August 3rd, 1958 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-3-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Remember Me. It is a message on the descent and assent of Joseph on the humiliation and exaltation of Joseph. And in following the life of Joseph we are following the life of Christ. The life of Joseph is a pattern of the life of our Lord.
There is several times as much in the Book about Joseph as there is about Abraham. Does that mean that the character Joseph is greater than the patriarch Abraham? No not at all. Abraham the Father of the Faithful is looked to by the Jew, by the Muhammadan, by the Christian as the beginning of that chosen revelation of God that found its consummation in our Lord.
But the life of Joseph is the life of Jesus. Here is a type, a figure, a picture of the life of our Lord who was yet to come. And the whole story of this Bible, the front of it as well as the end of it is a delineation of the life, and sacrifice, and glory of Jesus our Savior. So these things that are written back here in the Old Testament; page after page of ritual the sacrificial system, the Levitical system; all of these things are written down by the Holy Spirit because they had great meaning in Christ.
Without Him it is all confusion. It is hardly anything worthy just a record of an ancient people, a small little tribe. But in Christ it is of inestimable worth and value; it is precious beyond compare. And we learn [of] the Jesus here in the Old Testament just as well as we learn of the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. Here it will be by type, there will be the antitype. Here is it is by adumbration, there it is the full glorious substance; but whether here or there, we are learning about Jesus.
Now when we open our Bibles to the thirty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis we can easily follow the course of the sermon this morning, Genesis 39. The first part of the message will be a delineation of the descent of Joseph. I am to speak of the sufferings and the sorrows of Joseph. And the adumbration the background will be the sufferings of our Lord.
Joseph as you know was the beloved of the father. His father’s heart gloried in him the apple of his eye the delight of his soul; Joseph the beloved of the father. And in the midst of those days of sweet and precious fellowship between that boy and Jacob Israel, in those days there developed a great hatred of that favored son by his brethren. And they plotted against him, and seized him, and took away from him his beautiful robe and let him down in a pit to die.
Then rather than have the blood on their hands they sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver who took him down into the land of Egypt. His lot becomes worse, and worse, and worse. And there in Egypt’s land, one of the most strange and picturesque of all the lands of this earth to the right and to the left an illimitable sea of sand where it never rains; dry, and burned, and blistered by the hot African sun. And in the middle of it, a ribbon as green as emerald, as fertile, as productive as is to be found in any place in the earth; the Garden of Eden could not have been more luxuriously foliated that beautiful ribbon in the midst of those blistering sands.
There down in the land of Egypt, the cradle of ancient civilization and at that time the greatest civilized empire in the earth; in the land of Egypt he was sold as a slave. I would suppose that in one of the cities, maybe the capital city of the land of Egypt along with hundreds and hundreds of other men and women who were taken by force or by stealth from all of the lands and countries round about; there this seventeen year-old lad was exposed for sale. He was of such beautiful countenance and of such beautiful form that the captain of the king’s guard bought him. The captain of the guard was named Potiphar. And Potiphar bought him.
And the sorrow of the boy would almost be unrealizable by us as he went into the strange house of that strange man; everything so different, the customs of the people, the language that he could not understand, those sphinx-guarded gates, those hieroglyphic walls and the house filled with slaves. Ah! Can you imagine the sinking of heart and of soul as that son who was so tenderly beloved of his father, now a slave in that so strange land and in that so strange house?
Poor Joseph, poor Joseph! Yet the Bible says in the second verse of that thirty-ninth chapter "The Lord was with Joseph." But the Lord was with him. In that strange house and in that strange land he saw on the porticos of all the great buildings of Egypt. He saw those strange outstretched wings of those pictures that they made by mosaic and paintings on the walls of those public buildings.
And I would just think that to that young boy Joseph every one of those outstretched wings was a symbol of his Father’s love and his Father’s care. Better to have been Joseph in the land of Egypt, a slave sold than to be one of the brothers up there in the land of Canaan with that bloody garment in his hands. For God was with Joseph in the land of Egypt. Better to be in Egypt with God than to be in the land of Canaan with a guilty soul and blood on your hands.
Down there in the land of Egypt he sinks lower, and lower, and lower; just was a little brief transient ray of sunlight between the pit and the dungeon. For just a little while he flourished as a slave in the house of Potiphar then fell into the cruel clutches of the terrible circumstance. And Joseph’s master here in the twentieth verse, "And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison." And he was there in prison.
In the fortieth chapter of Genesis and the fifteenth verse he refers to that prison by the Hebrew word b-o-r, bor. And the translation of the Hebrew word bor, here you have it translated "dungeon." That word bor means pit, or cistern, or prison, or grave, or sepulcher. You can translate that Hebrew word by any of those English words. It would again be hard for us to realize the awful terrible condition of Joseph in that ancient, ancient prison.
Some of you here this morning have been in the Mamertine prison in Rome where Paul met martyrdom. Those ancient prisons of which the Mamertine is one were nothing but cisterns. They were holes in the ground usually carved out of solid rock. And they were entered from a little small grated aperture above. And the prisoner was let down into that cistern as the Hebrew word would call it into that grave or into that sepulcher. And the only light that entered was what could struggle through that little grated aperture through which food and water were let down to the prisoners.
There was no arrangements made for cleanliness. And the filth and the stinks and the vermin of those prisons to us is indescribable. The floors were black with the stain of the dirt and the filth. Into that awful place Joseph finally was lowered; down, and down, and down. It’s hard to realize that a youth who had known the love of his father upon whom was cast and lavished all of the love of Jacob’s heart could ever have so descended and descended, and descended until finally he lives in the grave, the pit, the dungeon, the sepulcher. Ah! These things, these things and that youth who loved the pastures of Canaan and who was free in the veil of Hebron now down in the pit.
It was a pathetic story this thing that I read of a sailors’ son Bert. Fresh from the docks standing on London Bridge buying all the cages that he could buy of imprisoned wild birds; opening the doors of the cage and letting them fly up into heaven and back to their native woods; and when wondering onlookers asked the sailor why he was doing it he said, "I have languished too long in a foreign prison not to know the sweetness of freedom," so with Joseph that youth, that boy so full of life so beloved of the father down, and down, and down into the pit.
Now I want you to look at the providences of God and the blessings of God through those awful days of imprisonment. In the twenty-first [verse] of the thirty-ninth chapter of Genesis through the first verses of the fortieth chapter of the Book of Genesis I have three things here I want to point out to you of the blessings of God; of the providences of God that came to Joseph in that dungeon. The fortieth chapter starts off:
Now it came to pass after these things that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt.
And the Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers against the chief of the butlers and against the chief of the bakers.
And he put them in that dungeon where Joseph was.
All right, there is the first great providential blessing of God that came to Joseph in the prison. For you see, to us the title "chief butler" and "chief baker" is nothing at all, but in that day they were august titles and they referred to august people. Why, you remember the story of Nehemiah? Sometimes he is referred to as the prime minister of the kingdom of Persia; he was the cup bearer to the king – Nehemiah. So when you speak of these men, you are not talking about just ordinary men. You are talking about the highest offices of the State; the chief butler, the chief baker. They waited upon the king himself, they did the king’s bidding.
Now when they were placed in that prison and Joseph was there with them, that bright-eyed, open-hearted, hungry souled young man. I can just see him as he sits day after day, day after day with those men of State. And he learns from them all of the intricacies of government. He learns from those men the names of the leaders of the empire. I can just see that young fellow as he drinks in that knowledge learning about things general; learning about things political; learning about things governmental; learning about things royal, just getting the keenest finest insight into the government of the Land of Egypt. Can’t you see Joseph the young man as he talks to those men of state, those officers of the government?
I can give you an exact parallel of that. When Saint Patrick, our Baptist saint, when Saint Patrick – the great Baptist preacher – when Saint Patrick was a youth, he was captured as a slave over there in Britain in England and carried over there into Ireland. It looked as though he was sixteen years-old when he was captured and taken as a slave. It looked as though that was a calamitous thing that had happened.
Yet that lad, over there in Ireland as a slave for six years, he learned the strange language of the people, he learned the strange customs of the people. He learned how their clans were set up and how their government was administrated. And when Patrick, our great Baptist preacher, returned back to Ireland as a missionary and as an evangelist, God had given him the wisdom through those six years of slavery to know exactly how to approach those people, and to do it in their own language, in their own idiom, following their own customs.
So it was here, with Joseph. By being associated in prison close, close together with these officers of state, he got acquainted with all of those fine intricacies that later made him the wisest ruler in the land. All right, that is one blessing that came out of the providence of God. It is imprisonment.
Now I want you to look at another one if you want to or I’ll just read it Psalm 105:18. Psalm 105:18 speaks of Joseph in prison. And the last part of the couplet of the eighteenth verse of the one hundredth fifth Psalm says this, "He was laid in iron." The Hebrew, the exact Hebrew of that is this, "His soul entered into iron." Now of course when the psalmist is speaking of Joseph, "his soul entered into iron," he was talking about the imprisonment of Joseph; the manacles on his hands and the fetters on his feet, the chains in which he was placed. But I think it is equally as true to turn that around and to say, "And iron entered into his soul." In prison, iron entered into his soul.
Like Jeremiah says in the Lamentations, "It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth." The containing of a man’s life, the discipline of a man’s soul, all of those hedgings about that come from imprisonment and containment, they develop unflinching courage in the face of suffering. They develop endurance and fortitude. Iron entered into his soul.
Could I say without disparaging the boy, that Joseph had a tendency to be soft? He was spoiled by his father; he went around so proud of that tunic – those long flowing robes; that coat that his father had given him a mark of leisure and choice – and dreamed dreams of his own grandeur and greatness. I don’t say those are faults, I am just saying they have a tendency to softness. I am just saying that’s not the stuff out of which a great man is made. That is all, but when Joseph entered into prison, the iron of the manacles and of the fetters of the chains that bound him, the iron entered into his soul.
Did you ever think of the life of our Lord? In the second chapter of Hebrews it says that He was made perfect through the things that He suffered; made perfect through suffering. What does that mean? To us perfection means "without sin," He never sinned. Therefore it had no reference to His sinlessness. Yet it says our Lord was made perfect through the things that He suffered. It means exactly what I’m talking about in the life of Joseph. Our Lord was made mature. Our Lord was made strong. Iron entered into His soul through the things that He suffered.
And in the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, when it says, "And our Lord shall rule the nations with a rod a scepter of iron," you know what it means? Iron entered into His soul. In the second chapter of the Book of the Revelation speaking to one of the churches He says, "And they that overcome shall rule the nations with a scepter of iron."
"God needs iron dukes, and iron battalions,and thews of steel,and God needs iron saints." [from The Life of Joseph; FB Meyers] The only way God can develop iron saints is in the fire of the furnace going through the flames. That’s what happened to Joseph. When he came out of that prison he was no longer that soft, spoiled, dreamy-eyed son of his father but he was made out of solid steel. That’s the second thing the imprisonment did for him, suffering did for him.
I want to show you a third thing there in that passage: look at the twenty-first verse of the thirty-ninth chapter of Genesis. Down there in that dungeon in that grave, "the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy." And showed him mercy – showed it to him. You know, a prison is a wonderful place from what I can read in the lives of these sainted men, a prison is a wonderful place for "seeing things." And the Lord "showed him" mercy; great place for "seeing things."
It was in Bedford Prison where languished for twelve years, that John Bunyan; saw the immortal allegory. It was in prison, where he had been exiled by the Roman government, that the doors of heaven opened. And John looked through into the great vistas of the heavenlies, and of the ages that are yet to come, and saw the City of God.
It was while he was a prisoner, and manacled and chained, that Paul saw the Lord and the Lord spoke to Paul. And it is in prison here that Jehovah shows Joseph His mercy, "and the Lord was with Joseph." He was like the New Jerusalem himself, that needs no light of the sun or of the moon for the Lord God is the eternal light of it. So it is with this man, Joseph, down there in the pit and in the grave. God is with him, whether in the palace or in the prison, God is there – and always to the man who loves the Lord.
Wither shall I flee from Thy spirit? And wither shall I go from
If I ascent up into heaven Thou art there: if I make my bed in
the grave behold Thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost
parts of the sea;
Even there shall Thy hand hold me and Thy right hand shall
If I say Surely the darkness shall cover me; the night is light
About me. For the darkness and the light are both alike unto Thee.
Whether the palace or the prison, "the Lord was with him and showed him mercy." Ah, what a man can learn in a prison! And the Lord was with him. Now I want you to look at Joseph over here in the fifteenth verse of the fortieth chapter. The fortieth chapter of Genesis and the fifteenth verse, I want you to look at Joseph as he recounts his sufferings. In describing what happened to him to this officer of the state, the chief butler, he says simply, humbly, "I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews." That’s all he says.
Not a recriminatory word against the brethren who hate him. Not a syllable against the Ishmaelites who sold him as a slave. Not a word against the unjustness of Potiphar. Not a word about Potiphar’s unmerciful wife. No recrimination against any of them. "I was stolen away out of the Land of the Hebrews." That’s all.
Did you ever think in the life of our Lord – now you look at this – who sold him for thirty pieces of silver? His name was Judas. And who delivered Him unto condemnation and death? His own brethren! Yet, when He prays He says it is the Father – like that picture back there – it is the Father that lifts the cup, bitter, up to His lips. Ever think about that?
Look at the life at our Lord. Who slew Him on the tree? Who nailed Him to the cross? Who drew out the life’s blood? Yet when He refers to His life He speaks of it as doing the will of His Father in heaven. And He lays it down that He might pick it up again. O Lord, that Thy children are so feeble followers of the Lamb! No recrimination, "I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews. The Lord was with him."
Now I want you to look at one of the most pathetic of all the little sentences in the Bible. In the fortieth chapter of Genesis and the fourteenth verse after Joseph has interpreted the dream of the chief butler and he prophesies that within three days Pharaoh will lift up thine head and restore thee unto thy place; and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup unto his hand after the former manner when thou wast his chief butler, all of that is coming back to you.
Now look here. The Hebrew word here is zakar, "remember." You have it translated here "But think on me when it shall be well with thee. And show kindness I pray thee unto me and make mention of me unto Pharaoh and bring me out of this dungeon." [Genesis 40:14] What a modest and pathetic request. "Remember me when it shall be well with thee and show kindness I pray thee unto me and call my name unto Pharaoh."
Does that bring to your heart another incident? Way over here in the Book in the life of our Lord when the thief upon His right turned to the Master who is dying on the center cross and said, When it shall be well with Thee, "When Thou comest into Thy kingdom Lord would You call my name? Would You remember me?" Ah! These things, don’t you wonder when you see them here in the Old Bible hundreds of years before? They were just pictures of what was yet to come. "Remember me."
And how different, how different between the butler and our Lord, look how the fortieth chapter ends. "Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph but forgat him;" Forgat him, leaning on a man’s arm, forgat him; how different I say, the story of our Savior. He said, "Today, today, thou shalt be with Me in paradise, in the glory of God today." [from Luke 23:43]
"Remember me. Remember me!"
"Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph but forgat him." [Genesis 40:23]
Now I must contain in about three minutes a whole thirty minutes of the other part of this sermon the exaltation of Joseph. Down, and down, and down, and down in the pit, in the grave, in the dungeon, after two full, whole years Pharaoh dreamed: and he dreamed that out of the river – if you have ever been over there in that country all over the East, everywhere over there they have water buffalo. They plow with them, they are the most precious animals they have. A water buffalo is a tremendous animal, horned. And they love to lie in the water, all covered over except just their heads and their horns out. He dreamed that seven of those – you have it translated here "kind," cows – water buffalo, seven of them came out of the river, fat and well-nourished. And then seven lean ones came out. And the lean ones ate the fat ones.
Then he awoke. Then he dreamed again. Then he dreamed about Egyptian wheat, a special kind of girded wheat. It had seven ears of grain on it, well filled and nourished. And then seven lean ones came out blasted by the east wind. And the seven lean ones ate the fat ones. And he was troubled and nobody could answer him what it meant.
Then the butler happened to remember. "He interpreted my dream and it was exactly as he said." So Pharaoh sends for this strange Hebrew boy. And Joseph stands before him, a grown man now, thirty years of age. Joseph stands before him and Pharaoh asks him the interpretation.
Now let me show you: didn’t I tell you a little while ago that down there in that prison Joseph learned about the state and about government? The remarkable thing in the answer of Joseph is not nearly so much the interpretation of the dream. In fact, we wonder why the Egyptian astrologers, and soothsayers, and seers did not interpret it themselves; the interpretation is rather obvious. But the genius that lies back of the answer of Joseph is in what he says about how the government ought to meet the situation, that’s the genius of that answer. Joseph was wise, and astute, and shrewd in how he tells Pharaoh the state ought to be saved. And Pharaoh is overwhelmed; the creation of a department of conservation, preparation for these awful and trying times that lie ahead. And Pharaoh is overwhelmed by the wisdom in the young man.
Now I must close, then you begin the story of the glorious exaltation of Joseph. "Bow the knee! Bow the knee!" As he rides in his chariot through the streets, the runners precede him on every side, "Bow the knee! Bow the knee!"
"Every tongue confess. Every knee shall bow," just another story of the life of our exalted and glorious Lord. [Philippians 2:10]
Now while we sing our song and make this appeal, somebody give his heart to the Lord; somebody put his life in the church. While we sing this song, you come on the first note of the first stanza and stand by me, while all of us stand and we sing the hymn together.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. Sorrow of Joseph
1. Hated by his brothers
2. Thrown into a pit to die
3. Sold into slavery
4. Spent time in Potaphar’s dungeon
5. Remember Me
II. Joseph’s trial in prison
III. Wonderful exaltation and ascent of Joseph