Can You See Him Series
  • The son trudges uphill, bearing wood for his own sacrifice; his father has decided to give him up to death. What biblical event does this bring to mind? Is it Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, or Christ’s passion in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? The kinship between these two stories is deeper than mere coincidence. Christ is present in the story of Abraham and Isaac. In fact, He is present on every page of the Old Testament. Can You See Him?
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • Forgiveness flows from brokenness and forgiving. – Psalm 51:17; Matthew 6:12, 14 & 15
    • Forgiveness blots out confessed sin. – Psalm 51:1-9; Luke 24:46 & 47
    • Forgiveness brings reconciliation. –  Psalm 51:10; Ephesians 4:31 & 32
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • What does it mean to be broken over your own sin, receive forgiveness, and then be able to forgive? 
    • Why is confession necessary to receiving forgiveness? 
    • How does forgiveness bring reconciliation?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him so much?  Did Joseph deserve such hatred?
    • Try to imagine how Joseph felt when his brothers threw him into the cistern.  How would you feel?  And then when his brothers pulled him out only to sell him as a slave, how do you think he felt?  How would you feel?
    • Joseph was in slavery for 13 years.  While God blessed him even as a slave, he was mistreated (read Psalm 105:16-19)?
    • What was it that allowed Joseph to be able to forgive his brothers?
    • What did Joseph learn of God while he was a slave?  What did he learn when Pharaoh elevated him to be second in power in all of Egypt?
    • Why did Joseph test his brothers when they came to Egypt for food?  What were the tests, and did his brothers pass the tests?
    • When we see a “picture” of Jesus in the Old Testament, it is not an exact comparison in every detail, as opposed to being a “big picture” sort of thing.  Summarize how Joseph is a picture of Jesus in the “big picture” way.
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • How do you tend to respond when you are mistreated unfairly?
    • Is it right for us to want revenge and, even moreso, to take revenge?  If not, why not? 
    • God seemed to take a long time before putting Joseph in a better position, that is, to remove him from slavery.  Why so long?  What should our response be when the negative things seem to keep on without abating?
    • Jesus forgave all who put Him to death; He forgave the thief on the cross?  He forgives all who come to Him in confession and repentance.  Why does He extend forgiveness? Do we have a right to forgiveness?  Can we earn it in some way?  
    • How are we who follow Jesus as it relates to forgiveness?  (hint: read Matthew 6:12, 14 & 15)
    • Joseph’s brothers seemed to have a difficult time accepting Joseph’s forgiveness, even after many years.  Why?  Do you have difficulty accepting that God has forgiven you? Do you hold on to certain things as if you have not been forgiven?  Why?  And what should you do about it?
    • How might we as a church, and you as an individual, use the story of Joseph to proclaim the forgiveness available in Christ and how He provides for our salvation through forgiveness?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
This series asks the following question about the Messiah in the Old Testament: Can you see Him? We have looked at Noah, and at Abraham and Isaac, and seen Jesus as the righteous one and the sacrifice. This study looks at Joseph. Isaac, whom we saw in the last study, had two sons, Jacob and Esau. They were twins, and Jacob, though the younger of the two, came to be the one through whom God would fulfill His covenant of blessing to the nations through the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 26:3-5, 24; 28:3 & 4, 13-15). Jacob had returned to Haran, the land of his forebear, Abraham, to find a wife. He met Rachel and served her father, Laban, 7 years as his “bride-price.” (Genesis 29:18), following which Laban tricked Jacob and gave away his other daughter, Leah, to Jacob, after which Jacob served another 7 years at which time he took Rachel. Leah ultimately had 6 sons. Rachel was barren, and as was custom, she gave Jacob her handmaiden, Bilhah, to produce heirs (and to assuage her jealousy over her sister’s having produced 6 sons). The tactic was successful as Bilhah bore two sons. Leah then gave her handmaiden, Zilpah, to Jacob and two more sons were the result.

Finally, God blessed Rachel with a son, Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24) and later, Benjamin. Thus, Jacob had 12 sons, and they ultimately became the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel (Israel being God’s new name for Jacob. Genesis 32:27-29). Jacob, his entire family and possessions returned to Canaan at God’s direction (Genesis 31:3), and God confirmed the covenant (Genesis 35:9-15). Jacob and his family lived in Canaan, where they pastured flocks. Years passed by until Joseph was 17 years old. As the first child of his beloved Rachel, Jacob loved Joseph and in fact, Jacob gave him preference over his other sons, so much so that he made Joseph a special, ornamental (or multi-colored) coat (Genesis 37:3). The result of this preference within the family was dysfunction, as one might suspect. In fact, Joseph’s brothers (actually, step brothers) hated him so much that they could not even speak civilly to him (Genesis 37:4).

Joseph, being pampered and preferred, possibly self-centered as a result, but also inexperienced and na├»ve, told his brothers of two dreams he had in which his brothers and even his parents ultimately bowed down to him. Whatever were Joseph’s motives in relating his dreams, the result was that his brothers hated him even more, and even his father rebuked him (Genesis 37:5-10). When Joseph later went to check on his brothers at his father’s request, they saw him coming from a distance and plotted to kill him (Genesis 37:12-20). However, his brother, Reuben (who was the oldest), prevailed on them not to kill him but instead throw him into a cistern (from which Reuben planned to rescue Joseph).

This in fact they did, and with no second thoughts or remorse as shown by the fact that they simply sat down to eat after Joseph was in the cistern without water or food. (Genesis 37:21-25) As they ate, they spotted a caravan headed towards Egypt, and decided to sell Joseph to them as a slave which they promptly did, receiving 20 pieces of silver for him, the going price for a slave. Thus, Joseph became a slave in Egypt where he was eventually sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard. Meanwhile, the brothers told Jacob that they had found Joseph’s ornamental coat (which they had covered with goat blood). Upon showing Jacob the coat, their father assumed Joseph had been killed by a wild beast (Genesis 37:31-33).

God blessed Joseph in Egypt by Potiphar placing him in charge of his household. Potiphar’s wife tried to entice him into having an affair with her, which Joseph refused to do, and she accused him of attacking her whereupon he was thrown into the king’s prison where he would languish for several years. Two other prisoners, formerly attendants to Pharaoh, had dreams while in prison, and Joseph interpreted them. Both interpretations came true, one being that the chief cupbearer was restored to his position with Pharaoh and the other was killed by Pharaoh. Two years later, when Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret, the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph who, when called on to do so, interpreted the dream. The dream had to do with years plenty and years of famine in Egypt, and the Pharaoh subsequently followed Joseph’s suggestion as to how to handle the situation by placing Joseph in charge of the land, second only to Pharaoh in power. (Genesis 41:37-46). Joseph was 30 years old at that time, so 13 years had elapsed since his brothers had tossed him into the empty cistern. There followed 7 years of plenty in Egypt (Genesis 41:53), and the 7 years of famine began.

As a result of the famine, people from Egypt and outside of Egypt came to purchase grain from Egypt from the storehouses that Joseph had filled during the 7 years of plenty. Those coming included 10 of Jacob’s sons, all but Benjamin, some 2 years into the famine (Genesis 42:1-5; 45:6) Joseph recognized his brothers, but did not reveal himself to them (Genesis 42:6-10). His brothers indicated that they had one other brother, but that another “was no more.” (Genesis 42:13) Joseph told them that they had to leave one of the brothers in Egypt, return to their land with food, and then come back to Egypt with their younger brother. In the midst of such interchange, the brothers confessed their sin concerning Joseph (who overheard them and understood their words), even indicating that Joseph had pleaded with them and been distressed (Genesis 42:18-24). So, the 9 brothers went back to their father in Canaan. In due course, they returned to Egypt with Benjamin. Joseph tested their attitudes regarding Benjamin, the result of which was that the brothers showed true remorse, and concern for Benjamin and their father, Jacob. And Judah even offered to take Benjamin’s place and be a slave to Joseph (Genesis 44:33 & 34).

Joseph, it seems, sought to discern the state of his brothers hearts. Had they realized their sin with Joseph? Did they repent of their sin? Did they no longer hate their brother, Benjamin, who also had a special place in Jacob’s heart? The brothers passed all the tests, and Joseph was convinced of their genuineness, so much so that when Judah offered to take Benjamin’s place, Joseph could no longer control himself (Genesis 45:1), and wept so loudly that those in Pharaoh’s household heard it (Genesis 45:2). Joseph then revealed himself to his brothers, but they were dismayed and afraid (Genesis 45:3) for they knew he had power over them, for their lives or their deaths. Yet how did Joseph react at that point? He did not seek to use his position for revenge, though he certainly could have. Rather, he forgave them! He gave testimony to the reality that it was actually God at work in their actions, to preserve life in Egypt and the surrounding countries; that it was God who sent him to Egypt for good and to preserve His people. (Genesis 45:5-8) And beyond forgiving them, Joseph provided for them by giving them food in abundance to take back to Canaan, and inviting them to travel to Egypt and live in Goshen (Genesis 45:9-13, 21-28).

Jacob agreed to come, and as he set out to Egypt with all his family and property, God appeared to him and assured him that it was safe to go to Egypt where God would make them into a great nation (Genesis 46:1-7; 47:11 & 12). So, Jacob, his family, and all who came after them, sojourned in the land of Goshen. Jacob died some 17 years later (Genesis 47:28; 49:33). Even then, years after Joseph had welcomed his brothers into Egypt, they had not fully accepted his forgiveness, wondering if he still bore a grudge against them (Genesis 50:15), and they sought his forgiveness (Genesis 50:16 & 17). In response, Joseph assured them of his forgiveness, and reiterated that what they had intended for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:19 & 20), and he again said that he would provide for them (Genesis 50:21). Joseph’s forgiveness was unconditional. His brothers had confessed their sin and repented already; they did not need to do so again.

Joseph’s forgiveness was bigger and deeper than they even knew, as it was from Joseph’s having been humbled and used by God in a way that was beyond any human effort. Joseph was God’s instrument, just as he was God’s channel of grace. So, can you see Him? Can you see Jesus in this story of Joseph? Again, there are a number of pictures of Jesus. There is the picture of the son of a loving father which is the relationship between Jesus and God the Father (Matthew 1:17; 17:5). There is the picture of Joseph’s own people, his brothers, hating him and desiring to kill him, just as the Jewish people wanted to kill Jesus (Matthew 27:20-25; 41-43). There is the picture of an innocent man sold out for the price of a slave just as Jesus was sold out for 30 pieces of silver, the then price of a slave (Matthew 26:14-16). There is the picture of one falsely accused (Genesis 39:13-18), as was Jesus (Matthew 26:59-62). There is the picture of the son being humbled as a slave just as Jesus humbled Himself and became a human being and a slave (Philippians 2:5-8). There is the picture of a son deemed dead by his father but seemingly brought back to life (Genesis 37:34; 45:26-28), just as Jesus was dead and resurrected. (John 19:30; 20:16-18). There is the picture of the humbled one extending forgiveness to those who sought his own death (Luke 23:34; I John 1:9). There is the picture of salvation to those who are forgiven (Hebrews 7:25; 10:19-22).

Forgiveness is from God (Mark 2:7; Colossians 2:13). God has forgiven those who come to Him through Jesus in confession and repentance. And that forgiveness is complete and effective in Christ, and results in salvation and eternal life. In Joseph, we see a man who was humbled and who was led by God to forgiveness of his brothers as Joseph realized the working of God in his life. What a remarkable story; but what a remarkable picture of the life we have in Jesus through the forgiveness of sin. And the beauty of forgiveness is that we can be Christ-like and forgive as well since we know in whom is our life, and we live in His power through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished upon us.” (Ephesians 1:7 & 8a) And as His saved ones, forgiven from sin, we have been ushered into new life as His workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) Praise be to God for the forgiveness available in and through Jesus as we come to Him in humble confession of our need for a Savior. Can you see Him? Yes indeed, He is there!