Joseph is undoubtedly the most perfect type of Christ found in the Bible. He was beset by any number of difficulties where his life was in danger and his wisdom was put to the test, but there is no black mark on his career. His service to his God and to his nation give him a unique place among the many Old Testament saints who served God well. He was hated by his brothers. When he was 17, they threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave. From there he went from a slave to a trusted servant in the palace in Egypt, then to the dungeon and from there to second in command in Egypt, the most powerful nation on earth at that time. His brothers thought they had gotten rid of him, but years later his God-given wisdom saved them from starvation as well as the Hebrew nation and the nation of Egypt. In every trial he faced, he was always the perfect servant and a type of the Christ to come.
Although he has been dead for over 3500 years, his name and his service to God still live on right beside the name of Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.
David, the shepherd King, attained fame in the field of combat. For Joseph, famine was the enemy and starvation would have destroyed all his people if it hadn't been for his God - given wisdom and power combined.
Genesis 40 records an incident in his career that is a complete story in itself. Verse 1 refers back to a previous incident with "after these things." He had gone from the palace to prison because Pharaoh’s wife desired him and he refused her. She told Pharaoh, falsely, that he had attempted to molest her and Joseph was put in the dungeon because of her accusation. While he was in prison he was a servant to the other prisoners, among whom were the chief butler and chief baker from Pharaoh's household.
Let’s read the story of their dreams but we don’t want to miss the fact that it also gives us a picture of the Gospel where we might least expect it portrayed, in an Egyptian prison.
Genesis 40: 1. "It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. 2. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. 3. So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. 4. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them; so they were in custody for a while. 5. Then the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison, had a dream, both of them, each man's dream in one night and each man's dream with its own interpretation. 6. And Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them, and saw that they were sad. 7. So he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of his lord's house, saying, “Why do you look so sad today?" 8. And they said to him, “We each have had a dream, and there is no interpreter of it." So Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell them to me, please."
Let’s stop here a minute. Joseph said the interpretations could only come from the one true God, the God of heaven who had given them the dreams. Do you suppose those Egyptians, whose god was Ra the sun god, had any faith in the sun telling them what their dreams meant? They seemed more than willing to listen to Joseph’s God in their time of trouble.
9. "Then the chief butler told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, "Behold, in my dream a vine was before me, 10. and in the vine were three branches; it was as though it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and its clusters brought forth ripe grapes. 11. Then Pharaoh's cup was in my hand; and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup, and placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand." 12. And Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days. 13. Now within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your place, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand according to the former manner, when you were his butler. 14. But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh, and get me out of this house. 15. For indeed I was stolen away from the land of the Hebrews; and also I have done nothing here that they should put me into the dungeon." 16. When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said to Joseph, "I also was in my dream, and there were three white baskets on my head. 17. In the uppermost basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, and the birds ate them out of the basket on my head." 18. So Joseph answered and said,"This is the interpretation of it: The three baskets are three days. 19. Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head from you and hang you on a tree; and the birds will eat your flesh from you." 20. Now it came to pass on the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and of the chief baker among his servants. 21. Then he restored the chief butler to his butlership again, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. 22. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23. Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." In the butler's dream, [he is also called the cup bearer], he saw a vine that had three branches and it budded and bore grapes. He took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and presented it to him and he accepted it. This is the interpretation: in three days he would be out of prison and restored to his former position.
In the chief baker's dream he had three white baskets on his head and they were filled with all kinds of goodies he personally had made. The birds came and devoured them.
This is the sad interpretation. In three days he would be hanged. Both dreams came true exactly according to Joseph's interpretations.
There's a wonderful prophetic story in the dreams of these two men and it gives us a picture of the gospel of God's matchless grace. There may be some who question that the Old Testament is a picture gallery of truths about Christ, but it proves that to be true when they are confirmed in the New Testament.
The butler and his dream picture the righteous offering by which every believer obtains release from the prison of his own sins and Satan's power. The vine he saw speaks of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the True Vine Himself. The butler dreamed he took of the fruit of the vine and crushed it and brought it to his lord for his own acceptance.
The baker, on the other hand, brought the fruit of his works, the goods he baked, and found out he was not accepted and was hanged on a tree. These two offerings illustrate clearly the way of acceptance or rejection before God through all ages.
The person who tries to obtain God's favor, that is, salvation, through works will find out he is not accepted but is condemned to a lost eternity. No matter how good they smelled or tasted, those baked goods were just man's works and became food for the fowls of the air; they brought him no nearer to his lord.
On the other hand, the butler brought nothing of himself. He crushed the grapes and squeezed the fruit of the vine into his lord's cup, took it into his lord's royal presence and the sin that had imprisoned him was forgiven and he was made acceptable to his lord. This also applies to the anyone who trusts Christ as his Savior. "But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Romans 4:5.
Surely this is a picture of the cross where the Lord Jesus, the true vine, stood before Jehovah God in His perfect manhood. Human hands took Him and crucified Him and His blood flowed from Him. Isaiah 53:5 "He was wounded for our transgression; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed."
He is the fruit of the Vine that the Voice from heaven declared: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17.
The three days in the butler's dream may speak of the three days when Jesus laid in the tomb until He triumphantly arose. The fruit of Christ’s death, His blood sacrificed for our sins, was the cup that He presented to His God and Father. If you know His saving grace, you’ll share that same cup all eternity.
The dream of the chief butler pictures our redemption with Christ as our redeemer. The butler was restored to the place of acceptance, his sins forgiven and his sentence canceled. The true Believer today is accepted by God, our sins are forgiven, and our sentence is canceled by the blood of the True Vine. The butler, who was brought back to his lord, pictures the believer brought back to the Savior.
Now we come to the fate of the baker whose works couldn’t save him. The Scriptures say: "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." [Galatians 2:16]
If we expect to find eternal favor with God on the ground of our own works, we're calling God a liar. God said that our salvation is "not of works lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:9. Titus 3:5 "Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us." In God's own words, the un-believer is on the way to a lost eternity just as surely as the baker was on his way to the gallows.
There is a well known hymn that tells God's requirements for salvation so plainly.
"Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked come to Thee for dress; helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul I to the fountain fly; cleanse me Saviour, or I die. "
There’s a touching scene in the life of Joseph while he was there in the dungeon. He was the instrument in God's hand that brought the good news of deliverance to the chief butler. Joseph said: "But think on me when it is well with thee and make mention of me to Pharaoh." [verse 14] Yet the closing verse tells us, "But the chief butler did not remember Joseph, but forgot him." [verse 23]
Many centuries later, in an upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus gathered His disciples who had shared in His rejection. He would leave them and go to the cross. His disciples would be left behind to spread the message of the salvation His death would win.
After the Passover supper, a simple memorial feast was set before the disciples. A loaf of bread and a cup of wine. He would leave them something tangible as a token of His love for them. He chose the bread and the wine to speak to their souls of what He was about to do for them. His body, in its undefiled purity, would be given for them. The loaf would always remind them of that. His sinless blood would flow from His pierced side, just as wine pours from grapes crushed in the winepress. The testimonial cup would remind them of His shed blood and He told them "This do in remembrance of Me.”[Luke 22:19b]
While the apostle Paul was not at that feast in the upper room that evening, he stood before the glorified Lord at a later time and the Lord confirmed that it was His desire that all believers keep this feast. 1 Corinthians 11:23-24: "That which also was delivered unto me--this do in remembrance of me." So Paul and all the early believers met together, according to Acts 20, on the first day of the week to observe this feast and remember the Lord’s request.
The most important thing we can do in this life is to accept God's way of salvation through the death of His Son, and not try to gain God’s acceptance by works.
If we are true believers in Christ this remembrance feast is our privilege. If we don't partake of the bread and the cup in remembrance of our Savior, we must be a disappointment to Jesus. He must feel like just Joseph felt about the butler who didn't remember him but forgot him. Don’t be like the butler who didn't remember Joseph’s request and then went a step further, he forgot him!
Genesis 41 tells the story of Joseph being called out of the dungeon to become the second most powerful man in Egypt.
This was two years after the chief butler said goodbye to Joseph in prison and returned to his former place in the royal household.
Joseph, the Hebrew slave who waited on the butler in prison, had been forgotten. Everything was going well for the butler but not so for Joseph. He had been forgotten by the butler and was still in prison, but God hadn't forgotten him. God had a purpose in this and He arranged Pharaoh’s dream that would cause Joseph to finally be remembered. Pharaoh’s wise men couldn't interpret the dream and it was then that the chief butler remembered Joseph and he was called out of jail to the palace to interpret the dream God had given Pharaoh of the cattle coming up out of a river.
God saw Joseph through every last one of these unusual and stressful situations and he faced a lot of them. As for those of us who belong to Christ, God will do the same for us.
He doesn't want us to be too surprised or troubled as we see and deal with the debris of a failed civilization all around us. God is on the throne and is working everything after the council of His own good will including everything that we experience.
Many years ago the sparrows would gather in the trees around our house in the fall and make an awful racket and an awful mess. My brother, Bud, and I shot thousands of those sparrows and when they fell, our cats gobbled them up. Scripture tells us that not one of those sparrow fell without God’s notice and God says "Ye are of more value than many sparrows" [Matthew 10:31] If God cares that much about a sparrow that became cat food, don’t you suppose He cares a lot more for us who He created in His own image. The believer is His beloved child. Romans 8:29 tells us that our destiny is: "to be conformed to the image of His Son."
Many years after Joseph’s bones had been buried in the family tomb at Shechem, David wrote about God's faithfulness to Joseph and Joseph's faithfulness to God. Here again, in this Psalm, Joseph pictures Christ, the perfect Servant of God.
[Psalm 105:7 & 16-22] 7. "He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth. 16. Moreover He called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread. 17. He sent a man before them - Joseph - who was sold as a slave. 18. They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. 19. Until the time that his word came to pass, The word of the LORD tested him. 20. The king sent and released him, The ruler of the people let him go free. 21. He made him lord of his house, And ruler of all his possessions, 22. To bind his princes at his pleasure, And teach his elders wisdom."
We are given the opportunity to bow the knee to Christ now of our free will, to confess Him as our Lord, to accept the sacrifice He has made on the cross for our redemption.
If we do so, we are saved for eternity and delivered from hell forever. God will never go back on His word: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." [ROMANS 10:9]
That is God's only acceptable way for salvation.