Stephen Stivers - The Spirit of Christ in Joseph - Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin - 1970

I must say that I’m grateful to be here again. This convention has always been what I’ve thought of as my home convention. I was here for my first convention. I didn’t realize or understand so very much of God’s Truth and Way at the time, but I’ve been glad for experiences that have come into my life since that have opened God’s Truth to my heart and mind. This place means a great deal to me because there were a number of choices I made here that I know have changed my life. I come back here with a grateful heart for what God has done for me and for the way He has led me in days gone by. Experiences have not always been the most pleasant, but maybe we can say that I’m grateful for the best experiences. Through every experience God seeks to deal with us and work things into our lives that we would not have otherwise: things that make us appreciate His Way more and appreciate more the fellowship of His people.

Since coming onto these grounds, I thought of the life of Joseph. I have tried to read of him and think about the marks in his life we find in the life of Christ. I have often read about his life, and everything that is written about him shows us the marks of Christ and how He dealt with him, and how those marks were clearly revealed in him. Since coming onto these grounds, I have read these chapters over a number of times. Other things have appealed to me too but never before in this way, like the marks of Christ seen in Joseph’s life. I have asked myself since if these same marks are in us today. His brethren had marks in their lives too, and I asked myself, “How many of their marks are seen in my life that are not the marks of Christ?” I believe the Spirit has moved on me many, many times because those marks seen in me are like what Joseph’s brethren had. But God was able to work changes into their lives.

Genesis 37:2, “These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.” This speaks of Joseph feeding the flock. You wouldn’t think that a lad of 17 years of age would be feeding the flock. You would think someone older and more experienced would be doing this, someone more tried and tested, whose words would carry more weight. Have you ever read about Joseph feeding the flock. Is it possible? Often teenagers or even those younger in God’s way feel, “What can I do among those who have continued so long in God’s way?” Those that are just launching out in God’s way can think the same thing, “How much can I do amongst God’s people?” The youngest to the weakest can have a word, an action, a life, a sacrifice, that encourages others that have spent years in God’s way.

First, I would like to speak of a little fire, a bonfire that is built with sticks of wood. Today, we use oil. We cook over an open fire where I come from, but kindling is placed on the big sticks. Would there be much of a fire if only a few little sticks were placed on top of each other? If it wasn’t for the kindling placed on the large sticks, there wouldn’t be much possibility of burning. The sacrifice of the little ones encourages others to burn. One of the big trees out by the dining tent has many big roots, but there are also little roots too, very fine ones, some new ones, that help hold the tree in the ground and feed the tree too. The same is our relationship with the younger ones. Their sacrifice and their words give me new courage and life and willingness to keep on sacrificing my very best.

Joseph was 17 years of age when he was feeding the flock. Verse 3, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.” This coat of many colors was an eyesore to his brethren. It was what caused them to think evil of Joseph, to envy him, because he had something they didn’t have. It was the thing that stood out before them and it was always present before them. I thought of Joseph’s coat of many colors being love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, meekness, self-control, and so forth. If you have this coat of those colors and these marks in your robe, people wouldn’t see very much of you, but they would see the cloak. I’m afraid I’m more like Joseph’s brethren and not like Joseph himself. As others look upon us, do they see the marks of Christ in us? Jacob made Joseph a large cloak with sleeves in it. Others wouldn’t see much of Joseph, the man behind the cloak. That’s what bothered those other boys. If we had more of these marks of charity, peace, temperance, etc. in our lives, we would manifest them in such a way that our brethren, and those in the world, might see only those things and not us behind the cloak.

Verse 3, Joseph was loved more than all those other boys. Verse 5, “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.” His life was such that God could reveal the future to him—far off into the future. God could reveal things that would take place in his life. He told it to his brethren, and they envied him and they couldn’t speak peaceably with him; they had a poor spirit. Joseph had another dream and the end of it was much the same; God was showing the future to Joseph. It was the same dream that he dreamed in two different ways. I think of those two witnesses. God revealed to Joseph what would be in the coming days. Verse 11, “And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying”. Proverbs 14:30, “....but envy is rottenness of the bones;” it would not endure. I asked myself a question and it wasn’t the best of answers, but when I see others progressing and advancing and getting a name even though they have earned it, how do I feel? Do I have this spirit of envy in me when someone receives that which is rightfully theirs and I do not receive it? You can say that this was spirit found in Joseph’s brethren – that spirit of envy and hatred. If that kind of spirit is working in us, we will never know the joy and peace from our Father or enjoy the things that come from Him. We must never speak or manifest an envious or jealous spirit in our lives; we must never say a single word about it. It could be working in us and ruining our lives so God cannot give us His joy, peace or satisfaction. We might possibly say, “Why this joy and peace in the lives of others, and not in me?” There was envy in the lives of Joseph’s brethren because of his life.

Jacob asked Joseph to go and seek the welfare of his brethren, like God asked Jesus to come and seek the welfare of the people of the world. “He came unto His own but His own received Him not.” Joseph was ready, anxious and willing to go to his brethren. If others treated me like they did Joseph, would I be as willing to help my brethren? Would I have his spirit? He had the spirit of Christ. I know that, but what would I have done when they didn’t want my presence? Why should I go and help them? He sought them in one place and they weren’t there, and he was told they were in another place and he went to seek them there. I think of Jesus coming to seek the lost until He found them. Joseph found his brethren in Dothan, meaning two cisterns or wells. They were not where their father asked them to be. Are we where God expects us to be? If Christ should come tomorrow and you are in another place, and He asks, “What doeth thou here?” would it be easy to answer Him? That is the one thing that put a fear into my heart when I was a youth—just the thought of God appearing and saying, “What doeth thou here?” It put within me a fear that kept me from going many places I would have gone otherwise. How could I stand and appear before God if I were taken today. The brethren of Joseph were not where their father thought they were. When Jesus came into the world, the Jews had their commandments of what they should have been doing; they should have been sacrificing, but Jesus did not find them doing those things. God expects us to be in a certain place – but will He find us there? “Jesus came unto His own but His own received Him not.”

When Joseph’s brethren saw him a long way off they began to think evil and said, “Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, 'Some evil beast hath devoured him,' and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” Joseph could have thought evil of his brethren, but his mind was a clean mind; even though they were plotting evil against him, he did not think evil. How do you feel toward your brethren? Sometimes it may seem as though they don’t care for you or like they are plotting against you and don’t value you. It may not be true but do we have the same spirit that Joseph had? There is not one bad thing recorded against him. I don’t doubt he had some failures but God didn’t record them.

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him” - the thing that bothered them so much. The marks of Christ in you will bother those who are not right. If we bear the marks of love, joy, peace, etc., it will bother others yet make us loved of the Father. Verse 31, “And they took Joseph’s coat, and killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the coat in the blood” and took it back and gave it to their father. Verse 34, “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” Joseph had been sold into Egypt. Reuben didn’t desire to do any evil, yet he didn’t reveal this to his father and covered it up like the rest of his brothers.

Chapter 39:1, “And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither.” Joseph was now a slave. At one time, he had been in his father’s house, and now he was sold.

Genesis 39:2-3, "And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man, and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” He was taken from his father’s house – how can we call that prosperous? It looks like a step downward. Now Joseph was in a foreign land yet the Lord was with him. If the Lord is with us, little does it matter to this outward man where the world puts us, if the Lord is with us. It would be a sad day if the Lord was not with us. Joseph found favor in the sight of the Egyptian.

Verse 5, “And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.” The Lord blessed the house of Potiphar, the Egyptian, for Joseph’s sake.

Then we find Joseph being falsely accused. This is another thing that is found in the life of Jesus. Jesus also promised this to His disciples, “They shall speak all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Even though it was not true, it could be so easy to retaliate. Joseph had many opportunities to ruin his life. In one way or another, we could make some choices today that could ruin our whole life forever, because there are plenty of opportunities to do so. One old man said, “I do not have much time to live, but I have enough time left to lose everything I have labored for.” The Lord was with Joseph in prison, and the jailer saw that.

Do a little homework and read Genesis 40. Two men are mentioned here that dreamed dreams. Verses 1–3, “And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was found.” Verse 5, “And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in prison.” One man dreamed about a vine with three branches that brought forth ripe grapes. Verse 11, And Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand: and I took the grapes, and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I gave the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.” Joseph said, “This is the interpretation of it; The three branches are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.”

Verse 16, “When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was good, he said unto Joseph, 'I also was in my dream, and, behold, I had three white baskets on my head: And in the uppermost basket there was all manner of bakemeats for Pharaoh; and the birds did eat them out of the basket upon my head.'” Verse 18, “And Joseph answered and said, 'This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thy head from off thee, and shall hang thee on a tree; and the birds shall eat thy flesh from off thee.'” I see two possibilities for each of these people here today. They are the two pictures of Christ—two pictures of your life and mine. You remember the story of the grapes, how they are planted, pruned, and grafted, how the grapes grew and were cared for. The vines were growing and they were cared for; they are producing a harvest of grapes before they are pressed, and the juice taken from them. Isn’t that a picture of Christ and what He expects of us today? Pruning is not the most pleasant experience. Many places in the scripture tell us of things that must be cut from our lives if we’re to produce good grapes. There are many things both naturally and humanly. The old root is the wild vine - it produces grapes after its kind. When the grapes grow, there is much pruning. The harvest is the end, when the grapes are crushed and the juice taken from them. We shrink from this process yet we must endure it if we want to bring joy to our King. All this has been done through Christ. The cupbearer has put in the cup that which will satisfy the King and bring contentment to Him.

The bread in the other man’s basket is also a picture of your life and mine – it’s the wheat that falls into the ground and dies. You can picture the stalks growing up and the harvest coming before the threshing. It’s not a very pleasant experience either. We have had these experiences and we will go through the threshing machine, but that isn’t all. When the wheat is put into the mill, it is ground and then sifted, but that isn’t all. It still must be put into the oven to be baked into bread. Isn’t this a little picture of Christ and what our lives should be? The cupbearer was faithful to take the cup to the king. The other man had the bakemeats in his basket but the fowls of the air robbed him. He didn’t see them coming. Isn’t that a picture of what the fowls of the air can do to you and me? I have seen others picking up bread, a little here and a little there. This man had bread in the basket on his head, yet he wasn’t careful. He was not diligent—just a little snip here a little snip there.... Doesn’t scripture tell us, “A line here and a line there; here a little, there a little?” Sometimes we think that things are not very important, but soon, another thing isn’t very important either – just a little snip here and a little snip there. The fowls of the air will rob us of everything we have in Christ, if we let them. The sacrifice was made, yet he was not careful. He allowed the fowls to rob him little by little. It behooves us to be more careful, to keep everything under constant control and to be more careful. The cupbearer was careful, but the other man didn’t realize it and you might not realize it either. The fowls of the air can rob us little by little. When Abraham made the sacrifice upon the altar it says he watched over it till the going down of the sun. He watched it to the end of his life. We have bread in the basket to bring to our King; don’t be robbed of your sacrifice! The fowls took all the seed sown by the wayside and there was no harvest there. One man was restored to his place; the other was hanged. Joseph said, “Remember me when you come before the king.” He got back his place yet he forgot about Joseph.

All went well for the butler... but he forgot about Joseph for two whole years, until the king dreamed another dream and God sought to speak to Pharaoh. Verse 2-4, “And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fat-fleshed; and they fed in a meadow. And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and leanfleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. And the ill favoured and leanfleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.”

Verse 5–7, “And he slept and dreamed the second time: and behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. And, behold seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.” This was the Spirit of God speaking to him. The king called all his authorities in that day, yet no one could tell him the meaning of this dream. God didn’t reveal it to them. No one had the Spirit of God so it wasn’t revealed to them. Had they had the Spirit of God, they would have seen. “Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, 'I do remember my faults this day'” He remembered that there was a man in the dungeon who could tell the meaning of the king’s dreams. They went and called Joseph. A few outward changes were all that was necessary. Genesis 41:14, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.” He had been in a place where God could work on his inward life; now only a few outward touches were necessary. All that was left for him to do was wash his face. It says, “He shaved himself and changed his raiment.” Joseph was able to interpret the dream.

Why could Daniel interpret the handwriting on the wall? When all the great religious men were called, nobody could interpret the dream. The writing was put on the wall by the Spirit of God. Dreams were given by the Spirit of God and it was the Spirit of God in Joseph and Daniel that made it possible for them to interpret those dreams. It is the Spirit of God in men and women today which makes it possible to see the way of God in Jesus. Joseph told them the meaning. He said unto Pharaoh, “The dream of Pharaoh is one: God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do. The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt: And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt; and the famine shall consume the land; And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following; for it shall be very grievous.” Gather all you can during these seven years. Do I think of these times today as abundance for you and me, when we can be gathering what God has provided, days of preparation? This season of our life is a season where we can gather together something for Eternity. The king said that there is no man like Joseph. We can be gathering together something; we don’t know if we will have the privilege tomorrow for we may be in Eternity. Let us be diligent today and gather for the future. Today is the day of salvation—harden not your hearts. The little ant gathers in the summer time, for the winter. I see the need of putting on the whole armor of God to face tomorrow’s battle. Doesn’t this speak of being prepared to you? The day is coming, and there will no longer be abundance.

It tells us how the famine came some 13 years after Joseph went down into Egypt. Did you ever ask yourself if you could endure like Joseph did, with no word or letter from home?” He didn’t know the welfare of his mother or father or his brethren. He was down there in Egypt and had many opportunities, hundreds of ways to waste his life, but he didn’t. He lived before God, not before men. We may often find ourselves where no brethren are and we might be tempted to go places and do things because the workers can’t see us. None of Joseph’s brethren were looking for him; neither did his brothers spy to see what kind of a life he was living or where he was going and what he was doing. We don’t have to spy on you either, neither do you have to spy on us, because we live for God and before Him. God sees each one of us and that makes life serious to us. Before God’s eyes we hide nothing. When the day and the opportunity to speak came, he was ready. After those seven years of abundance, seven years of famine came, and his brethren desired bread. They came down to Egypt asking for bread. One year passed by and they came again. They thought we have failed in days gone by, but the time has come again and Joseph had bread to give his brethren. He had paid the price to have that bread. It wasn’t a cheap price. How many times do you think his brethren lamented over their deeds in days gone by? They had fed upon those things until the day came when Joseph made himself known to his brethren. I hope we read these things over, for surely they will appeal to you.

It has been over 30 years since I’ve talked about Joseph’s life yet I always compare his life with Jesus’ life. These days I have looked at it from a different angle and wondered how many marks of his brethren are in me? I have the privilege today of taking these things out and cleansing my life from them. There are many examples in Joseph’s life of his willingness to suffer and endure, which worked qualities into his life. May God help us use these experiences for our good that they may work into us qualities of bread for our brethren.