, so we must remember the Great Savior and what is his due. We must never forget that God appointed Jesus to be the Savior of the World, and the only Savior:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus has saved us from more than simply dying in this body; he has saved us from captivity to sin, eternal death, and Satan. The Savior of the world does not adapt himself to the untold religious and philosophical viewpoints of the world. All of our beliefs, actions, and ideas (no matter how popular they may be in the world) must be laid down before him. We submit entirely to him.
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.