Genesis 37-50 Joseph, A Christmas Eve Homily

For some time we have been studying Genesis and this Advent season we have looked at various reasons why Jesus Christ had to be born into this world from the need to find the Bride of Christ to the fact that the elect are called and freely blessed because of Christ’s work, to the realization that in each of us the roots of an atrocious, horrific sin dwell and so we are in need of a Savior.


And tonight on Christmas Eve, as we anticipate the birth of the Savior it seems well to continue in our Genesis study with the life of Joseph.  We all know that Christmas Eve is that time of anticipating the birth of the savior, but what will this Savior’s life be like?  Well, if we look at Joseph’s life we will get a broad stroke picture of the life of our savior.

In Genesis 37 we meet Jacob’s tenth son, Joseph and as the story opens up it is clear that Joseph is the favored son.  His Father loves him deeply and lavishes gifts upon his son.  Simultaneously, we find Joseph declaring that all his family will bow down to him.  Now like any family, the parents and the brothers are astounded at his boldness, how could he dare to claim the right to rule over others, to be more exalted than the rest of his family?


In the course of time, Jacob sends Joseph out to look for his brothers who are wandering in the fields with the flock.  As Joseph looks for them, he is spotted.  His brothers see him coming and because they despise him, they seek to take his life, but are ultimately persuaded to simply sell him to some Ishmaelites, who are heading to Egypt.  In the process, Joseph is stripped of his royal robe and cast into a pit where he becomes one of the lowliest of the human race, a slave and a servant.


Joseph’s story is one that was meant to declare the special status of “God’s favored Son” as the one who was lavished with royal robes and endowed with a special place in His Father’s heart.  “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased, the Word declares in Luke 3:17.  He is the one who is crowned with glory and honor according to Hebrews 2:7 and He is the favored son, whom every knee will bow down before and not just pay homage, but to truly worship for everything has been put under his feet (Hebrews 2:9).


But like Joseph’s story, there is a lag time between the reality and its fulfillment and during that lag time there will be some, like Joseph’s brothers, who just can’t stand the thought of giving up their authority in order to bow before the favored Son and so like the brothers who desire to kill Joseph and then sell him to be a slave, the Christ to be born into the world will be hated by those he is most closely related to, his family, his nation and ultimately the world.  At one point in his life, his brothers came to take control of him, for they thought “he was out of his mind” (Mark 3:21).  At many other points, the Jewish leaders seek to kill him and ultimately, the rulers of the world will gather together against this Son and have him crucified.


This is a picture of our savior’s life. He comes looking for us and will be ambushed by the world, stripped of his “authority”, beaten and spat upon and cast into a pit.  So goes the story of the incarnation, a story of God giving up everything, his heavenly grandeur and holy majesty in order to look for his lost and straying brothers and sisters, only to be sold into slavery and become a servant of all.  But our Lord wasn’t bitter about it, on the contrary, like Joseph he gives glory to God all along the way.  He points men, women and children toward the Lord Almighty calling them to give Glory to the One and Only.


But those aren’t the only similarities between Joseph’s life and Jesus’.  As Joseph is brought into Potiphar’s house as a slave and servant the Lord is at work and He begins to bless all of his work. And as his work flourishes and some in the house take notice and begin to tempt him to deny God and sin against him but Joseph refuses to sin against God (Gen 39:7) and ultimately is falsely accused being cast even deeper into the earth in the dungeon of Pharaoh’s Captain of the Guard.  Yet even here, Jacob continues to serve his God faithfully and without reserve


Again as we look for the parallels in Christ’s life, we find recorded in Luke 4 the story of a Jesus and Satan in the desert being tempted. First to provide his own bread, then to bow down and worship a creature instead of the creator and finally to test the Lord’s provision and concern for his faithful Son, yet in each, child of Nazareth remains victorious and the favored Son of his Father.  This same Christ who is victorious and faithful to his God is also falsely accused which leads to him being cast even deeper into the earth than just upon the surface as a slave or servant.  He will take up residence in the very bowels of the ground, as he is crucified and buried, not for his own sin, but for the sins of others who have falsely accused him and for whom he willing bears their shame and suffering.


But the Joseph story doesn’t stop in the prison. From the depths of the dungeon, Joseph is called before Pharaoh, King of Egypt and exalted to the highest chair in the land where he is able to provide for the people of the earth and ensure their survival.  You see, we are told that anyone wanting to live and eat during the Great famine had to come to Joseph and he would determine how to feed him or her from the surplus of the land, which he had managed.  And it is in this process of caring for the needs of the people that Joseph’s brothers appear again and find themselves bowing before him, just as the opening story in Genesis 37 declared.


And the wonder of the advent story is that is doesn’t stop in a manger with a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes (Luke 2:12), nor does it stop in the grave that fateful afternoon known as Good Friday; but it continues on as Joseph’s story prefigured such that the Favored Son born into the world is exalted to the highest place in the land.  Joseph became the ruler over Egypt but the little babe Jesus has ascended to a throne higher than any authority, power or dominion and simply at his name people will bow down and worship (Phil 2:10).  Magi.


But more than that, as Joseph ruled those who hungered and thirsted, they were told to come to him and receive the food they so desperately needed, so also the Christ who is to be born will cry out to those who hunger and thirst for rest and life and he will provide out of that he possesses.  And like Joseph who will claim that all of his suffering was for a specific purpose (Gen. 45:5-7) And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of youBut God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So Jesus is the very picture of the greatest deliverance ever as God himself is born in a stable, and suffers, the righteous for the unrighteous, but is ultimately exalted in the resurrection and ascension in order to preserve our lives from death.  As Peter declared in his epistle, (1Pet. 3:18, 22) For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spiritand has gone into heaven and is at Gods right hand with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.


So as we close this Christmas evening and go home to sleep and away to presents and festivities, make sure to take time to communicate to your kids and grandkids the full story of the savior, for as amazing as the incarnation and immaculate conception are, they pale in comparison to the full story of Jesus’ life as it is pictured first in Joseph’s life, then in David’s life and ultimately in the Gospels. Listen to these words of the angels with a new appreciation for what the incarnation means, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of Great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).





Scripture Reading:


Gen. 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him.

Gen. 37:5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

Gen. 37:14 Jacob said to Joseph, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron. [As Joseph neared his brothers,”]

Gen. 37:19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other.

Gen. 37:23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe — the richly ornamented robe he was wearing —

Gen. 37:24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

Gen. 37:25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

Gen. 37:28  So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt [and he became a slave in Potiphar’s house].


Gen. 39:7 and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”

Gen. 39:8 But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.

Gen. 39:9 No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”


[And eventually Joseph was falsely accused, cast into prison and through a miraculous turn of events is exalted to the highest position in the land of Egypt and able to provide for the needs of many needy people.  And he said these words to his brothers,]


Gen. 45:5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.

Gen. 45:6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.

Gen. 45:7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.




Joseph Background


Genesis 37:1- 11 all will worship the favored son.

V8. Sons can’t fathom being ruled like Pharisees and Sadducees


Genesis 37:12-36 like Joseph looking for his brothers the Christ comes looking for us but like they tried to kill him so we also seek to take the life of our Savior they desire to kill him like The Jewish rulers.

V23. Stripped of robe cast in pit, so also the Christ will be stripped and cast into a pit


Genesis 39:7 Joseph tempted to sleep with the mistress just this Christ will be tempted to sell all his authority or something little bye.  The temptation was against god in both (v9 and john3-4)

V19-20 Joseph suffers unjustly in prison for the sins of another just as Christ will suffer for our sins not his own.


Genesis 41:16. Joseph repeatedly gives glory to do for the things he does just as Christ continues to point people to the father. V39-40 Joseph exalted to highest position in land just as Christ exalted. V56-57 anyone wanting to live and eat had to come to Joseph the exalted one to do it, so also anyone wanting true life and bread must come to Jesus the exalted one.


Ch 44:18ff Judah offers himself in Benjamin’s place, a fitting word for the lion of the tribe of Judah who will give himself for us and our sons just as their sins were found out.


45:5-7 to save lives that I suffered so I can save you and many other.  This is the advent story…


47:7 just as Joseph presents his family to pharaoh, so Christ presents us to the father and we settle in the fathers land.  V20 everything is brought under the control of Joseph and pharaoh, so with Christ.

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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