For the proclamation of the Gospel and the edification of the Body of Christ
Joseph in the School of God
Joseph's life was marked by valuable learning experiences, represented by his vestments.
The perfect will of God is that when we finish our time on the earth we will no longer be children, but mature sons. In this way, we will be in the right condition to inherit the Father's wealth, and govern in our Lord Jesus Christ's Kingdom. We should not forget that the purpose of God for man is made very clear in Genesis 1; that it is one of dominion, of exercising command over all of creation. That purpose was frustrated partially, but we know that the Lord has recovered it on the cross of Calvary, in such a way that what was designed in the beginning will be fully realized.
With whom will this purpose be fully realized? Certainly not with children, because they are unable to assume the responsibilities of government, but with the children that have matured, in whom the purpose of sonship has been completed.
Therefore, what does God do so that His children end up being mature sons? To illustrate it we shall look at the life of Joseph whose story is found in Genesis, from chapter 37.
The tunic of beautiful colors
Joseph was his father's favorite son. Jacob had had him in his old age, and loved him so much that, when Joseph was seventeen years old, he made a tunic of diverse colors for him. That tunic was the sign of the special love that his father had for him. Joseph at seventeen years old, loved by his father, represents us all as children of God when we are small. We know that we occupy a privileged position in the house of God. We feel loved by God. Joy floods our heart; we are the happiest people on earth!
But one day that luck began to change for Joseph: the day when his beautiful tunic was snatched from him. "It came about, that when Joseph went to meet with his brothers, they removed his tunic from him, the tunic of many colors that he had on" (37:23). In taking it, his brothers removed from him the symbol of his privileges. Then, when they sell him as a slave, he enters a school that he never imagined God had reserved for him.
Through dreams, God had shown him that he would reign over his brothers, and that even his father and mother would come to him. Joseph was full of dreams and expectations. However, on the day when they took his tunic from him, a period of difficult learning began.
The same happens with us. A moment arrives when we are robbed of that symbol of our childhood, and we begin a process which in the end will produce in us a spiritual character, adequate for administering our Father's business.
Joseph in the school of God
Joseph was sold to Egypt, where he ended up being a servant of Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh. His dress was that of a slave. Can we imagine the father's dearly loved son as a slave, and what's more, a foreigner's slave? He had to force himself in order to assist with his master's business. He was no longer free to do his own will: he was subject to the will of another.
But the day arrived when he could not carry on in his position as a slave. The wife of Potiphar tried to seduce him. "And she seized him by his clothing, saying: sleep with me. Then he left his clothes in her hands, fled and left her" (39:12). In this way he loses his slave clothes for even worse ones. He is sent to jail: now he's dressed in the clothes of a criminal. What happened to the dreams which he had had when he was a boy? He didn't only lose his position as favorite son, but also that of favorite servant. Now he is dressed in other, unmistakable clothing.
I don't know if you can perceive what it means to pass through the school of our Father. To pass from one condition to another, even lower one, where there are neither explanations nor hopes. However, Joseph was not degraded just for degradation's sake, nor humiliated for humility's sake. When we see Joseph in the end - how he is liberated and taken to Pharaoh to interpret the dreams- we understand why it was necessary that he be nothing time and again. The moment had to arrive when Pharaoh was going to exalt him, and his exaltation by Pharaoh was going to be symbolized in another type of clothing. "Then Pharaoh removed his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph's hand, and he made him clothes of fine linen, and put a necklace of gold around his neck" (41:42). When it speaks of linen clothes, we cannot help but recall that in the book of Revelation, the church, the bride, is dressed in fine linen, when presented to her Lover.
According to the pattern of the divine life, Joseph could not be stripped of his tunic of colors and dressed soon after with the clothes of fine linen. A seventeen year-old boy is not fit for administrating a Kingdom. If we traced a curve, as statisticians do, we could say that Joseph's life begins high up, as favorite in his father's home, and then follows a descending line -slave-. Then, that line continues to descend -prisoner-; and suddenly, when God considers that the moment has arrived and that the learning has already been completed, the line ascends abruptly.
Undoubtedly, the position of Joseph at the end is higher than that at the beginning. But in the plans of God, in the purposes of God, there doesn't exist such a thing as a horizontal line, always steady, from the cradle to the throne. When the children of God have to reach maturity, then a period of discipline begins, perfectly designed to achieve the objective of God: that we can end up having Christ's character, and that we are fit to share the work of governing with him.
Let us draw some conclusions from Joseph's story. Did you notice that Joseph's first three dresses are transitory, but that the fourth is definitive? What does that mean in our case? That one day, when the learning begins, we will stop being doted on in the house of God, and we will have our dress taken from us time and again. But when God dresses us in fine linen, it will never be taken from us. So, with that beautiful dress in mind, let us not fear when we successively go on being made nothing.
A second conclusion: Joseph never decided to change his dress himself. In the first three cases, it was taken from him. We cannot say that he was "the architect of his own destiny" (1). This phrase is used a lot in the sphere of intelligent and successful men. But we never see that Joseph tried to change his circumstances. In some moment of his life, he had surrendered his heart before God that He might do His will, and he could trust Him.
When you say: "Lord, from today I want you to have my life. Lead me by the path that you have mapped out for me. I surrender to you, so that your will may be completed in me"; that day God begins to lead you along His way, and introduces you to His school, so that in the end you can wear the dress of fine linen.
A third thing: In each one of these stages in Joseph's life, he was prepared for the following stage. When he arrived at the house of Potiphar, in a short space of time, he was put in the position of administrating household affairs. Then, in jail, he was also made an administrator. Finally, when Joseph finished his learning in the jail, the Lord reckoned: "It is now time: he has managed a big house, he has managed a jail, now he can manage a Kingdom." Was Joseph, as a seventeen year old, fit for administrating a Kingdom? No, definitely not.
Fourth: Throughout all the stages that Joseph lived, even in the most painful ones, he had the favor of God. God was with him. Time and again Joseph found grace in the eyes of his masters. In all that Joseph did, God prospered him. Now I want to ask the more mature children of God: you who know something of the school of God, did you lack the favor of God amid the tests, when you felt as if you'd been enslaved wrongly, or wrongly imprisoned?
A final conclusion: Joseph was never king of Egypt. He was the chief administrator, but never king. The Lord can put us as administrators in his house, but never as kings. Our throne is not here; our Kingdom is not of this world.
The kings of God today don't take a crown here, but a cross. When our Lord was born, Matthew tells us that some wise men from the east came saying say: "Where is the king of the Jews that has been born?" (Mat. 2:2). They didn't find him in Jerusalem as would be expected of a king. At the end of Matthew, we find what seems to be the answer to the question of the wise men from the east: "This is Jesus, the king of the Jews" (Mat. 27:37). Where was the Lord when that was said of him? On the cross!
Joseph, the number one administrator in Egypt, lived out his cross in the house of Potiphar as a slave, and in jail as a criminal. Then, his earthly history finishes with Joseph as governor, not as king. May no Christian prematurely dress himself with a crown here, because he won't be able to take it there.
There is a beautiful story of two foals. They were siblings, and they enjoyed the outdoor life running through the prairies. One day, both were captured and taken to the king's stables. Their freedom had ended. And not only that, but a period of strict discipline began. The trainer took out his whip, and a painful process commenced. They had never thought that such a thing existed. Suddenly, one rebelled, and said: "This is not for me. I like my freedom, my green hills, my streams of fresh water." One day, with the biggest jump it had ever made, it cleared the wall of their confinement and escaped.
Strangely, the trainer did nothing to bring it back. Rather he tried harder to train the foal that had stayed. It was such an effective training that the foal began to learn how to obey the orders, and the slightest wishes of his trainer. Having finished the training, they put a harness on him and yoked him to the king's coach next to 5 other horses.
One day, the king's coach went, decked out, on the open road. The six horses carried a harness of gold, decorations of gold on their necks, and bells of gold on their feet. When they jogged, the bells sounded sweetly.
From the top of a hill, there was a foal watching. When he came closer to the coach, he recognized his brother, and said: "why have they honored my brother so much, and rejected me? They have not put bells on my feet nor decorations on my head. The teacher has not given me that wonderful responsibility of drawing his coach, nor placed a harness of gold on me. Why did he choose my brother and not me?." Then, he heard a voice that told him: "Because he subjected himself to the will and discipline of his teacher, and you rebelled. So one was chosen, and the other was discarded."
After this a terrible drought came. The small streams stopped flowing and the grasses dried out. There were only a few puddles of mud here and there. The wild foal ran from one side to the other looking for something to eat and drink, but didn't find anything. He was weak, and his paws were trembling.
Suddenly, he saw the king's coach coming along the road again. There came his brother, strong and beautiful, with his decorations of gold! Mustering strength from his weakness, he screamed to him: "My brother! Where did you find the food that has kept you so strong and robust in these days of famine? In my freedom, I have gone everywhere, looking for food, and I didn't find anything. Where do you go, in your terrible confinement, to find food in these days of drought? Tell me, please! I have to know!."
Then came his brother's answer, with a voice full of victory and praise: "there is a secret place in my teacher's stables, where he feeds me from his own hand. His barns never run out, and his well never dries up." The tears of the wild foal were not enough to erase the bitterness of his heart.
In this way we have to lose our freedom; that ephemeral and vain freedom that man desires. We have to accept our Father's discipline, to be yoked to the King's coach. What a greater honor is there than being able to carry our own Teacher!
Will we even want to continue being free? Will we want to continue being consented children in the Father's house? Or will we want to accept the discipline in the school of God, so that he can make us mature children and take us to his throne when it is the appointed time?
Synthesis of an oral message.
1 Verse from the poem "In peace", by Amado Nervo.