Rejected to preserve life


Have you ever noticed that there are several parallels between Joseph’s life and mission and the life and mission of Messiah Jesus? For example, compare and consider Genesis 45:1-15 and Paul’s letter to the Romans in Romans 11:1-27. Please grab your Bible at this point and read both passages.

When Joseph revealed his identity to his confused brothers, he explained that his descent into Egypt had been ordained by God to “preserve life” (verse 5) and “to preserve a remnant” (verse 7). Joseph fully understood that his brothers were not to blame for sending him to Egypt. This was clearly the mission that God had for him. The rejection of his brothers is the very thing that started him on his path.

Where Joseph is understood as foreshadowing the work of Messiah, a similar statement can be made. As with Joseph, Jesus was rejected by his brothers, the Jewish people, but that rejection was ordained by God to accomplish a great deliverance.

In Romans Chapter 11, Paul struggles with the difficult question of Israel’s rejection of Jesus. Though he does not directly invoke the Joseph analogy, he seems to allude to it. For example, he points out that Israel’s rejection of the Messiah Jesus has meant riches for the world. So too, the brother’s rejection of Joseph resulted in riches for the famine-stricken world of Joseph’s day. Similarly, Paul points out that Israel’s eventual reconciliation with the Messiah will be “life from the dead.” So too, Joseph declared, “God sent me before you to preserve life.”

“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15) “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!” (Romans 11:11-12) So, we who are Gentiles should be incredibly grateful. Paul understands that salvation will come to the Gentile world in a more powerful way because Jesus was rejected by his own people. That’s amazing!

However, Paul does not suppose that all Israel must wait until the culmination of the age before entering into faith in Messiah Jesus. He maintains that just as the Lord God has always preserved a remnant of the faithful in the past, so too in Paul’s day a remnant was preserved.

Paul sees the Jewish estrangement from the Messiah Jesus as a necessary part of a sovereign, ordained plan in order for God to extend salvation to the entire world. In this regard, the Jewish rejection of Jesus is not at all unlike the Joseph story. Paul concedes Israel has stumbled (though not fallen), but even their stumbling was part of God’s plan. Just as Joseph and his brothers were eventually reunited, all Israel will be saved.

Paul writes in Romans 11:26-27, “all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The deliverer will come from Zion, he will remove ungodliness from Jacob and this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’ ”

Frank Fenton is a lifelong student of the Word of God. He attends the Church of the Messiah in Xenia where he shares teaching duties for the weekly Bible study class, as well as contributing to the congregational teaching.

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