“We know that the Son of God has come, and He has given to us an understanding that we may know the true One, and we are in the true One, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and the eternal life” 1 Jn. 5:20.
I recently went through the book of Genesis again with our children’s church. I really love the book of Genesis because there so many “parables” to be found there; so many types of Christ. Two particular stories have been on my mind that don’t seem at all similar at first glance, but I’d like to try to tie them together to show something of a bigger picture in our knowing of Christ. Both pictures show a first sort of knowing and coming to the Lord, often with cloudy understanding of Who and what kind of relationship we have come into; and then a second knowing or revealing of Christ where eyes are opened and hearts are changed.
The first is the story of Leah and Rachel. Jacob’s first wife is Leah. Her name means weary, and Scripture says that her eyes were poor. She relates to her husband as one who must work to earn favor. She says things like:
“Surely I have hired thee with my son’s mandrakes” Gen. 30:16, or
“Maybe now my husband will love me,” Gen. 29:32 And,
“Surely now my husband will become attached to me” Gen. 29:34 or,
“Now my husband will dwell with me because I have borne him six sons” Gen. 30:20.
When her fifth son is born, she says plainly,
“God has given me my hired-wages,” Gen 30:18.
She is a picture of most believers who come to God believing that He will love us more if we earn His love through good behavior. We believe that God’s fruit in our lives (like Leah’s children) is something we should work for, rather than something that comes from a loving relationship. We grow weary (like Leah’s name means) in our efforts to please God, and joy is hard to find. When troubles come, we feel somehow cheated by the system, we thought was in place, and we have a hard time believing in God’s love. This view is a dim one, and one that has us at the center.
I’m going to jump now to the story of Joseph and his brothers. We are going to look at the journey Joseph’s brothers make to Egypt, because there is famine in their land. The brothers come into a Kingdom of plenty, where they purchase their salvation (grain) and then return to their own lives far away. They must leave one brother, and they attribute this unfortunate circumstance to their past sin against Joseph. Then they discover that their money has been returned to them (because the price of salvation has been paid by Another), but instead of rejoicing in their good fortune, they are dismayed and their hearts sank and they asked one another,
“What is this that God has done to us?” Gen. 42:28.
Whereas Leah believed she had earned favor, Joseph’s brothers are certain there is no favor for them. This is the roller-coaster ride of believers who relate to God according to their own works. We either believe we deserve God’s gifts or we believe we don’t, depending on our behavior, our mood, or the weather of our circumstances. I think most all of us come to God this way at first.
The unfortunate thing is that many continue in this way.
But I’m not done with the brothers… When they return home, the message they have for their father is basically this: “We have been to the Kingdom, and the ruler is a harsh man who demands that we bring others (specifically Benjamin) into his Kingdom.”
They do not yet have good news.
They return only when it becomes absolutely necessary; they are in danger of starving again. Their trips to see the King are motivated by self-preservation. In the same way, we often find ourselves looking for God only when we have exhausted all our own resources. God is so gracious, and meets with us even in this state, but He is looking to reveal Himself as more than just Provider and as something Other than an addition to our own life.
Let’s return to Jacob’s second wife, the wife of His desire. Rachel had her husband’s heart before she had done anything to deserve it. She was His choice (just as we have been chosen in Christ). Theirs is a love relationship, and although she also desires a son, Jacob makes it clear that only the Lord can perform this. God does give her a son, Joseph, which has a certain double meaning that includes both “He has taken away” and “May the Lord add.” Knowing the Lord in this way is an opening of our eyes to see and understand the work of the cross that both “takes away” the natural, law-based, me-centered way of relating and “adds” or brings an increase of the Spirit who is eternal Life in our stead. When we see Him, then we are given an understanding that our own soulish kind of life was “taken away” from God’s sight, by the cross, and the Lord has “added” the eternal, resurrection Life of His Son, through Spiritual birth.
Now we’ll skip ahead, again, to Joseph’s brothers and their second seeing of Joseph. They have returned to Egypt with twice as much money and their brother Benjamin. Benjamin is accused of theft, and Judah offers his life instead of Benjamin’s for the sake of his father. The brothers’ hearts have turned toward their father and self-preservation is no longer the motivation. “When the heart turns to see the Lord, the veil is done away (2 Corinthians 3:16).” When the brothers’ hearts turn, Joseph reveals himself to them. He is the same man they saw on their first journey, but now they know him. They no longer call him a harsh ruler; Now He is their brother!! He is alive! He is ruler of all Egypt and he wants them to leave their land and home and to come be where He is. “I will provide for you,” (Genesis 45:11) “I will give you the best of the land of Egypt… Do not concern yourselves with you goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.” (Genesis 45:18-20).
God wants to reveal Himself in us in this way. He wants us to see Him as He really is. He wants us to know that the treasures of heaven are ours. He has made a place for us, a place in Him, where we can “live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).” He also wants us to know how He sees us- NOT in reference to sin any longer.
“And at the second time Joseph was made known to his brethren; and Joseph’s kindred was made known unto Pharaoh.” Acts 7:13.
“Christ also, being offered once for the bearing of the sins of many, will be seen a second time, by those awaiting Him, apart from sin, for salvation, through faith.” Heb. 9:28 CLV.
“Time” is italicized in both verses above, because it is not there in the Greek. Joseph was revealed when his brothers returned again. Jesus is revealed in hearts that look for him- and He appears in a “second” understanding- the understanding that He no longer relates to us according to our sin (OR our good deeds i.e. Leah) but He relates to us according to the work of the cross that has brought us into Salvation, into the Person of Christ, into something that is complete and lacks nothing.
You have begun to see the Gospel when you see Christ in this second appearing. This is the relationship where Jesus is at the center.
Leah could not help her weak eyes. Joseph’s brothers could not, at first, see Joseph for who he really was. They came to him with only an awareness of themselves and their failings. Who do you see when you look at salvation? This work is not one that we accomplish; it is a work of the Spirit. Turn to Him and He will remove the veil and reveal Himself “as He is”. – Judith Brown
“Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it was not yet revealed what we shall be. But we know that whenever He is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” 1 Jn 3:2.