Many Jewish believers in Jesus can really identify with Joseph in the life of faith. There was Joseph—innocently trusting his brothers to be happy for him about his talents and good fortune. He probably couldn’t wait to show them his new coat, evidence of his father’s special love, and to describe his dreams that foretold a day when they would all be subservient to him.
Maybe 17-year-old Joseph was somewhat naive. Maybe as his father’s favorite he had led a rather sheltered life. Maybe it came as a surprise to him that the others were jealous of his favored position, and sick and tired of having him as a brother. By the time Joseph realized all of this he was at their mercy down at the bottom of a pit while they argued about how to dispose of him.
Their controversy was not whether or not they should how down and honor him as he had dreamed, but whether they should kill him or sell him into slavery. One way or another they were determined to get rid of him. Nevertheless, by God’s grace and Reuben’s intervention, Joseph’s life was spared. One day he would be God’s instrument, but first he had years of learning ahead of him. One day he would rescue many from certain death, but first he had difficult lessons to master—lessons about suffering, patience, self-control and relationships.
In the early days of our faith some of us Jewish believers were like Joseph. When we first found salvation, we were innocent and naive. We were very quick to tell our Jewish families and friends the good news about the favor God our Father had bestowed upon us. Innocently, we trusted that they would understand. Naively, and with excitement, we talked about our exalted position in Yeshua. Then when our fellow Jews who did not believe in Jesus turned their backs on us, most of us even managed surprise at their reaction.
Maybe our Jewish brothers did not actually want us dead, but they certainly did not want us anywhere around them. They did not bother to sell us to the Gentiles like Joseph’s brothers did. They gave us away, and "good riddance!" They said, "You are no longer Jewish. You are no longer part of our ‘family.’ Go and be a Gentile if you want to, but leave us alone."
Circumstances did not go too well for Joseph in Egypt either. He worked hard. He lived honorably and righteously, yet he ended up in prison. When he might have despaired, he persevered. Through that seemingly adverse situation he suddenly found that among the Gentiles he was more appreciated than he had been among his own. The Egyptians valued him and his dreams. In fact, his dreams and interpretations not only brought him personal benefit, but ultimately worked for the benefit of the entire land as well.
By the time the events of Genesis 42:7 were happening, Joseph had found an exalted position among the Gentiles. Then at last he came face to face with the brothers who had dealt with him so hatefully. Now he had them in the palm of his very powerful hand. He could have crushed them, but he did not. He merely squeezed them to soften them up (chapters 42-44). After subjecting them to a period of painful testing, Joseph finally identified himself and inquired about the welfare of the rest of his family.
His brothers had not recognized him until he said in effect, "Hey, fellas, I’m Joseph. You know—the kid you sold into Egypt !" Joseph’s mention of their common sin against him jarred them into recognition. They were terrified—as well they might have been—but he comforted them, saying, "Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me here; for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Genesis 45:5).
Talking about the famine in the land, Joseph concluded with, "And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance" (Genesis 45:7).
When Joseph’s brothers came back to Egypt to strike a deal for food, they were in desperate straits. If they failed, they were as good as dead from the starvation that threatened them. But through Joseph, the one they had previously spurned, God provided them with lifegiving bread. As Jewish believers we enjoy the irony of the account that describes our ancestors’ deliverance from famine and almost certain physical death. Yet we rejoice more in the greater spiritual deliverance we have in Yeshua. We know what it means to have our lives saved. We know that while we were dead in trespasses and sins and at enmity with God, he gave us new life through Yeshua, the Bread of Heaven. Now we long to share that new life and that spiritual food with our Jewish brothers and sisters, but for the most part they are not hungering for it. Not only do they spurn the heavenly food we offer, but they also reject those of us who offer it.
Most westernized Christians have never experienced the full implications of Matthew 10:37: “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me…” Many Gentiles have become followers of Jesus because of a godly father or mother. Such cannot fully comprehend a man’s foes being those of his own household. In his own time Joseph knew. Many Jewish believers in Jesus know, because they have experienced and will continue to experience it.
Everyone wants life to be easy, bright and happy. We all have our concepts of the perfect family. We see the ideal family as always for and with all its members regardless of their actions, stances or positions in life. In truth, however, believers’ families, especially Jewish believers’ families, often feel that they cannot allow themselves to dispense such total acceptance. Nor can they follow their believing relatives into faith in Yeshua, because they have made a commitment not to believe. At such times they may well turn their backs on their kin, even to the point of selling them—or giving them away to " Egypt ," the Gentile world.
But wait! Though this is sad, please do not plan a pity party for us Jewish believers. Look at what happened to Joseph, who was beloved of his father. Yes, he encountered difficulty, even suffering. Yes, there were demands. Yes, there were dirty dealings—not only from his brothers, but in Potiphar’s household as well. Like Joseph, we believers in Yeshua encounter times when everything seems to go wrong. Hopefully, like Joseph, when we are afflicted or wrongfully accused we are still aware of the Father’s love and still seek his guidance, believing that everything will work out in the end.
Are we angry with our Jewish brothers and sisters who have rejected us for Christ’s sake? No, a thousand times no! Like Joseph, we are all too happy to see some of them coming to us so that we can tell them about the great deliverance God has prepared for them. We are seeking those of our Jewish brothers and sisters who will recognize the state of spiritual famine and spiritual death that afflicts all who are without Christ. We are eagerly waiting for opportunities to offer them Yeshua, the Bread of Life.
Perhaps we Jewish believers in Yeshua were made aliens from our people out of anger, or perhaps it was out of their fear of "infection with the gospel virus." But whatever the reason, in the body of Christ we have found a new family. We have found a place where we can belong with other believers. We have found a place where no one is a stranger because everyone has been adopted by the same Heavenly Father. We will never be aliens again, except from those who want nothing to do with our God.
So please don’t feel sorry for us Jewish believers in Jesus. Rather, rejoice with us because we have found the Bread of Life and we are determined to tell our brothers. Then by God’s grace some of them also will acknowledge their state of famine and will hunger to be fed.