Reading: Philippians 2:5-11; Psalms 105:16-22; Hebrews 2:5-10; John 5:20; 13:3.
"He sent a man before them..." (Psalms 105:17).
From Joseph we move to Him who is known to us as the Son of Man, the Man Christ Jesus, albeit the Son of God. The first thing that has impressed itself upon me in connection with that clause is the wonder of what is bound up with it, "He sent a man before them".
You read the story of Joseph, and what you read is of a certain young man who dreamed some wonderful dreams, which put him in a place of advantage over his elder brothers, and put them at a great disadvantage. He was tactless enough to tell them his dreams, and as the result got what he might have expected - a desire put into action to get him out of the way. They first put him into a pit, then, being fearful as to what might happen to him, took him up and sold him to some traders, who took him away to Egypt, where he was sold again and became a servant in the house of a certain nobleman. Trouble developed, and he was sent to prison. You know the rest of the story.
Over all that this is written: "He (that is, God) sent a man before them". God was the instigator of the whole thing. God initiated it, and carried the whole thing through, and not one fragment of it was outside of the Divine, sovereign control. The whole thing was according to purpose, and is summed up in this amazing statement of very few words, "He sent a man before them...". God recognised a need; and, to meet that need, required a man who was perfected according to His own mind through suffering. So God fixed a cross of suffering with a throne at the end for that man, and when He brought him through the suffering to the throne, He met the need and the need was no less a need than that of life itself.
There is the story. In type, Joseph; in Antitype, the far higher and more eternal fulfilment, the Man Christ Jesus. But there is much more than that in it. We want to look closer, and we can take Joseph, to some extent, as our interpreter to lead us to Christ.
First of all, we find that Joseph in a peculiar way was the son of the father's love. More than all his brethren he was that, and that very title is given to the Lord Jesus. There were wayward ones at a distance from the father, brethren who were very far morally and spiritually from the father's thought. Joseph's brothers broke their father's heart, and were far away, out of touch. The father commissions the son of his love to go down to look into the condition of those brothers, with an anxious and earnest solicitude for their well-being. The son of his love is the sent one, the apostle of the father.
You will see before we get very far that we are moving in the letter to the Hebrews, "Wherefore, holy brethren, partners in a heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus" (Heb. 3:1).
Joseph went with his commission in relation to the state and the need of those brethren afar off, but they knew that he had intimated to them certain claims. He had told them of his dreams, which, if they came true, would see him in exaltation, in a place of power and dominion, high and lifted up, with his brethren as his subjects, acknowledging him as lord. They knew his claims, and when he came to his own, they that were his own received him not. They called him, "this dreamer", and they hated him for his dreams.
We pause to say that unless you have fears, you do not hate. I also venture to say that if you were a big brother who had a little brother who told his dreams you would say, "All right, little man, get on with your dreams; when you get older perhaps you will not dream like that." What big brother would turn upon his little brother and hate him and want to get rid of him because he had dreamed something like that? But you see they were afraid. They had some kind of registration in them that there was something in this, and they hated him for that.
There is a little fragment which the evangelist puts in his narrative of the trial of Jesus before Pilate, when the Jews and the rulers and the high priest had brought Him to Pilate and accused Him. Pilate takes a certain attitude, concerning which the evangelist says, "Pilate knew that for envy they had delivered him up" (Matt. 27:18). That finds them out. They were afraid of losing something.
Joseph, rejected and cast out by his brothers, is slandered and misrepresented in the world, suffering years under misrepresentation. And yet there resides in the heart of that one who is hated, rejected and misrepresented, the very wisdom by which the greatest problem that has ever confronted men should be solved, and the greatest need that ever men have known should be met, the need of life when death is everywhere. The wisdom to solve that problem was there as a secret in the heart of that one all the time. Eventually that wisdom came out, as you know, and proved the salvation of those brethren and of multitudes more.
Consider this: "Christ (crucified), the wisdom of God and the power of God" (1 Cor. 1:24). There resides within the very person of the crucified Lord, the rejected One, the slandered One, the misrepresented One, the One who has suffered for generations under a lie, the secret, the wisdom to solve the deepest problem of this universe, the problem of the overcoming of death by a Life which cannot be touched of death. Oh, how men have applied themselves to solve the problem of life. Life is wrapped up in one Person, and there is no life apart from Him, and, strangely enough, that wisdom is in Christ crucified.
Now, if we get to the heart of this thing, the truth is that it was Joseph's visions that caused all the trouble. In the case of the Lord Jesus it was the fact that by a Divine ordaining, settled in the eternal counsels of the Godhead, He was to be Lord of all, that every knee should bow to Him, all things in heaven and on earth. That caused all the trouble. How similar to the story of Joseph that is! You remember Joseph's two dreams. Firstly he saw all the sheaves doing obeisance to his sheaf, and secondly he saw the heavenly bodies, the sun, the moon, the stars, bowing to him. We read that every knee shall bow to the Lord Jesus, "things in heaven, and things on earth... and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord". It is that vision, that Divinely determined destiny for the Son of God's love that is the cause of all the trouble. There is something satanic behind this rejection and hatred.
That is why we said that the brethren of Joseph were stung. You may have thought that was an exaggeration, a straining of things, but we were implying something more. When men do not take things like that benignly and in good spirit, but are moved to hatred and malice, you may be sure that there is more than a human sensing of a situation, and the Lord Jesus dragged that out into the light. He told the Jews that they were of their father the devil, and he was a murderer from the beginning. There is something sinister behind all this.
What is the nature of the malice and hatred that was behind it? There is one who knows that Joseph is destined to be lord, and he moves everything to frustrate that, to prevent that being realised. So he will throw him into a pit, he will slander him and bring him under misrepresentation; anything to rob him of the fulfilment of that design that he should be lord. Yes, it is the vision that is the cause of all the trouble. Yet in the shadows behind it all God is sending a man before them; through it all the man is going on. They may seek to frustrate the course and cut it short, to impede, to entangle, anything rather than that that end should be reached; and yet the Sovereignty is using their very interference to reach the end. That is the marvel and that is what we want to get at.
The very cross itself achieved the end which God planned, while the devil and men intended it to be the very thing that hindered and prevented God's purpose. Men in league with the devil said, "Crucify Him"; "We will not have this Man to reign over us"; "cast Him out, destroy Him". God stands over it all and uses that to reach the end which He has purposed. Oh, the wonder of that word: "He emptied Himself... became obedient unto death" (Phil. 2:8). He is not falling victim to the adversary, He is obeying the Father, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross. For that very reason, simply because He was obedient unto the death of the cross, "God hath highly exalted Him". That is another side to the story.
Read Hebrews chapter two again in the light of what God is doing as He sends a Man before them. Let these words come home to us in a new way: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour". But what is more, "...that He by the grace of God should taste death in the behalf of every man". That is the reversing of the satanic intention. Satan meant Him to suffer death, to die, and He did not refuse to go into death, and in tasting death He did so in the behalf of every man. The apostle Paul tells us elsewhere that His tasting of death was in the nature of a swallowing up of death: "O death, where is thy sting? O death, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55). It is gone, swallowed up in Him who tasted death on behalf of every man! That is how God sovereignly sends a Man before them, governing all that the opposing forces meant for destruction, and turning those very things to realise the end which they were intended to hinder.
So we find that Joseph's suffering was all governed by God in relation to his reign and his service. The value of the Lord Jesus as exalted is derived from His suffering. He is able to occupy that position and to serve us in the power of His endless, indestructible, incorruptible life, because of His suffering. His service springs out of His suffering, and it is the service of One who is exalted, and His exalted service as the Giver of Life issues from the very fact that He has suffered.
We can stop there with Joseph for the moment, to gather this all up into a few comprehensive words. In these meditations we have moved all too imperfectly over the ground of Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King, and when you come to the King you take up all that the Prophet and the Priest represent, and put that in the throne of glory. When you look at Hebrews two you see all three aspects in one statement. Look at it again in its context: "Not unto angels did He subject the inhabited world to come whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man that thou visitest him? (I think it is Rotherham who gives the more perfect translation of those words: 'What is man, that thou makest mention of him? Or the son of man that thou puttest him in charge?' That carries you further). Thou madest Him for a little while lower than the angels; thou crownedst Him with glory and honour, and didst set Him over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under His feet... But we see not yet (not realised yet so far as man is collectively, as constituted according to God's mind. It is the Divine intention, it is only a matter of a little postponement) all things put under Him. But (as an earnest of that) we see Jesus (it would have made a difference if the writer had said, 'We see the Son of God.' It would have been quite true, but would have missed the point. We see Jesus of Nazareth, the Man Christ Jesus; the man-ward aspect is in view) crowned with glory and honour (He sent a Man before them: they are following on)..." (Heb. 2:5-9).
That is the Prophet. We have seen that the prophet is the one who embodies the full thought of God concerning man, and that great Prophet of mankind and of the Lord has been sent on before. There in the presence of God the Man Christ Jesus, in the capacity of the Prophet, sets forth God's thought in fulness. He is the embodiment of it. So that there is the Prophet in the throne; that is, God's realisation concerning man is there in the throne.
The Priest is the one who comes down to deal with all that has come in to interfere with and ruin God's intention concerning man - sin with all its consequences and power. Here we see Jesus, who for the suffering of death tasted death in the behalf of every man. That is the Priest. And the Priest is in the throne. He is "crowned with glory and honour". How does Hebrews begin? "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever" (Heb. 1:8).
Read Psalm 45 again in the light of that. He is sitting there in kingly majesty. Gathered around Him is the court, "all thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces... Kings' daughters were among thy honourable women; upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir..." (Psalm 45:8,9 KJV). That Psalm is quoted here in the letter to the Hebrews.
There is the Prophet, Priest and King in this one portion. It is man gathered up into the Man as God intended man to be. There he is in his Representative. "He sent a man before them" and in that Man is the very Life by which the others will come.
We could go back to Joseph and see his threefold office. The prophet is the visionary, the one who has the vision of man's dominion when man is according to God's mind. Then with regard to the priest, you follow Joseph and see him interceding on behalf of his brethren, making intercession for them that they shall be brought into the goodly land. In connection with the king, there he is upon his throne.
Joseph is a faint picture of the Lord Jesus, the greater Joseph. Everything is gathered up into that Man, Prophet, Priest and King, because God is superintending sovereignly over all, working according to a Divine design. Our life depends upon Him. Our fulness depends upon Him. Our reaching of God's intended end for us, the end which is set forth in these marvellous words of Psalm 8: "What is man...?" "Not unto angels did He subject the inhabited earth to come whereof we speak, but one in a certain place hath testified saying, What is man that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that Thou make mention of him?" In what connection? Dominion over the inhabited earth to come. It is all gathered up in the Lord Jesus, and we can only come to God's intention as we are in Christ Jesus by faith. But only by being in Christ by faith, upon the ground of His work as the great Prophet our Representative, the great High Priest our Mediator, the great King our Lord, shall we come to God's full thought.
In other words, on the ground that He is our Representative, our Atonement and our Atoner, that He is Lord and Sovereign of our lives, King, having absolute dominion over us, we can and shall most assuredly come to God's thought in the end, to be as God intended from eternity that we should be. "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." "He was made perfect through suffering", and we are to be conformed to the image of God's Son, perfected and glorified.
"Jesus, my Shepherd, Saviour, Friend, My Prophet, Priest, and King; My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End." Can we, shall we say, "Accept the praise I bring"?