The Gospel Through Joseph
by Fred Pruitt
(This is an edited and expanded version of a previous article from 2013. The Norman Grubb website, www.normangrubb.com, was posting excerpts from Norman’s talks on the story of Joseph a few months ago. I made a few comments on the Facebook page as we went along, and then came this one that I wanted to share and expand just a little bit. In his talk, Norman had gotten to the part where Joseph’s brothers come to him the second time, with their youngest brother Benjamin, and are invited to dine at Joseph’s house. It is the preamble to their restoration that comes with Joseph finally revealing himself to them.)
Today I am struck that this is such a “human” story! It is about God and His purposes, certainly, in bringing forth the children of God through Israel and the One to come. But it is all told in a very human story with very human familial events and feelings. And it is all leading up to a very “human” redemption, when Joseph and his brothers and his father are all restored to each other in the end.
People are always talking about the violence and anger and hatred “in the world,” but how many of us can say we haven’t seen the very same thing in the shattering of our own families in the tragedies, sorrows, and the sometimes non-sensical “no-reasons-for-it” events of life?
“Whence come wars?” asks James — look in your own selves, he says, that’s where it starts. This Joseph and his brothers story is as close to us as our own families, because we all know events and instances where it looks like chaos has won, love has been lost, and we have been devastated.
Years ago (early 70s) I was in a period of estrangement from my mother; I don’t even remember the circumstances. For Christmas or Mother’s Day or something, I saw a plaque that I bought for her. Neither of us at the time thought that God was very close. But the plaque said, “God comes at last when we think He is farthest off.”
I forgot about the plaque for years, and only saw and resdiscovered it when we were going through her things after she passed in 2005. Yes, He does! I knew that by then, and she had found it out before she departed, too!
This is what happened in the Joseph story. It is inwardly a perfect representation of the ways of Christ. Outwardly it is a story of the redemption of a family. The last is always first. When the outward failed, then the inward was revealed. Then the inward took in the outward and sanctified it. At rock bottom, this is, “God is Love.” Deus caritas est.
It is intriguing to me, how the story of redemption and salvation, comes to us through the stories of very common people, who lived very common, normal lives. We remember great kings (who are usually conquerors), or great statesmen, scholars, authors, musicians, artists, etc. But we do not for the most part ascribe greatness to people whose sole occupation is caring for cattle or sheep. Nor do we remember them, except for their descendents for maybe a generation or two, before they are lost to the memory of the world in the non-recorded past, and join the billions of other human beings who have been born, lived, and died on this earth whom no one remembers. (God does.)
We know these stories have been around in this same form (the scriptures) for at least 2,300 years or so, because we know the “Old Testament,” pretty much in its current form, was translated into Greek in Alexandria during the “Hellenistic” period, around 300 BC, as a result of the conquests of Alexander of Macedonia. It became known as “The Septuagint,” and it was often this version that was quoted by Paul and others in the New Testament, since it was written in Greek, and most NT writings were in Greek. These are such simple stories of such simple people, yet somehow we find something resonating in them that even thousands of years later, intrigue and move us by their lives.
The main reason for this, I believe, is that these simple childlike stories (with very adult themes oftentimes), speak to us of God in our inner selves, below the level of our conscious awareness. Jung would call them archetypical, and though I don’t go wholly by far with Jung, I think he is onto something here. There is a universal appeal for the simplicity of these stories, even though or maybe even because we are living in a time when the media and life can give us thrill after thrill after thrill, never ceasing to titillate our senses to desire greater heights and seek more impressiveness using the outer husks of life. These stories stand in stark contrast to the busy-ness, the crowded-ness, the complexity, the chaos and the heaviness of the foment of the whole world that lays on all our shoulders like a blanket.
The simplicity of the desert life and God speaking in us in the dark and secret places, is where it all starts for any one of us. We may be in a crowded city in the modern world, but it may be desert to us. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is …” (Ps 63:1).
Jacob and his family, starting with Abraham and that generation, is the story of the redemption of the whole world, by showing us the story of redemption, death and resurrection, the birth of the new man and casting out of the old, through the lives of these individual people.
I say again, it is not about fixing dysfunctions in our families. Frankly, if we read these stories aright, we will see that the things that we identify as our “dysfunctions,” are the very pressures and stresses that bring out the pure gold of faith and the ultimate triumph of God’s Promise. These are not stories that show what happens to people if they favor one child over another, or about stopping sibling rivalry. What sibling rivalry there is in these stories, and there is a lot of it, is always about the conflict between the old man and the new, working out in human stories.
(Lest someone misinterpret me, I do not mean that if something can be “fixed,” to not to attempt to “fix it,” as if we would be “thwarting” the “will of God.” No, fix away if you can! But some things will not be fixed, and we have all found that out. Either way, we see God!!!)
The ultimate point of this story of Joseph, as it relates to “families,” is that by God’s ways, means and timing, we see God’s ultimate redemption and reconciliation, in our own “earth” families. We have seen the negatives and God has shown us the corresponding Positives! And of course all those “earth” families, are representations or manifestations, of the redemption and restoration of the Whole Family of God in the consummation.
From the beginning it has always been “all in the family.” That’s all this is. Family.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing MANY SONS unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” (Heb 2:10-13).
How many shall there be?
God’s Word to Abraham:
“And he [God] brought him [Abram] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy Seed be.” (Gen 15:5)
God’s Word to Abraham and Isaac:
“That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy Seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.” (Gen 22:17).
God’s Word to Jacob/Israel:
“And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy Seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen 28:14)
To all in Christ:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb… And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” (Rev 7:9,10, 13-17).
The Many Sons are as plentiful as the stars in the heavens or grains of sand on the seashore. They are a great number, a GREAT multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, kindreds, people and tongues, eternally standing before the Throne.
“Standing before the Throne,” sounds a bit separated, does it not? If we are “one” with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, how can it be that we stand “before” the Throne?
Understanding this reality, is where we divide with pantheism. In pantheism, which is the foundation of most eastern and our current “new age” thought, we lose our distinctiveness and are swallowed back up by the “sea of oneness,” making our individual identities only temporary and “of the earth.” Most of those same philosophies have us going through the cycle of birth-death-rebirth-death-rebirth-death-rebirth, until we reach a state of cosmic consciousness which finally wipes out all the karma we have accumulated through hundreds of lifetimes as different individuals. At that point, the wheel of death-rebirth ceases, and one becomes the infinite sea of bliss, knowing and seeing all things in oneness. In Hinduism it is called the state of “nirvana.”
As I said above, this is where we divide with them. (We actually divide from them in a lot of other issues as well, but for now I’ll just discuss this one.)
But God created us because He desired SONS! Sons who would fulfill all His Will. He created us to have eternal lives, unending existence, that we each might individually participate in God’s continuing expansion of His Love.
Love, true right Divine Love, does not pull us back into God and total loss of distinction, as if life on earth as an individual person was only a temporary thing, and “our personhood” was only a result of phenomena (outer creation) and when the outer creation has passed away (when we die) we cease to exist in that former individual state.
What Love, true right Divine Love, does, instead of scooping us all up into the pot so that we all become the soup, is to cause each one of us individually and collectively to SHINE LIKE THE SON, radiating Love in, on and as each individual form. God sees a vision and the vision is US! And when He imparts to us the same vision which is His, in our consciousness we are transfigured by His vision because it is looking into God’s mirror which reflects Christ only.
And then we are those who have gone through “the Great Tribulation” mentioned in Revelation. In my beginning days we all thought that was talking about the 7 years of tribulation in the eschatological sense. Whatever might be its eschatological meaning, I see something else also as valid. It is to realize the multitude arrayed in white robes, described as coming out “of great tribulation,” is ourselves!!! This “great tribulation” is talking about something we all experience, no matter in what time or events through which we live. As Paul said at his departure from the Ephesian brethren, “… we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
People hear the word “tribulation” and it can send shivers up your spine. But all it really is, is struggle. Struggle to survive. Struggle to live. Struggle to keep going, to take more steps, to keep believing. Struggle to want. All of us in Christ experience life’s tribulations fully in coming to who we are in Him. So do those who do not know themselves in Christ. “The sun shines and the rain falls on the just and the unjust.” In fact, I could call all that “struggle,” our earthly lives from birth to death. I’m not being morbid, but simply remembering that all of life involves “struggle” of one sort or another, all along the way.
That is one reason we are driven to find “peace” in any way we can. Love the same way. “Love hurts,” says the song, and indeed it does. It has all kinds of hurts in it. Everybody we meet on the street or at the market, everyone we know, relatives, friends, folks we don’t know but somehow think we do, like celebrities and politicians, priests, reverends and rabbis, bank robbers and murderers and thieves, hides a whole universe of hurt inside themselves. And all that hurt can be traced back to some form of love or unlove.
Therefore who are these “multitudes” that stand before the Throne? They are the “hurt and unloved ones,” from the previous paragraph. They have come out of that tribulation, and continue to exist as the intrinsic personal entity God created them to be from before the foundations of the earth. Not only that, they do not exist “disembodied” in an eternal sea of bliss, but as “proof” that we remain our original selves, we are reminded that the “hope” from the beginning of the Christian era until now has been the “resurrection of the body,” so that, as Paul said, we would not be found “unclothed.”
Paul writes in 2 Cor 5: 1-4 –
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.”
A spirit with no body is naked, Paul says. The body gives a means of expression, and is necessary for that. And, if we have need of a body, this “new body eternal in the heavens,” as Paul said, then we must also realize that individual personal existence has God’s eternal stamp of approval! Not only that, a body is for using, for doing, for activity, for outpouring. There must be stuff to do!
What is God to do with this vast family of sons He has been preparing and harvesting from the earth? There are only hints of what that might be in the New Testament, and so I cannot speculate too much about it. I am firmly convinced, however, that Love has not finished Loving, that there are more places and universes than we know about, in which God’s Love is expanding even as our outer created universe is continually expanding.
And that brings us back to these “Sons” standing before the Throne. This is full union-unity in clear demonstrable form! Every one of those standing before the Throne are knit in love and union with God, His will is their will, His righteousness their righteousness, His Holiness their holiness, His Love their love. Each is totally “one” with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so that when anyone looks at them, they see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These are they who lost their lives (earthly outer life) and gained His. Everything we have written and said about union life is brought into full realization in the Light of the Eternal in each one standing before the Throne. They may not have realized it in this life, but this “heavenly” life has always been “one” with them in their inner selves. Here in the Throne Room we see the union-unity fully manifest.
These are they who have known their own “death” with Christ in the Cross, and in the resurrection, they found their Life where it had been held from eternity, “hid in Christ in God.” (Col 3:3). These are they who are their full selves in Christ, having discovered through the death of the old and the resurrection of the new, in themselves! These are they who on the earth were all rich men or women, rich in “pride of self,” with no hope of salvation, since Jesus said it is impossible for a rich man to enter heaven. He was not talking about money or earthly property. A man rich in pride of self, has that and only that and will fight its death to the bitter end. That is why Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter Paradise. The “rich young ruler” went away sad, “for he had many possessions.” But it was not the possessions themselves which kept him out, but the attachment to the possessions. The “attachment” is “where your heart is,” in other words, “self stuff.”
This goes right along with another of Jesus’ words, “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:23). Bottom line, what is “all that we hath”? It is our own selfhood. Everything else in our lives is an extension of that selfhood. To “attack” the attachments is to “attack” the self that protects those attachments. But when that self, “forsakes all he has,” becoming in oneself ZERO that God might be ALL, or says, “nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done,” there is nothing left on which anything “outer” may attach. The opulence of our rich selves which could not pass through that needle’s eye, is now gone, so that the self is made “poor” again, not “poor” according to this world, but “poor” according to the Spirit, (really “nothing” – Gal 6:3), and in that abject spiritual poverty, all the riches of Christ and our true unified-with-Him selves appear in the abundance of God.
This is the full incarnation of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, who by His overcoming was declared the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, was God in the flesh, and was the first “incarnated” Son, the “firstborn among many brethren.” But also because of Jesus’ accomplishments, that same incarnation of God that occurred in Jesus now occurs in US! We are the same as He! (Not in ourselves, but because He has incarnated Himself in our inner being by the Spirit.)
Everything the Son is, we are. Everything the Son has (which is everything) is also ours. To be co-heir with Christ, do we realize what that is saying about us? Co-heirs? Through grace we have been brought with Christ into the bosom of the Godhead, and it is in this consummation of understanding, that the final unveiling occurs, concerning His and our identities.
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-3).
Let us be bold and find ourselves fully apprehended of this holy sonship, knowing our inheritance in the Lord. Certainly we cannot fully imagine the enormity and the vastness of this at the moment. It is impossible, and were God to show us a vision of it, we could not take it in. The Sons have dominion over all things, but in our current state, it is in a hidden way, hardly even known by the sons who have that dominion, much less known by “the world.”
But nevertheless many in our day are awakening to a fuller temporal life in Christ they never expected could be experienced in this world, by the Spirit’s revelation of Christ in us and our sonship through Him. Hebrews 2 tells us all things are under the dominion of Christ, and thus under our dominion. But it also says that everything is not yet in plain sight, so that we do not yet have this “dominion” in full view, “but we see Jesus.”
Peace be with you.