On Adoption

The doctrine of adoption is really one of the most amazing doctrines of all. That we who are sinners, justly deserving the wrath of God, should not only have our sins forgiven, but also be adopted as co-heirs with Christ! Adoption is permanent, of course. One does not adopt someone, and then later disown them. Well, I suppose that could happen with human adoption. But not with divine adoption. God knows that He has not made any mistakes.

Adoption is part of the mechanism by which we are made eligible for the resurrection body and the inheritance of the new heavens and the new earth. We have to be God’s children, God’s sons, in order for us to inherit all that God would have for us. Adoption therefore points us to the fact that what is waiting for us is far beyond any knowledge that we have of it. The doctrine of adoption has led some to believe that we will partake of the divine nature. This is based on a misreading of 2 Peter 1:4. The text is talking about the fact that we will be indwelt fully by the Holy Spirit, not that we will become part of God Himself. Nevertheless, the benefits and the glory of the future state far surpass our wildest dreams.

Adoption means that God is our Father. He is no longer our judge. We can come to Him crying “Father, Father,” or even “Daddy,” although that reading of “abba” is disputed by some scholars. However, adoption also means that when we sin, we no longer incur God’s judgely displeasure, but His Fatherly displeasure. God’s Fatherly displeasure can be quite severe at times, as can a human father’s displeasure at his son’s waywardness. However, the adopted son of God is never disinherited, but always brought back.

It should be noted wherein the difference lies between us as adopted sons and Jesus Christ as the Son. Jesus Christ is God’s Son by natural and eternal generation (that is, that Jesus never had a beginning; neither is He in process of becoming Son; nevertheless, He is eternally begotten), whereas we are sons only by adoption.

It should be noted that to translate “sons” as “children,” being gender-inclusive, misses the whole point of saying that we are all sons. In the 1st century, it was the son who inherited the estate. That is why the Bible is so powerfully not sexist, precisely because it says that we all are sons; that is, we all inherit, the women with the men. Think of how that would sound in the 1st century context where only sons inherited! Christianity is the true liberation of women, just as it is the true liberation of men. True liberation consists in freedom from sin, and in adoption as sons of God. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Like a Lamb

Genesis 37:12-36

So you think you’re a victim? You think that circumstances, or people, or yourself, especially how you were brought up, all of these or some of these things are responsible for the pickle in which you now find yourself. You have this persona of victimhood. “Everything I do that’s wrong is someone else’s fault.” Or, even better, “Everything that happens to me that’s bad is someone else’s fault.” Psychology encourages this sort of thinking, as does the rest of the world. It is simply part and parcel of our fallen world to pass the blame on to something else. The reality is that victimhood is the real slavery. Thinking of yourself as a victim is abject slavery. Joseph did not think of himself as a victim, and neither did Jesus Christ, to whom Joseph points. And yet both of them truly were victims of their surroundings. That is the Christian way. Even when we are truly victims, we do not enslave our hearts and minds to it. As we will see while examining the story of Joseph’s sale into slavery, it was actually the brothers who enslaved their consciences.

After Joseph had revealed to his family these dreams, the brother must have been sorely rankled. All they could think about when they saw Joseph was those awful dreams about which Joseph had told them. However, they must have been able to keep it pretty much to themselves, since Jacob doesn’t seem to have any inkling at all that there is anything amiss with the brothers with regard to Joseph. Jacob wants to know whether the brothers are okay, since they were pasturing the flock so near that town that given them so much trouble in the past. The need to know was fairly obvious here. And so Jacob sends Joseph.

In verse 14, Jacob is literally asking if the brothers are at peace. The Hebrew word is “shalom,” a word that means general well-being, salvation, peace of the whole person.

After getting a bit lost, and losing some time, a kind stranger tells Joseph where the brothers went. We don’t know why this fact is recorded for us in Scripture. It just is.

While Joseph is redirected to Dothan, and while he coming to meet the brothers, the brothers see him afar off. They can recognize him because he is (foolishly) wearing his beautiful coat. They immediately conspire against Joseph to murder him. It is plain what the reason for their conspiracy is: they call him “that dreamer.” Literally, the text says “Here comes that lord of dreams!” Plainly, it was the dreams that had set them off. They were ticked off that Joseph had these dreams wherein he was ruler over them. So, in killing Joseph, their idea was mainly to thwart the dream. Plainly, they thought that they could thwart the dream. However, as we know from history, what they do only serves to bring about the fulfillment of the dream. How ironic! Their conspiracy only serves to advance God’s plans for their own salvation!

This is the same thing that happens with Christ. The Jews and the Romans who crucified Jesus, and Satan was well at work there, thought that they were going to stop this Jesus once and for all by actually killing Him. They did nothing but accomplish God’s own plan. God had sent Jesus to the Jews, just as Jacob had sent Joseph to his brothers. The brothers rejected Joseph, just as Jesus came to His own who did not receive Him. Jesus tells us a parable about this: Matthew 21:33-46 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘ The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Can we see then that Joseph is just like Jesus Christ? This parable that Jesus tells could just as easily have been about Joseph, with Jacob being parallel to God the Father, the brothers being parallel to the tenants, and Joseph being parallel to Christ.

Going on in the story, Reuben hears about this plot, and he objects. He doesn’t like it. Quite aside from the fact that he is the oldest, and therefore responsible for Joseph while Joseph is out with them, Reuben also perceives a way in which he can regain the good graces of his father. You will remember that he had lost them when he slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine. I believe that Reuben sees here his chance to regain the position of heir as the first-born.

But Reuben prevails on them enough so that the brothers do not wind up slaying Joseph. Instead, they put him in the pit. They strip Joseph of his robe. In doing so, they strip Joseph of his identity. No longer will he be known as the favorite son of Joseph, destined to be the heir. Instead, Joseph will have to receive a new identity from God Himself.

This detail in verse 25 is most instructive. The sit down to eat. They have just treated Joseph (their own brother) as a piece of junk, and now they sit down to a meal! Talk about being callous! As a matter of fact, Moses has something deeper in mind by relating this detail. The word for “eat” actually means “devour.” It is the same word that Jacob later uses when he says that a wild beast has “devoured” Joseph. I believe that Moses means for us to understand that the brothers here are the actual beasts who have devoured Joseph. They make believe that they are treating Joseph like a prince when they say, “Let’s sell him. That is so much better than killing him.” The fact of the matter is that kidnapping and slave-trade (especially of a fellow Israelite) was a capital crime in ancient Israel. The Jews, in killing Jesus, thought that their guilt would be less if they had the Romans do it. They showed the same callousness that Joseph’s brother here show.

Then Judah steps up to the plate. He decides that it would be better to sell Joseph than to kill him. The brothers all agree to this, and they sell him for twenty shekels of silver, which was the standard price of a slave in those days. That price would rise to thirty shekels of silver later in Israelite history, such as in the time of Jesus Christ. In that time, another Judah (for the name Judah and the name Judas are the same name) would sell his brother Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

However, Reuben is not there when the brothers come to this decision. This was probably because it was Reuben’s turn to watch the flock. That is why, when he comes back, he doesn’t know what the brothers did. He has lost his chance to regain his father’s approval, an he will have to answer for his brother’s blood. That is probably why he chickens out here. He goes along with the plot to dip the coat in blood and send it to their father so that he will come to the conclusion that a wild beast has torn Joseph to pieces. Interestingly, just as Jacob deceived his father Isaac by means of a garment, so also is he now deceived by means of a garment. What goes around comes around.

Jacob’s grief is intense. It is so intense that the brothers really feel like they need to play a charade here by “comforting” their father. One wonders how their consciences must have bothered them when this act was such a farce. How could they comfort their father with a straight face, knowing that Joseph was still alive?
Jacob will not be comforted. One is reminded of Jeremiah 31:15, where Rachel laments her children, and refuses to be comforted, because they are no more. But for Israel there is no comforter. Until Isaiah promises that comfort will come. That comfort comes in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As we have seen, this whole passage shows us in detail what Jesus would be like: that Jesus would be rejected by His own people, though sent by the Father; that He would be sold for silver by Judah/Judas; that He would go into the pit, and yet come out again later. And most importantly, that the plans of mankind to thwart the plan of God only feed into the very fulfillment of God’s plan.

Do you try to thwart God’s plan? Do you like to hinder other people from doing what God requires? That is a spirit of unbelief. God does not tolerate unbelief. Eventually, sooner or later, He will punish unbelief. Do not be like the brothers. Otherwise, you will find out at the end of your life that you will be judged, and that everything you did to try to hinder God’s plan actually worked to further His plan even more. We see that most in the cross of Christ. Satan thought he had God licked, that he had destroyed God’s plan. “Here is the heir: let’s kill him,” Satan says. But in the very cross of Christ, God was bringing to fruition the very destruction of Satan’s plans, and the salvation of His own people.

So, if you do believe this, do you still like to be a victim? Joseph and Jesus were like lambs led to the slaughter. They did not complain. We do learn later on that Joseph pleaded with his brothers to be let go. But Joseph did not complain against God. And neither should we. What we will find out is that the very circumstances that are such a trial to us right now will work to sanctify us and make us more like Christ. Stop thinking of yourself as a victim! If anything, we are much more like the brothers than we would care to admit. We love to victimize other people. We can do that in small ways just as much as in big ways. We can stab people in the back when they aren’t looking, gossip about them. We can steal from them. We can hurt them to their face. We can lie about them. There are all sorts of ways to victimize other people. So, we should not complain if we are the victim of someone else’s maliciousness. That is part and parcel of being a Christian. It happened to all the prophets. It happened to Jesus Christ. Peter tells us that we should not be surprised when trials come our way. Rather, we should expect them.

Maybe we feel like victims because we have no rain, and no crops. The question for you is this: “Do you actually believe Romans 8, when it says that all things work together for good for those who love Christ Jesus?” It doesn’t say that only those good things that happen to us that are obviously good work for our good. It says “all things.” So there is no need to be a victim. There is no need to complain when disaster strikes. We should instead be wondering why in the world it is that more disasters haven’t come our way. We deserve far worse. We deserve what Christ got. And yet, God is a God of grace, and will save you even in the midst of being at the bottom of the pit. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Rejection of the Promised Messiah

Genesis 37:1-11

Campbell Morgan was one of 150 young men who sought entrance to the Wesleyan ministry in 1888. He passed the doctrinal examinations, but then faced the trial sermon. In a cavernous auditorium that could seat more than 1,000 sat three ministers and 75 others who came to listen. When Morgan stepped into the pulpit, the vast room and the searching, critical eyes caught him up short. Two weeks later Morgan’s name appeared among the l05 REJECTED for the ministry that year. Jill Morgan, his daughter-in-law, wrote in her book, A Man of the Word, “He wired to his father the one word, ‘Rejected,’ and sat down to write in his diary: ‘Very dark everything seems. Still, He knoweth best.’ Quickly came the reply: ‘Rejected on earth. Accepted in heaven. Dad.'” In later years, Morgan said: “God said to me, in the weeks of loneliness and darkness that followed, ‘I want you to cease making plans for yourself, and let Me plan your life.'” Rejection is rarely permanent, as Morgan went on to prove. Even in this life, circumstances change, and ultimately, there is no rejection of those accepted by Christ, though there may be a partial rejection here on earth. But there is always rejection (by unbelievers) of the Messiah, the One who was sent to earth.

We come to the final section of Genesis. Lord-willing, we will finish the book of Genesis by the end of the year. Let us review the structure of Genesis, so that we can have an outline in our minds. Chapters 1-11 tell us how God created a world for Himself. Genesis 12-50 tell us how God created a people for Himself. Within chapters 12-50, we can distinguish various sections dealing with the patriarchs. The story of Abraham takes us from 12-25:18. From 25:19-27, we have Isaac’s story. From 28-35, we have Jacob’s story. 36 is Esau’s story. And now, from 37-50 is the story of Joseph.

Joseph’s story is a story of great power and wonder. It describes how God works in His providence to bring about His plan for His people. God’s plan was to save Jacob’s family from the great drought that was coming. The way that God chose to do that was to have Joseph sent down to Egypt and become ruler of Egypt, and save up enough grain so that Jacob’s family would live. In the process of sending Joseph down to Egypt, however, God made Joseph’s story look precisely like another deliverance story, that of Jesus Christ.

In fact, there are so many parallels between Joseph’s story and the story of Jesus Christ, that we can call this last section of Genesis a description of Christ’s person and work. All the early church fathers noticed these parallels. Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian faith, in his defense in Acts 7, spends quite a lot of time explaining the Joseph story in order to tell the Israelites who were listening that they are doing the same thing to Jesus Christ. Stephen shows us that there is in fact a close parallel between Joseph and Christ. Both are rejected by their brothers for telling the truth. Both are “killed” by their countrymen. Both experience a death and resurrection. And both are exalted to a high place after they are taken out of the pit of death. Furthermore, their people are saved because of their actions, even those who rejected them. Joseph’s brothers are saved, and many Jews were saved after Jesus’ resurrection. As we go through this magnificent portrait of one of the giants of the faith, we will see even more parallels between Joseph and Jesus.

We start out with Joseph being a young lad who is somewhat naïve. That is, he does not recognize danger when it is staring him in the face. And in the early verses here, he is something of a tattle-tale.

We learn that Joseph is 17 years old at this time. He was a shepherd, though probably Jacob had made him something of an over-shepherd, when he gave him the coat of many colors. At any rate, Joseph saw that things were not going well with the brothers, and so he brought a bad report of them to Jacob. It is possible that this report contained some exaggerations of the brothers’ faults. We do not know for sure. It could be full of nothing but the truth. But at any rate, the brothers did not like the fact that he was this tattle-tale.

But that is not all. There was favoritism on Jacob’s part. He loved Joseph more than all the other brothers. There is no more sure thing to make a brother resentful than if the parents play favorites against them. The text helps us understand why Jacob loved Joseph more: Joseph was the son of Jacob’s old age, after he thought that a son from Rachel was impossible. However, the text does not excuse Jacob’s behavior. After all, Jacob should have known better: his parents played favorites, and look what happened because of that! But Jacob was almost worse about it. He made Jacob a richly ornamented robe! We are perhaps more familiar with the translation “coat of many colors.” The translation “coat of many colors” has quite an ancient pedigree, going back to the old Greek and Latin translations. Luther translated it in that way as well, as does the KJV. The truth is that we do not know quite what this robe looked like. However, it was a beautiful robe. And it was very visible, since Joseph is very visible to the brothers while he is a long way off (vs 18).

The brothers are, of course, very human. The natural thing, to our minds, would have been that the brothers would have gotten upset with Jacob. But, as is too often the case, when favoritism rears its ugly head, the ones not favored get angry at the favorite, and not at the one showing favoritism. Literally, they hated Joseph, and could not even speak a civil word to him.

This problem is only increased when Joseph has these dreams. It takes no rocket scientist to figure out what these dreams meant. Joseph must have known this. At the very least, he wold have known how the brothers would have intereted the dreams. Some scholars say, therefore, that Joseph was not very wise in relating these dreams to his brothers and his family. However, there is another possibility, which I actually consider more likely. The fact is that these dreams come true. We know they come true. I believe, therefore, that these dreams were revelations from God. If that is so, then Joseph would have been compelled to speak of them to his brothers. God wanted Joseph to tell the brothers so that the brothers would become angry enough to sell him into slavery in Egypt, and thus God’s purposes would be fulfilled.

Well, Joseph certainly got the brothers all riled up. The text says that the brothers hated him even more, and then even more (vv 5, 8)! With his second dream, which involves the entire family, even Jacob is upset. He rebukes Joseph, in effect saying, “Remember your place, young man!” However, Jacob does allow for the possibility that the dream might come true. The text says that Jacob kept the saying in mind. He did not forget it.

Jesus Christ had visions similar to Joseph’s. And they made the Jews very angry. When Jesus was before the high-priest, Jesus said, “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest reacts by tearing his clothes and uttering the judgment that this was blasphemy. They all say that Jesus deserves death. The brothers of Joseph did exactly the same thing, as well find out next week. They deny that God revealed Himself to Joseph, just as the crowds denied that God ha revealed Himself in Jesus Christ.

The point is, what is yor reaction to Jesus? Will you be like one of the brothers of Joseph, incensed that Joseph could have a higher place in the kingdom of God than you? Or will you be like one of the Jews, who crucified the Messiah because they rejected His words? Or will you be convinced that God did in fact reveal Himself through Joseph, and through Jesus, and through the Bible? It is far safer to believe in Jesus Christ than otherwise. The penalty for rejecting Joseph was merely that Joseph would make their lives rather difficult later on. However, the penalty for rejecting Jesus is far more severe: hell itself. Do not wait to believe what Jesus has said. Do not wait to have Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Above all, do not reject Him. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way.

For those here who do know Jesus, then know that you will be rejected just as Joseph was, and just as Jesus was. James Montgomery Boice tells this story of rejection: “During WWI one of my predecessors at Tenth Presbyterian Church, Donald Grey Barnhouse, led the son of a prominent American family to the Lord. He was in the service, but he showed the reality of his conversion by immediately professing Christ before the soldiers of his military company. The war ended. The day came when he was to return to his pre-war life in the wealthy suburb of a large American city. He talked to Barnhouse about life with his family and expressed fear that he might soon slip back into his old habits. He was afraid that love for parents, brothers, sisters, and friends might turn him from following after Jesus Christ. Barnhouse told him that if he was careful to make public confession of his faith in Christ, he would not have to worry. He would not have to give improper friends up. They would give him up. As a result of this conversation the young man agreed to tell the first ten people of his old set whom he encountered that he had become a Christian. The soldier went home. Almost immediately–in fact, while he was still on the platform of the suburban station at the end of his return trip–he met a girl whom he had known socially. She was delighted to see him and asked how he was doing. He told her, “The greatest thing that could possibly happen to me has happened.” “You’re engaged to be married,” she exclaimed. “No,” he told her. “It’s even better than that. I’ve taken the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior.” The girls’ expression froze. She mumbled a few polite words and went on her way. A short time later the new Christian met a young man whom he had known before going into the service. “It’s good to see you back,” he declared. “We’ll have some great parties now that you’ve returned.” “I’ve just become a Christian,” the soldier said. He was thinking, That’s two! Again it was a case of a frozen smile and a quick change of conversation. After this the same circumstances were repeated with a young couple and with two more old friends. By this time word had got around, and soon some of his friends stopped seeing him. He had become peculiar, religious, and — who knows! — they may even have called him crazy! What had he done? Nothing but confess Christ. The same confession that had aligned him with Christ had separated him from those who did not want Jesus Christ as Savior and who, in fact, did not even want to hear about Him.”

The fact is that you must reject either the world or Christ. You cannot reject both, and you cannot accept both. This is a zero-sum game. As Jesus says, “He who is not for Me is against Me.” But Jesus also said “He who is not against us is for us.” Will you be one who is rejected by the world, but not by God?