He appears in Scripture adorned in a coat of many colors (Genesis 37:3). It is as though his adorning is intended to attract our attention. What is it about him, however, that calls for special consideration?
As the fourth main character of the book of Genesis, Joseph has more chapters devoted to him than any of the other patriarchs, including Abraham. In fact, more chapters are devoted to Joseph than to the creation, the fall, the flood and the Tower of Babel combined. One cannot help but ask, “Why should Joseph be given such prominence in the Scripture?”
A possible answer to both of the above questions is the fact that Joseph serves as the quintessential type-of-Christ. There is no greater type-of-Christ in all of the Bible. As the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, once said, “Joseph is the preeminent type-of-Christ…Indeed…there is scarcely a stroke [of his story]…which has not its symbolic meaning…you could read the [story] of Joseph through twenty times, and [still] not [be able] to exhaust the type.”
Like Christ, Joseph was: ❶ the beloved son of his father ❷ rejected by his brethren ❸ betrayed for silver ❹ humbled as a servant ❺ exalted as prince over all the kingdom, and ❻ ended up as a savior to the whole world, including to his own people. He was even given a name, just like the virgin born Son of Mary, which meant “Savior” (Genesis 41:43; Matthew 1:21).
Still, there is another possible explanation for this richly ornamented biblical character. Whereas Joseph’s forefathers had all struggled with the truth, he was the first in that lineage to take a courageous and uncompromising stand for it, in spite of the consequences to himself.
Abraham, the progenitor of Joseph’s lineage, had been guilty of a couple of half-truths told to potentates whom he feared might murder him in order to marry his beautiful wife Sarah (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-18). Likewise, Abraham’s son, Isaac, had continued the family tradition when he told a whole lie, not a half-truth, to the Philistines about his beautiful wife Rebekah being his sister (Genesis 26:6-11). Then, adding insult to injury, Joseph’s father, Jacob, had lied to Joseph’s grandfather, Issac, in order to steal the blessing of Joseph’s uncle, Esau (Genesis 27:1-41). All in all, it amounted to a long line of cowardice perpetrated by ancestors unwilling to trust God with the consequences of taking courageous stands for the truth.
This line of cowardice was finally broken when Joseph courageously stood for the truth. In spite of the dire consequences and tremendous cost to himself—❶ he was betrayed by his brothers ❷ thrown into a pit ❸ sold into slavery ❹ falsely accused by his master’s wife, and ❺ sentenced to prison—Joseph refused to compromise his stand for God. He fearlessly stood on his faith in God while his whole world appeared to be continuously falling apart.
In the end, his faith won out and all of his dreams came true (Genesis 37:5-11; 42:6-9). What others meant for evil, God meant for good (Genesis 50:20). Joseph’s life, thanks to the sovereignty of God, had a storybook ending, despite all the nightmarish steps that had to be taken to get there.
To find one so richly ornamented in Christlikeness and clad in the colorful coat of courage is a rare find indeed. Though the cowardice of half-truths and whole lies is common, those with the courage to stand for the truth and trust God with the consequences are few and far between. Still, it is these rare and courageous souls who color Christianity in van Gogh fashion!