Two long years passed, but eventually Joseph’s own “lifting up” arrived. In the third pair of dreams of the Joseph story, Pharaoh was given visions of thin cows that ate fat cows without gaining weight and seven thin ears of corn that swallowed seven fat ears without growing larger. When the court magicians were left baffled, Joseph was summoned to interpret. Pharaoh was so impressed that he raised Joseph to the second-highest position in Egypt, below only Pharaoh himself. And what was the sign of this newfound status? Joseph was clothed again in finery, robed in glory just as he had been when his story began (Gen. 41:42). Eventually, of course, his dreams were fulfilled, and his family joined him in Egypt. Joseph was the one to whom all the world had to go in order to find food (Gen. 41:55). Only he could provide feasting in the famine. In this he foreshadowed the true bread of life, Jesus Christ, who gives life to the world (John 6:33).
Our life is often one of famine and hardship, but God has raised up a Ruler to feed the nations. He gives us not bread that will perish but food that will grant us eternal life. Where else can we go? Only by believing in Christ, feeding on Him, do we receive eternal life and escape the death we deserve. Days of feasting will come, but until then we live by faith in the Son of God who gave His life for us. He alone can sustain us; He alone can feed us.
As Joseph’s days drew to a close, he revealed to his brothers that “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:20). Notice the two intentions behind the one wicked act. The brothers intended evil as they stripped and beat Joseph, selling him into slavery. But mysteriously, at the same time God used their evil act to save tens of thousands who would otherwise have perished in the famine. If Joseph hadn’t been in that prison cell with the disgraced butler, he would never have been introduced to Pharaoh and called to a position where he could save both Israelites and Egyptians, Jews and gentiles. Among those saved from starvation was his brother Judah, from whose line, ultimately, would come the Lord Jesus Christ. In that sense, the undeniably wicked action of the brothers resulted in the salvation not just of starving citizens in the ancient Near East but of the countless multitude rescued by Christ through His death on the cross.
Likewise, Jesus’ death was a deplorably wicked act. But it, too, was also planned and purposed by God. The guilt and evil of crucifying Christ lay with men, but God had purposed it for good in the mystery of His sovereign will. As Peter says in his Pentecost sermon, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23).
In his suffering and in his being raised up to glory, Joseph foreshadows Jesus Christ. Christ has died to make atonement for us and is now raised up to guarantee our own resurrection and to feed us from the right hand of God the Father on our journey home. For now, the Christian life is one of faith rather than sight, but we have His Word, His Son, and His gospel to give us a sure and certain hope that one day we will be gathered to His presence. There we will meet not an angry ruler, out for revenge on His people who spurned and rejected Him. Rather, we will at last be reunited with our compassionate older brother who willingly gave Himself that we might live. When Joseph finally revealed his identity to his brothers, “he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them. After that his brothers talked with him” (Gen. 45:15). So it will be when we see Jesus face-to-face. Who can imagine what the great heavenly family reunion will be like? Who can imagine what it will be like to be embraced and kissed by the One we betrayed but who loves us to death? Who can imagine the glories of talking with Him?