To trace the stages thus far: We see Abraham forsake the world to walk in heavenly places. Yet, as a man of faith, he is sorely tried by Egypt. Isaac, the spirit of sonship, is content to rest in peace in heavenly places. When famine comes, he too finds Egypt is a snare to him. Jacob, the spirit of service, wins some victory over outward things, even flocks and herds. But in none of these lives is Egypt subdued. Egypt, meaning "straitness", or "that straitens", a narrow place, is the ground of sense, or seen things. It is only in Joseph, a type of Christ, that we see the spirit opposed, fettered and bound, conquering by the power of God within. In Joseph, BEING is shown to be far more than DOING. Here the Lord proves to us that there is no service like that which flows from what we are through the divine indwelling.
It is in observing Joseph's life that we learn how we shall at last rule over Egypt, that whole sense realm. Suffering will bring us at last to glory! We see that Jacob's sons "hated Joseph because his father loved him more than all his sons". They plot against him to take his life. They strip him, mock him and sell him into Egypt.
First, those like Joseph see evil among brethren. "Joseph brought unto his father their evil report." To refuse to compromise, or to follow the accepted 'status quo' can bring no little cross to the Josephs. Sometimes they are bluntly told, "Your door to ministry will be closed if you don't go along with us." The soul who sees the evil is judged for seeing it and hated for reproving it! When a coat of many colors is given him, the brethren hate him even more. Some early writers see in this coat the varied gifts of the Spirit. If we walk with God in truth, and turn from evil, not fearing to rebuke it even among our brethren, we shall find that the Lord will hide our shame and nakedness and clothe us in "garments of glory and beauty", even that "fine linen which is the righteousness of saints".
These souls dream of power where all lesser realms are subdued unto them, even father and mother--those who "birthed" them and nurtured them. The brothers angrily ask, "Art thou greater than our father, Jacob?" In other words, "Who do you think you are to dream of having a place superior to the path of service which our father trod? We'll see what will become of your dreams!" And they do see what become of them and are humbled thereby.
I recall a time when a minister who had been 'over us' at some previous time, came to tell us that we were presumptuous to think we could have more than he had taught us! How dare we dream of 'ruling and reigning over all Egypt'? If he didn't have it, then it was not truth! This could have put fear in our hearts, but we knew the Lord was teaching us of sonship by His Spirit and this minister was not being so taught, so he acted toward us like Joseph's brethren did when he told them his dreams. At such times one needs to be steadfast, recognizing that God has different callings and stages of spiritual growth.
In the dispensations also we see the story of Joseph enacted in what happened in the life of Jesus. We see that the sons of the first wife (Leah - the Law) rejected the Firstborn of the second wife (Rachel - the Gospel Dispensation). The sons of Israel mocked the Heir who was the best loved of His Father. Yet, Egypt, which speaks of the Gentile world, received its future Lord and exalted Him to be head over the kingdom.
At the same time, the sons of Israel believe Him to be dead. As Joseph reported the evil of his brethren to his father, Jesus said, "Me they hate, because I testify against them that their works are evil", so "They hated Me without a cause." He came unto His own and was rejected by them. He spoke parables of His kingdom, but they regarded His words as idle dreams. Their answer was the same as Joseph's brethren; "We will not have this man to reign over us." So, as in history repeating itself, we saw "those that passed by railed on Him, wagging their heads". They stripped His robe from Him, and sold Him for thirty pieces of silver. Then they sat down to eat, while they prepared to do away with Him. But His suffering was turned to glory, and "all things have been put under His feet!"
Is it not strange that a whole chapter (Gen. 38) dealing with Judah's sons and the outcome of their lives should be interjected here, almost as an interruption of the story of Joseph? I felt not to include it at all because it is not about Joseph, but the Spirit constrained me that it was important and it was placed right in the middle of Joseph's history for a reason. We can understand Judah's history being placed here when we recognize that Joseph's course has to do with ruling from spiritual principles. This form of rule comes about through suffering, persecution from brethren, maligning, and being a prisoner of the Lord. From this ignominious path does the Lord prepare those who are to rule "not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit".
Before Joseph's rule is made manifest, Judah shows forth his course of rule. In Judah's life we see the church as it grows from outward principles. Judah's rule springs out of Leah--the Law, from first and outward principles. First, the natural and then the spiritual is always God's order. Though "Judah prevailed over his brethren, and of him came the first ruler, the birthright was Joseph's" I Chron. 5:2. For some time Judah rules with a strong hand while the Josephs wait in weakness. In God's time, Judah's shame is brought to light and he must at last bow before Joseph.
Granted, Jesus was 'the Lion of the tribe of Judah', and as such, He fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Law, but he did not do it by 'roaring', or by self-effort. He did it the way Joseph did it: "by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by love unfeigned." The story of Judah's seed is a shameful one: first, Judah "goes down", and "turns aside", and "takes to wife the daughter of a certain Canaanite." The Canaanite represents mere external worship. Can the kingdom of God be built up in this manner, by embracing mere formal and outward principles?
The firstborn from this union was Er, who was wed to Tamar who speaks of spiritual principles. Er was so wicked that the Lord killed him. The fruit of Judah's unholy alliance, joining outward principles to outward form of external worship, brought forth the judgement of death from God: dead, lifeless forms having no spirit! The strength of the carnal mind ruling!
The second son, Onan, fared no better. He was bidden to take Tamar to raise up seed unto his elder brother who had died. He refused to do this. Since the children would not bear his name, he would spill his seed upon the ground. Do you hear what the seed of the outward church has done? They have refused to raise up seed unto the Lord Jesus (the Elder Brother who died) because they were only interested in building up their own kingdom! Once again, death was the result of this selfish disobedience.
At this point, Tamar is put away. She was told to wait at her father's house until the third son be grown, but by this time Judah had no heart to have spiritual principles joined unto his seed, and blamed her that death had come to his sons. It seemed unlikely that this outward church would ever be built up by spiritual principles.
Since there were only dead rituals and formal worship left, the rulers took comfort in 'shearing the sheep', and taking the fleece unto themselves. (Never mind if the flock has been fed!) It was at sheep-shearing time that Tamar, seeing that the last son was grown and she was not sent for, devised a plan to raise up seed unto Judah's house. Her rejection by that carnal line caused her to turn from trusting in God alone, and by craft she sought to have sons through a carnal seed.
She disguised herself as an harlot and Judah went in unto her. (Yes, its rulers stoop to harlotry, which shows forth the idolatry of the heart! Yet they call themselves 'the true church'!) Of this carnal rule, Rev. 17:1, 2 says, "Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgement of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication..."
There is in the human heart an order of ruling: first, from natural and outward principles; secondly, from the spirit, after the soul has been brought to a place of yieldedness through death to the self-life. This is Judah ruling, and then Joseph. On a broader scale, we see the rule of the church: first, the outward formal church ruled by the carnal mind, and then the true church--that little flock who have learned to let the Spirit rule in their lives. All through history the carnal church has greatly persecuted the true church, branding them as heretics and desiring to purge the earth of their presence.
Again, we see this pattern in the sons that Tamar bore to Judah. Burning was to be her fate until she produced the articles that Judah had left with her, proving that he was the father of her seed. As the twins were being born, one put his hand out and the nurse tied a red string on it. He pulled it back in, and the other twin, Pharez, was born. Zerah was called "the prince of the scarlet cord". The scarlet cord represents the Blood of Jesus. Remember the scarlet cord that Rahab let down the wall of Jericho, to the saving of her house?
In this birthing we see again a true type of the natural and the spiritual rule. Consider this: the spiritual seed appeared but briefly at the first, but the carnal seed made a breech and pushed himself out before his brother.
"Pharez" means "breech". In this we see the emergence of the early church with the Lord Jesus as its Head. Its time was very brief before another form of rule burst forth to replace it, even that church of outward forms and carnal ordinances of Catholicism. Around 325 A.D. this rule was imposed upon that spiritual remnant who trusted in the Blood of Jesus alone for salvation. Once again, burning (at the stake) was the appointed means of dealing with those who held views contrary to the rule of outward principles. Those of 'the scarlet cord' must suffer for their faith and see the earth become red with their blood because they would be true to the rule of the spirit in their lives.
In our day we behold a wonder: the Protestant church, who obtained its freedom to follow the Lord through the blood of its martyrs, is even now courting the outward church, desiring to be one with her. There is hardly an evangelist of note who has not bowed low before the Pope and given glowing reports of him to their followers. Billy Graham, whom some would call the greatest evangelist of our day, has given this honor to the Pope, praising him as being the greatest evangelist of our time (casting his crown before an earthly potentate!) It appears that Judah's shame is at last being plainly seen. Because of the deadness in their midst, the charismatics, the full gospel businessmen, the churches who observe only external ordinances, can find common ground with that church that keeps its adherents bound in outward forms of worship. All this is done in the name of unity, but I ask you: "What fellowship hath Christ (the anointing) with Belial?"
But, dear ones, be of good cheer, for the remnant, the people of 'the scarlet cord' are coming forth and are learning to let spiritual principles rule their lives, and they shall be made manifest in the Lord's time, even as was Joseph! The government of God and His true rule in the church is being inworked in a people. There is no place for them in that outward system, but the first and natural rule must give way to the later and spiritual rule! The holy scriptures are full of the types and shadows of it, and the real shall be forthcoming. Joseph didn't have any notice that his time to rule had come. But, he was prepared to rule, for he had overcome in every situation in which he found himself, even in the prison-house. And he came forth in a time when the highest ruler had no answers--and so shall it be today, for the wisdom of God hath been hidden in the hearts of those who have been 'hidden away' being taught of the Lord and who have submitted to His rule!
We leave the outward rule as seen in Judah and look at Joseph, that more inward and spiritual life which at last rules over Egypt--that whole realm of 'sense' in which the outward man delights. To learn to rule by the Spirit, one must first experience the bondage of being ruled over carnally! For some nine months Bill and I were in bondage to a "cult" living together in a small commune. Do you know what we learned? We learned what God is not! We suffered under treatment that was not God-like, and carnal bondage and control over our lives until we came to our senses and realized that God is NOT like that! Amid abusive words, we left, sadder and wiser. The result of being under bondage was a settled determination in our hearts to never put anyone else under bondage! We knew that only the rule of the Spirit would bring forth the fruits of the spirit and the peace of God.
Another positive thing was formed within us while we walked in the midst of a mixture of truth and error--we learned to discern--to know what was of God and what was not. We learned this by being subjected to the test of mixture. So it was with Joseph who dreamed of rule. First, he was rejected and cast out by his brethren, and then he was sold into Egypt. The test of false brethren we in this walk have all known. And the casting into prison in Egypt we also know. In Egypt, the realm of sense and the carnal mind ruled. How many sons have been subjected to someone of sensual mind who rules over them? It could be in a marriage, or in a job, or at university. It matters not. The Lord will use Egypt to process His Own.
In time we learn that it was God who put us in our various prisons, "to save lives by a great deliverance". And these are the deliverers, the "saviours that shall come up on Mount Zion, and the kingdom shall be the Lord's!" (Obadiah 1:21). Those who would rule righteously must first be brought down and bound, and made to serve the ground of sense. Only there shall the spirit be chastened and purified.
In Potiphar's house, not-so-subtle temptations seek to ensnare Joseph by evil solicitations. Some affection wedded to the natural man tempts us to embrace some worldly principle, to leave our lonely path of holy separateness. Unlike Eve, who parleyed with the Tempter, Joseph "fled, and got him out". We see that the strength of fleshly temptation forces the spirit to rise to overcome it. For this reason, those called of God must feel the evil before they can rise above it.
Any worldly principle may constitute a part of that one great world of sense which Egypt represents. It may be the principle which animates the literary world, the entertainment world, the world of fashion, of merchandise or of science. Any worldly principle may be our tempter. Egypt does not mean some gross sin such as we think of as "the world, the flesh and the devil". Its temptations are much more subtle, for they seem so good!
Martha Wing Robinson, author of Radiant Glory, struggled with the call of God on her life for years, for the literary world had captivated her mind. From a young girl, she had determined to be a writer, but the Lord had something much greater in mind for her. She was brought very low in health and strength before she yielded up that desire of Egypt and gave herself wholly to be used of the Lord. The Lord brought her through to a mighty experience in which she felt that self had gone, and Jesus had come to rule in her life. She said she had a 'foretaste' of something that would be for the Body of Christ in the latter days. All who knew her felt the blessedness of Christ as He ministered through her after 'she had suffered awhile', and had overcome Egypt.
As men of faith (Abraham), or of sonship (Isaac), or of service (Jacob), we are not pressed in the same manner as those who dream of ruling through the power of the Spirit. These pure souls, who desire only God's best and highest purpose for them, are not only mocked and sold by their brethren, but are also tempted grievously in the world. More than at any other stage, they become 'prisoners of the Lord'. And many things are tried in the prison! Faintness of soul, loneliness, questioning of God's faithfulness, all bring their own anguish of soul.
Then, there is a dealing with bitterness against those who have ill-used them. Psalm 105:17-19 tells us: "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." Iron is used as a symbol of hardness and strength. Joseph's dreams of rule were subjected to God's higher principles: "Would you have a mercying heart? Would you forgive those who despitefully used you? Would you come to acknowledge that, though your brethren meant it unto you for evil, I have meant it unto you for good?" Every accusation of ill treatment, whether made against God or against man, must be put under his feet as he acknowledges that he is the prisoner of the Lord and not of man, for was he not shut up in the king's prison?
Take special note here, that in whatever situation Joseph found himself, he never languished in self-pity. He always ruled over every situation. Even as Potiphar, the Egyptian, entrusted all he had into Joseph's care, so did the keeper of the prison entrust to him "all the prisoners that were in the prison, and whatsoever they did there, he was the doer of it." He didn't sit by passively, waiting for the Lord to exalt him to rulership. He learned to overcome in every situation, however painful, into which he was placed. Are you hearing this word in your own hearts, precious Josephs who are called to rule!
As Christ met two sufferers on the cross and one was freed from his sins and one was not, so Joseph, a type of Christ, deals also with two suffering men imprisoned with him. They had both been in service to Pharaoh, and knew only the ways of Egypt. They were touched by this man who was in prison with them and yet cared enough for others around him that he would ask after their welfare, concerned that their countenances were sad. Joseph had been shut up in prison much longer than these men, yet he was not sad, and was concerned for their state saying, "Wherefore look ye so sadly today?" He had stood alone many years without man's encouragement or sympathy. He had not turned his heart aside from the true way by falsehood or scorn. Joseph learned always to lean on his Beloved who succored him there in the King's prison.
Joseph's bright countenance and the peace and love that was shed abroad from his heart as he served to comfort others, gave these two fellow-sufferers confidence to share with him what they had dreamed. As each one declared his dream, Joseph assured them that if the Lord speaks, He will also interpret. And, being of a pure heart, he knew the mind of the Lord for each man and brought forth the interpretation and made them to understand what the Lord was saying to them. What would be dark sayings to other men was perfectly clear to Joseph, for he walked with God and knew the mind of the Spirit. This is our portion, brethren, even the mind of Christ. There shall be nothing hidden that shall not be revealed.
The two men who told Joseph their dreams represent two classes of humanity: the saved and the lost. Before the chief of the butlers, a vine was set, which appeared to bud, and blossom, and bring forth clusters. It was through no effort of his own that this plant grew and he was amazed at all the stages of growth that culminated in the cluster of ripe grapes. He reached for the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh's cup and gave the cup of wine into his hand.
These are they who will, in this time of trouble, see that holy Vine that was planted in the earth for our comfort. He gives his attention to its wondrous growth and reaches forth his hand to pluck the fruit of that Vine. In doing so, he takes the cup of salvation from the hand of the Lord and partakes of His mercies and grace. He is restored to liberty and once again can minister 'the new wine' to those who rule over Egypt. If the Vine is seen by any man, he shall go free on 'the third day' (which is typical of the resurrection and also the age of the kingdom). The butler was restored to his former service and his life was spared.
Joseph entreated the butler to remember him to Pharaoh, that he might be delivered from prison. We may think it very callous of this man to have forgotten his spiritual benefactor, but the fact is that it was not yet the appointed time for Joseph to be released. He was only 28 years old, and it was required of him to be the full age of 30 before his release. 30 is the number of maturity. He could not rule until he had reached maturity. In like manner, a Levite could not enter the priesthood until he became 30 years of age. Jesus followed this divine parable, for his public ministry began at the age of 30. When God's time came, Joseph needed no man to entreat Pharaoh for him. Rather, Pharaoh came looking for him!
The baker also told his dream about the three white baskets on his head. On the top basket were all manner of baked foods for Pharaoh. The birds ate them out of the basket. We see here that this man had toiled to make "all manner of things for Pharaoh"--for this world, but made nothing for God. All that he has worked for is "on his head", in baskets full of holes. He has nothing in his hands to give. All that he has is in his mind, which is set to please the world, and that whole realm which Pharaoh represents.
The birds of the air (which Jesus explained were evil spirits) can steal away all his labors and he is left with nothing, as the unbeliever who has given God no place in his life. The three baskets represented three days, at which time death would be the end of the man who had spent his life simply to please "the god of this world".
Each prisoner is treated differently. One, after a brief term of bondage, is released and restored. The other remains in bondage until suddenly he is cut off. The third, even Joseph, has the longest term as a prisoner of the Lord, but is released unto greater heights than the other two, even to rule over all Egypt. The pattern of a man's testing is found in Lam. 4:2; Num. 31:23; Lev. 15:12. Here it tells us that the vessel of wood (humanity) is only washed with water. It could not stand the fire, as do "the precious sons of Zion", comparable to fine gold, who must be purged by fire.
It is worthy of our consideration to ponder the reason why Joseph was summoned from prison and called on high. The great of this world, the ones who rule with carnal dominion and sway, will come at last to the end of man's day. They will see the good being destroyed and that without remedy, and the riches of their river drying up, and earthly blessings passing away. At the first perplexity of the crisis which is looming upon the horizon, they look to the wisdom of Egypt to help them, but alas, it is powerless to stop what the finger of God has written.
It is at this point that the pride of Egypt must bow low. Those whom they had cast off as the offscourings of the earth, esteeming not that godly treasure that was in them, are now sought out and their wisdom and counsel heard with awe and respect. The Lord's beloved, who have dreamed of ruling and reigning with Him, are now elevated to a place of ruling over all Egypt. This is the highest attainment of any of the patriarchs.
Abraham and Isaac each sojourned in Egypt and there put their spiritual principles in jeopardy (their wives, who represent spiritual truths, could have been defiled by unclean men). But at this stage, having been thoroughly processed by brethren, by false accusations, by prison and by waiting the Lord's time, Joseph comes out of all this training as one who has no fear of Egypt. It is no snare to him. It has no power to hurt him at all, for he rules over that whole sense realm--in every area! Praise God! May we set our eyes upon that goal and not settle for less! For Pharaoh has said: "Thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled..."
These prisoners of the Lord have had iron worked into their souls. Their will is one with their Master's. The secrets of His Heart are made manifest unto them. One humble brother of our acquaintance dreamed that the president and his top aides came to see him in his humble dwelling. They came to ask for wisdom at his mouth, for they had heard that the Spirit of God was in him. As Pharaoh, they had come to the end of man's wisdom and must bow to the wisdom that comes from above. I'm believing to see such scenes come to pass in reality.
And Joseph "shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh." Unruly or unkempt hair speaks of wildness, and the strength of self, so Joseph must be clean-shaven. A change of raiment speaks of a new spiritual covering from the Lord which would seem to be that full anointing that we are expecting to receive at The Feast of Tabernacles, even the fullness of the Spirit. With this "new garment" we are clothed upon with the seven-fold spirit of the Lord, in which the spirit of wisdom is manifest to meet all the needs involved in ruling over all the sense realm.
This is complete overcoming! This is walking in the fullness of the Spirit! This is the completeness of our inheritance! Though the price is very high, covenant with thy God to pay it, and He shall raise you up when you are 30, as a Priest and King in the eternal Kingdom of the Father!