“The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household. Now a famine came over all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction with it, and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers there the first time. On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family was disclosed to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent word and invited Jacob his father and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five persons in all. And Jacob went down to Egypt and there he and our fathers died. From there they were removed to Shechem and laid in the tomb which Abraham had purchased for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor in Shechem” (Acts 7:9-16).
The patriarchs were Jacob’s 11 sons, Joseph’s brothers, who sold him as a slave because they were jealous of him (Gen. 37, 39-47). Rather than recount the hardships and injustices that Joseph endured, Stephen emphasized God’s work through Joseph. God blessed him with Pharaoh’s favor and wisdom to govern. God used him to feed countless peoples through a devastating famine, especially Joseph’s own family.
At a time, and in a manner of Joseph’s choosing, he revealed himself to his brothers. Much the way God does in salvation. None of us recognize Christ as Lord until He reveals Himself to us:
“All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Mt. 11:27).
“He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (Jn. 1:10-11).
“O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (Jn. 17:25-26).
Many people say that God’s unfair not to save everyone. They ask, “Why doesn’t Christ just reveal Himself to everyone?” Underlying those sentiments are two presumptions: 1) Sin’s more of a weakness, a flaw, or a blemish, than an offense against holy God. People can’t really help themselves. After all, we’re only human. Sin isn’t an affront to God; it’s a mistake, a gaffe, a boo-boo. We shouldn’t have to pay for our sins against God, After all, we’re victims, not perpetrators. 2) God’s really unjust not to give everyone the same outcome all the time. He has no right to judge sins as He does. Never mind the fact that most people don’t believe, that is, they don’t love God and have no desire to worship or honor Him as God. God, somehow, owes them saving grace, even if they don’t want it. At most, God should only feel sorry us and want to help us out of the plight.
It’s a mistake to think that God owes us blessings. Scripture is very clear about what we deserve:
“The soul who sins will die” (Eze. 18:4).
“Although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).
“The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
The bitterness of sin should make us recoil from it, but we don’t. We love our sin and are addicted to it. It’s only by God’s grace that any of us ever turn from the sin we love to love the God we hated. And yet, that’s precisely what Jesus accomplished. Like Joseph, He reveals Himself to His family, the church. He not only provides for our redemption, He redeems us. He not only makes our salvation possible, He saves us outright and utterly.
Joseph cast a shadow long ago of God’s redeeming grace that was later revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Today, we can look by faith into the light of His grace. Oh, for the day when we’ll see Him as He is.