Hunger For Salvation.

When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. – Genesis 42:1-5 ESV

Ever since Joseph was betrayal by his brothers and sold into slavery, the story has focused its attention on the land of Egypt and Joseph’s experiences there. Now that he is the second highest ranking ruler in Egypt and the God-ordained famine has arrived, Moses shifts our attention back to Canaan and Joseph’s estranged family. By now, they have long forgotten Joseph. They have moved on with their lives. His father assumed he was dead because that was the story his remaining sons told him. The brothers had probably gone out of their ways to eliminate all memories of Joseph, in an effort to assuage their guilty consciences. For all intents and purposes, he was dead to them.

But now Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, begins to tell the story of how Joseph and his family became reunited. This is where divine intent comes face to face with human will. It is also where the sovereign plan of God reveals its power over anything and everything, including the decisions of men and the realm of nature. The widespread famine for which Joseph has been preparing for seven years has extended its reach all the way into the land of Canaan, where Joseph’s father and brothers reside. They find themselves without food for the families or flocks. When news of Egypt’s surplus reaches Canaan, Jacob sends his sons on a mission to purchase much-needed grain. Their hopes for salvation lie in the land of Pharaoh. But little did Jacob know that their salvation was going to be provided by his very own, long-dead son, Joseph. While Jacob had been busy raising his remaining sons and watching his family grow, God had been busy preparing Joseph for his role as the savior of the chosen people of Israel (Jacob).

There is much about the story of Joseph that should remind us of the life of Jesus. Joseph was the favored son of his father. Jesus was described by God as “my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17 ESV). Joseph was hated and rejected by his own brothers. Jesus “came to his own people, and even they rejected him” (John 1:11 NLT). Joseph was sold by his brothers for 20 shekels of silver. Jesus was betrayed by Judas for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). The hatred of Joseph’s brothers was motivated by jealousy. Mark records that that Pilate, the Roman governor, “realized by now that the leading priests had arrested Jesus out of envy” (Mark 16:1 NLT). Joseph’s brothers intended to rid themselves of their brother by selling him into slavery. The Jewish religious leaders intended to rid themselves of Jesus by demanding His crucifixion. Joseph was handed over to Midianites. Jesus was handed over to Romans.

Later on in this story, Joseph will reveal to his brothers:

But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. … God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors. So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt. – Genesis 45:5, 7-8 NLT

In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared to the Jews in his audience:

But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. – Acts 2:23-24 NLT

Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers was God-ordained. The seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine were the prearranged work of God. Joseph’s rise to power was part of the plan of God. His strategy for creating a surplus of grain was given to him by God. While Jacob and his sons were busy moving on with their lives, God was busy moving Joseph into a position of power and prominence so that he could provide salvation for the children of Israel. The life of Joseph, like that of Jesus, is an example of God’s sovereign, providential care for His own. Joseph was sent to Egypt by God in order to save the people of Israel from death by starvation. Jesus was sent into the world in order to save the people of Israel from death by spiritual hunger and starvation. And it will be interesting to note that when Joseph’s brother attempt to pay for the grain Joseph provides, he returns their money to them. They will attempt to pay for their salvation. And the Israelites to whom Jesus came to provide salvation for free, will reject His offer of justification by faith, instead demanding that salvation must be paid for through human effort and religious rule-keeping.

Joseph’s brothers would come to Egypt driven by hunger and the desire for food. Jesus said in His sermon on the mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 ESV). Later on, Jesus would make the audacious claims:

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. – John 6:35 NLT

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. – John 6:51 NLT

The sons of Jacob (Israel) were driven by hunger. They were forced to humble themselves and seek help in an unlikely and undesirable place, the land of Egypt. Those who would find salvation in Christ must also be driven by hunger – spiritual hunger. They must admit their need, humble themselves and come to the only source where true salvation can be found: In Christ alone through faith alone. Just as in the story of Joseph, the spiritually hungry must come with their need, confront and confess their sins, and submit themselves to the Savior whom God has provided. Joseph’s “death” actually resulted in his brothers’ salvation. And Jesus’ death is what makes it possible for sinners to receive salvation today.

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Fulness of Joy.

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. – 1 John 1:4 ESV

In the book of First John, the apostle John is writing to believers. He is reminding them of the tlmeless significance of Jesus Christ. Which is why he opens his letter with a reminder of the non-negotiable reality of Jesus’ divinity – “that which was from the beginning” – and his humanity – “which we have heard, which we have seen … and have touched with our hands.” He is unapologetically proclaiming his belief in the incarnation of Christ. He had been a first-hand witness of Jesus’ humanity, having spent three years of his life in close proximity to Him. But John had also seen Jesus put to death and buried in a borrowed tomb. But then three days later, he had personally witnessed Jesus’ miraculous resurrection. He had talked with Him, ate with Him, and then watched as Jesus ascended back into heaven, having just promised to return some day.

John tells his readers, “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4 ESV). In other words, his purpose for writing the letter was to instill in his readers the same joy he knew and had experienced. God had come in human flesh. Jesus had ended up being far more than John initially perceived or expected. He was more than just a human Messiah or earthly king. He was the Son of God, the Word “that became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14 ESV). But it didn’t stop there. Jesus took on “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8 ESV). He had died a sinner’s death on behalf of men. And His death made it possible for men to have a restored relationship with God the Father. John says that truth, that reality should produce in us a joy that is full and complete.

But many believers today lack joy. They have Christ, but their joy seems to be less than full. In John’s estimation, joylessness is nothing less than Christ-lessness. We can have Christ, but not take full advantage of all He has to offer. Instead, we can easily make Christ a means to something else … our happiness, the hope of a better life or even eternal life. But John would have us realize that Jesus is not a means to finding joy, He is our joy. Many today are suffering from spiritual starvation because they are surrounded by information regarding Christ, but fail to ingest it and feed themselves from it. Starvation doesn’t take a complete absence of food, just an inadequate amount of it for survival. I can starve to death standing the aisle of a well-stocked grocery store. The presence of food does me no good if I don’t take advantage of it. I can also starve by eating a steady diet of the wrong things. A diet of Twinkies and Moon Pies will not end well. I may feel full, but I will starve my body of the nutrients it needs to survive and thrive. Many of us as Christians do the same thing with Christ. We seek satisfaction and joy in the wrong places. We turn to something or someone other than Christ for what we need and end up starving to death spiritually.

Perhaps you lack joy because you don’t get enough of Christ. John said that what he was writing would lead to complete joy – full, abounding, full-to-the-brim joy. Jesus Himself made a similar promise when He told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11 ESV). He had just finished teaching the about what it means to abide in Him. He had told them that fruitfulness would be a direct by-product of abiding or remaining in Him. Because apart from Him, we can do nothing. It would seem that John believed fulness of joy was directly tied to our fulfillment in Christ. Is Christ enough? Or do we require more? Is it not enough that the God of the universe sent His own Son to take on human flesh and die a sinner’s death in our place? Is it not enough the a holy God would provide a means by which sinful men could be made right with Him and enjoy intimate fellowship with Him now and for eternity? Many of us lack joy, because we are not fully satisfied with Christ. We believe He is enough to save us, but not enough to fulfill us and bring us joy – even in the midst of uncertainty, sorrow, pain and suffering. The apostle Paul would have us understand that it is Jesus Christ – God in the flesh – who alone can provide salvation and satisfaction. He prayed, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19 ESV). Fulness of God brings fulness of joy. Christ is enough. Christ is sufficient. And when we finally realize that truth, we will find true joy.