When studying for Genesis 37:1-11 and preparing to complete our study through Genesis, I have a fresh reminder that this narrative containing these many smaller narratives are not primarily about the theological / moral lives of the characters. None of that makes Genesis uniquely Christian. In fact, it would be easy to preach what Mark Dever calls “a synagogue sermon”. What Dr. Dever means by that is a sermon that could be preached in a synagogue or a church or a mosque or a gathering of Mormons. How would that be possible?
This would be possible by simply doing an exposition while being unaware of our interpretive framework that determines how we determine the author’s intent. For us as Christians our interpretive framework is set out by the Lord Jesus in passages such as these:
Luke 24:44-48 (ESV) Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
1 Corinthians 15:4 (ESV) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
- (See Exodus 19; Hosea 6:1; Jonah for what happens on the third day and how Jesus was interpreting these passages based on his divine authorial perspective.)
John 5:39 (ESV) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,
John 5:45-47 (ESV) Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Luke 16:31 (ESV) He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Jesus point? All of the Old Testament arcs toward his person and his work.
Paul told the Corinthians that Jews seek signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but they preach Christ crucified. To the eye that has not sought out Jesus’ way of reading the text it seems that Paul would run out of things to preach, but when one begins to see how Exodus 19, Hosea 6:1, and all of Jonah are intended to prepare us with patterns and outright flashing arrows for Jesus and his saving kingdom work, we begin to see biblical history and the text that captures it as infinitely deep and far richer than some miraculous sign or some wise 5 step program to temporal success. Nothing wrong with miracles, and nothing wrong with wisdom, but compared to the infinitely deep well of Jesus’ person and work in history those things are like a small Coke at McDonalds.
Joseph’s divine intent in Scripture from God is not a moral example of how to respond to adversity. Perhaps that’s down the list of applications. Joseph’s divinely inspired intent is to be a teacher / tutor / pattern / example to point us to Jesus’ person and work.
So, when we begin our study, try to hardwire Jesus’ words on how he interpreted the Old Testament, and ask the Spirit to help you see the text that way. The riches are infinite. As Paul would say to the Colossians:
Colossians 2:1-8 (ESV) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, so let’s look for Jesus not Joseph or Jacob. If we go looking for wisdom, we may miss Jesus. If we go looking for Jesus, we will get Jesus and all the formerly hidden and mysterious treasures of wisdom and knowledge because they are hidden in Jesus.
The Old Testament saints saw dimly and longed to see clearly what we have access to with 20/20 vision on this side of Jesus’ cross, burial, resurrection and ascension. Let’s look and marvel at Jesus in Genesis 37-50.