The gift that keeps on giving

Joseph And The Gift of God:

Part 2 of a 4-part series

There is one more thing to consider about Joseph’s sufferings, found in commentary form in Psalm 105:16-19 where the Psalmist takes up the subject of Joseph’s sufferings. He wrote,

Moreover, he called for a famine upon the land: he brake the whole staff of bread. He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him.

          Let’s remember that when Joseph, as a slave and prisoner, thought about ‘his Word from God’ in his two dreams at age seventeen, it must have refined, purified, and proven him, and seemed as distant as the Milky Way. How could those dreams be true?  Because of his shackles, there was absolutely no indicator that God could have been in those dreams. The Hebrew Text reads in v. 18: “into the iron went his soul” or בַּרְזֶל בַָָּאָה נַפְשְׁוֹ. Note: this text is saying that when the time finally came for Joseph’s Word or promise to happen, it was marked by a dramatic divine moment so full of meaning and hope that it made everything else in his life before this moment a precursor and a preparation to it.  All the trial and testing, the heart ache and sorrow were shaping his life so he would be ready for this exact second: the call to come out of prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  This is unsearchable and profound; it can only be grasped by faith in God’s ways, which Joseph demonstrated.  

          An astonishing development now emerges as we consider two things that come out of Joseph’s mouth. Go back for a moment to his conversation with the Butler and Baker who know they need an interpreter of their dreams. Joseph said, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me them” (Gen. 40:18). In like fashion, as Pharaoh speaks with Joseph, he says he’s heard that Joseph can interpret dreams. Joseph’s answer: “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace” (Gen. 41:16). He is in effect saying, ‘Look, I’m nobody special, but God is going to go to work right now.  What’s your dream?’ In other words, Joseph humbled himself before them but then brought what God alone can do. Repeat: He brought what God can do.

         Joseph is demonstrating a ministry model that made its way into the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:7 Paul wrote, “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” From here he reasons from Psalm 68:18 – “Wherefore he saith, ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men’. . . . And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry” (vv. 7-12). There is a process happening here: through these offices ‘we (the saints) are perfected for the work of the ministry’ (v. 12). The ‘ministry’ flows from a gift which Christ gave to you, which is like the gift which God gave to Joseph to ‘edify’ Pharaoh. And this ‘perfecting’, this mending and restoring that apostles, prophets . . . do helps us along to function in the gift Christ has given us, so that we bring what God alone can do, in God’s unique way. Again, this is what Joseph did.

So, we can conclude these things about Christ’s ‘gifts to men’ because this section starts out with ‘every one of us’ (v. 7). The power behind this level of ministry is nothing less than Christ’s Resurrection, his Descent into hell, and his Ascension on High. This grace is for each one of us “till we all come . . . unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (v. 13). Amazing! This is why we may walk and act like Jesus; his grace and his gifting inspire it all.

          We are talking about you, sir and ma’am, doing the works of Christ. Jesus said, “”Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). Jesus modeled his works before us to be an example to us, to show us how to do gospel ministry. Everything Jesus said and did he meant for us to duplicate, to do what he did, to be like him. This is staggering! It cannot be attained by anything but by his grace at work in us, his gifts.

Look for Part Three, coming soon.

Tim Halverson

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