I am Joseph…

By: Deji Yesufu

In 1998 when I became a Christian, I read a book where the author taught certain basic practices of a true Christian. One of them included reading the Bible through, Genesis to Revelation, over and over again in one’s personal devotion. I’ve done this since then and the reward is immeasurable. One of the rewards I get is reading parts of scripture I naturally will not come across if I was studying to preach or anything like that. If I were to complete the Bible this way in say, six months, it means I will read the Genesis account, for example, once in six months. It brings biblical stories fresh to mind and instructs on new lessons each time. Two stories that move me to tears almost every time I read them in scripture are the stories of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers and Jesus revealing himself to Mary after his resurrection. In the latter, Mary is seen querying a supposed gardener and Jesus mentions her name “Mary…” and she replies “rabboni” (John 20:14-16). What happened was that Christ got her attention with the peculiar manner he used to call her. Today, however, I want to centre my essay on Joseph.

It will be superfluous to repeat the whole story of Joseph here but the place where the above title is taken from is Genesis 45:3: Joseph is making himself known to his brothers. He says: …I am Joseph; does my father still live… It was a poignant moment. Too much had happened at the same time. Prior to this time, the sin that the brothers had committed against their baby brother had returned to hunt them. In chapter 42, Joseph had set the brothers up, and made them return to him, and they said to themselves: “…we are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we will not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us… (Genesis 42:21)”. Rueben had even made the matter worse by telling them that he had told them not to sin against the boy. And Joseph overheard that conversation. It is interesting to note a few things about the Joseph story in the Bible: the brothers never got over their guilt and Joseph never ceased to be gracious to them. The theological lessons are profound indeed (one is that Christ’s is always gracious while the true Christian is always humbled by his sins) but I want to limit myself to that phrase “I am Joseph…”

Joseph is the name that Rachel gave her first born child which she bore for Israel. It is interesting to know that that name was never changed by the great Israel, as he did with Benjamin. Israel accepted that name because it bore a prophetic nuance. Joseph, as we will learn from Genesis 30:24 means “God will add”. Rachel had prayed and wished that God will add to the number of children she will have; that Joseph will not be her only son for Israel. And interestingly when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he added a vital piece of information he had been seeking for long before: he asked whether his father was alive: “… I am Joseph; does my father still live?” Joseph had asked his brothers this question twice before and the response was that the old man, their father, was still alive. But after unveiling himself to his brothers, he still needed a double assurance. Obviously, Israel was old and could very much have died but Joseph might have seen the place of the patriarchs and that his own destiny was not guaranteed until he encountered his father and received a blessing from him. Like his name meant, he understood there was an addition he needed from his father in spite of all his successes in Egypt.

Another reason to reflect on the name Joseph and the meaning of that name will be with regards to not just his past, his need to reconnect with his father, but also the future. The story of Joseph in the Bible is a prophetic pointer at the person of Jesus Christ. Just as Joseph was betrayed and sold to Egypt by his own brothers, Christ will also be handed over to the Romans by his brothers, the Jews, to be crucified. And, just as Joseph’s foray into Egypt will signify God bringing preservation and redemption to Israel, Christ’s death and resurrection must bring redemption to the nation of Israel. While the brothers of Joseph sought to do him evil, God was bringing about great good. Also, while Israel crucified Christ, God must bring redemption to humanity this way. The life story of Joseph will not end with one story: there must be another – there must be an added story of Redemption. God must add the blessing of redemption to sinful humanity – the same humanity that rejected and crucified the Lord.

On a personal note, and despite having read this story many times, I recently discovered the link between my own name “Yesufu” and the biblical Joseph. I had long known my name is the corruption of that great biblical name, with its etymology going from Joseph to Josef to Yosef to Yusuf to Yusufu to Yesufu. Those who live in Europe and Middle East know that the “J” at the beginning of a word is often replaced with a “Y”. I can also join Joseph to say “I am Joseph…” and trust God for his addition.

But whether you bear the name Joseph or not, the more important thing is whether you bear the name of Christ. If you have believed in Christ as Lord and Savior, you bear the Lord’s name and you can trust God for an addition. The Christian addition is the Christian hope, which says that no matter the situation we are in today because we bear the name of the Lord, our God will not leave as orphans. God will add to us a glorious hope: a heavenly hope where there will be no pain or tears. Some will begin to know this redemption on earth as God delivers us from all troubles – like Joseph did. But the greatest deliverance will be a deliverance from a world of sin, flesh and Satan; to a world of eternal bliss and worship of the triune God. God will add to his people because they bear the name of his Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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