1 Then Joseph came and told Pharaoh, and said, My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.
2 And he took some of his brethren, even five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh.
3 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren, What is your occupation? And they said unto Pharaoh, Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and also our fathers.
4 They said moreover unto Pharaoh, For to sojourn in the land are we come; for thy servants have no pasture for their flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan: now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.
As mentioned before, Pharaoh had already approved these outsiders living within his land, which enables them to make such bold requests with confidence, such as “let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.” What a thrill it must have been to speak to a king in such a way!
And now is an excellent time to consider the spiritual imagery in this scene. The good son has brought his brethren before the throne of the king, emboldened to ask for a place of their own in the king’s domain, confident that they will receive because their brother is beloved and trusted by the king. This is the Savior bringing us to the judgment bar, to receive our parcel of heaven. The Israelites didn’t receive their reward because of anything they had done, and neither will we, but because of what the good brother has done for us.
15 And a certain man found him, and, behold, he was wandering in the field: and the man asked him, saying, What seekest thou?
16 And he said, I seek my brethren: tell me, I pray thee, where they feed their flocks.
17 And the man said, They are departed hence; for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan. And Joseph went after his brethren, and found them in Dothan.
Joseph isn’t even able to fulfill his initial charge, to ascertain whether all is well with his brethren and the flocks, because they aren’t anywhere to be found! Continuing with the analogy of Joseph being like the Savior, a beloved son is sent to check on his brethren but does not immediately find his charge. Because sometimes we have picked up from where we were supposed to be and wandered off, and do not care to be found. But like the good shepherd, the son seeks, and queries, and presently comes to us wherever we are. No matter how filthy of a hovel, or how offensive a den of iniquity, he finds us where we are.
But as the story of Joseph shows, sometimes being found is not the same as being saved. Jesus might come find us where we are, but we still retain the right to refuse him. Even the right to cast him out from us. Though we should know that if we do so, it may be quite a season before we see him again.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
I wonder if Abraham understood the significance of his phrase “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” Was he aware that he was foreshadowing the coming savior? I would assume not, as otherwise he would have had a reason to assume that God would prevent him from actually slaying his son.
And, of course, there is another foreshadowing of the savior here as well. Abraham taking the wood and laying it on his son is a type for Jesus bearing his own cross to the slaughter. It seems as though Abraham and Isaac are putting on a highly elaborate pageant of Jesus’ sacrifice, all while being totally oblivious to the fact that that is what they are doing!
How many times do we recreate these legendary stories in our own lives without realizing it either? I believe we many times point back to key events in the past, or key events in the future, totally ignorant of the significance of what it is we do, just as how the Roman guards who crucified the savior “knew not what they did.” We rehearse these gospel keystones because we, like Abraham and Isaac, are guided into them by the great, all-knowing storyteller.
In my last study I examined how God gives us laws so that we may receive blessings and grow spiritually. But then we require a Savior to save us, because inevitably we end up breaking those laws instead. It frankly seems like a very roundabout way of doing things, which would suggest that there is more to the story.
Our problem, of course, comes from the fact that there is a good part to our nature (the spiritual), and a bad part (the carnal). If we just didn’t have this carnal side, then it seems like everything would be solved! We wouldn’t be swayed by temptation, we could effortlessly keep all of God’s laws, and we wouldn’t require saving.
So a few questions naturally arise. Why do we have this carnal side to us then? What is God’s reasoning behind raising imperfect children who require a Savior to rescue them? How does this all fit into His plan?