December 17, 2013

One Ring to Rule Them All

After Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream with God’s guidance, Pharaoh places Joseph in charge of the whole land of Egypt and he gives him his signet ring. In this way Joseph is put in charge of the whole of Egypt. 

Genesis 41:42 ~ “Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.

Pharaoh would then have him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people would shout before him, “Make way!” This was due to his importance. If this sounds strikingly is because it should. We will read it in Isaiah and read similar in the New Testament in multiple place in the Gospels.

Isaiah 40:3 ~ “A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Matthew 3:1-3 ~ “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

By giving Joseph his signet ring Pharaoh is entrusting Joseph to make official decisions for the State and the ring would be the symbol impressed upon the wax seal on official Egyptian documents. Not only is the ring an item of symbolic power, it is an item of literal power invested in the person that had the ring. The ring literally allowed Joseph to work in Pharaohs stead or act as his proxy and agent. This is extraordinary similar to the office that we will see in the New Testament called Apostle and we will also see it in Jesus' disciples right down to the modern day. 

An apostle in its strictest translation means/meant “sent one” or “agent” and comes from the word apostolos / ἀπόστολος. Therefore an apostle means that they are “a man’s agent” and is “like unto himself…” or one sent in place of another as a representative. Here we begin to see the true idea of what an apostle is and how it very closely parallels Joseph’s role to Pharaoh. It is literally a modern equivalent of the modern concept of “the power of attorney”. Ironically, Joseph even marries into the family so to speak, just as the believer marries into covenant with God as part of the body of Christ…which is Jesus’ bride.

In one or two hours and through the act of one decision we see bondage turned into royalty. We see the parallel to the Christian believer who accepts Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross. Slowly and carefully we see God prepare His people for their great works. Joseph is wholeheartedly put into God’s service here at age thirty (v.46). It is another striking parallel to the age of the start of Jesus’ ministry. An entire kingdom and the fate of humanity will hinge on the actions and decisions of both Joseph and Jesus.

Like Jesus, Joseph will not enter into this position with pride and arrogance. Life and wisdom has tempered them too well to be that foolish. No, they will enter into their full-blown ministries with cautious self-awareness and a meekness few others will manifest either in the world then or now.

There is no reason to believe that Pharaoh believed in Joseph’s God. So what we see here is the most powerful man in the known world rewarding Joseph for what amount to God working supernaturally through him. In Joseph’s obedience to God’s will we see Joseph’s alignment to God’s will. In aligning to that will Joseph acts as a conduit of God’s will to the unbelieving world. In this way God can save unbelievers from death through the life of an obedient believer. Yes, the imagery here is spiritually rich.

In what appears to be a evil mirror image of the Joseph and Pharaoh story we have King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) give his signet ring to Haman. Where Pharoah’s signet ring on the hand of Joseph probably saved millions, the ring Xerxes gives Haman almost does the opposite in an attempt to kill millions. Xerxes ring on Haman’s hand seals copies of an edict to destroy all Jews in what would amount to a systematic extermination.

Esther 3:10-13 ~ “So the king took his signet ring from his finger and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman, “and do with the people as you please.” Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.

Of course Haman never gets to follow through with his despicable plan. What we see is God working in a sovereign manner behind the scenes. It is as if God’s sovereign curse or blessing moves along with Xerxe’s ring. If one obeys the will of God the ring seems to be a symbol of blessing upon the one that bears the ring. The one that would not obey and align their will to that of God, the ring acts as a symbol of condemnation. It is as if the ring shows who rules but it is what rules the man within that dictates the end result or consequence of their actions. Evil men meet and evil end. Godly men meet a godly end. In short, it is not the ring that allows the bearer to reign, it is that which rules within that allows them to rule through God’s divine will. To further illustrate this principle we move forward to chapter 8 of Esther and we see Mordecai gain possession of the very same ring and does just the opposite or Haman.

After the execution of Haman, Ahasuerus bestows his ring and all the legal authority it entails on Haman’s sworn Jewish enemy…Mordecai. It is as if the tables are completely turned and the hinge point in God’s plan is the king’s signet ring. Everything that was once Mordecai’s enemy’s possession is now his. Because Mordecai and Esther are Jewish, what will benefit them will also benefit God’s people. So we see a complete reversal. A sinful depraved man that seeks to exterminate God’s people is himself exterminated and the curses he attempts to inflict on God’s people are instead inflicted on Him without mercy. Haman’s evil plan has no effect. If anything it has just the opposite effect that he intended. All his efforts serve only to further glorify God who shuts him down

Esther 8:2-3, 5, 9-10 ~ “The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate. Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised against the Jews…

…“If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces.” 

“…At once the royal secretaries were summoned—on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. They wrote out all Mordecai’s orders to the Jews, and to the satraps, governors and nobles of the 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush. These orders were written in the script of each province and the language of each people and also to the Jews in their own script and language. Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king’s signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king.”

The last ring I’ll mention is again a signet ring. It is probably the most famous signet ring mentioned in the Scriptures. It is also a figurative illustration that has much deeper meaning that one would see from a superficial gleaning of the text.

Haggai 2:23 ~ “‘On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

In the book of Haggai we should read and see the symbolism of Zerubbabel being God’s signet ring. He had led people in return from captivity in Babylonian Exile. This is akin to Jesus leading people back to God from captivity in their sin. It is also interesting to note that Zerubbabel was of the line of David. In this way he is a type or shadow of Christ. In building the Temple he was a servant of the Lord during a time of trouble for God’s people, just as Jesus was for people not only under Roman oppression but for Christians under the system of the world and sinners under their sin.

Because Zerubbabel was called by God to do something in obedience to God, he again is like Christ. In the same way a King makes a simple chair a throne, so too God makes a simple man that is the exact impression of His likeness (Genesis 1:27) a king that is an exact type or shadow of His Son who is Himself a King and an exact representation of the Father (John 14:7), whose Spirit now indwells all believers who accept His Son (Romans 8:9-11) and they too...are to be like Him. If we take this one step further...what does this tell us about the nature of individual believers indwelt by the Spirit of God today if we are indeed like Zerubbabel who was made in the image of God?

That's right folks, we are royalty and co-heirs in Christ because of Christ...just as Paul told us in Romans 8:17. What is even more mind-boggling (or sovereignly planned) is that the seal on our salvation through Jesus Christ also carries and allusion to a signet ring and that seal is the Holy Spirit. The seal being an exact representation of the One that He represents…Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ who is exactly like His Father in Heaven (i.e.: if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father).

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 ~ “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Ephesians 1:13-14 ~ “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

It is therefore is remarkably cool to mention that God would call Zerubbabel His signet ring. A signet ring was a ring that makes and exact impression of the object that is on the ring in a wax impression. If Zerubbabel is God’s signet ring, Zerubbabel like Christ is a representation of God, or in Zerubbabel’s case, a likeness or impression of God the Father as no one is a perfect representation of the Father except Jesus Himself.

In a way, as a disciple of Christ, we too are an impression of the one we represent. We are not an exact replica but we are made very much in God’s image both in our original form (Genesis 1:27) and in our reconstitution as new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this way we act as God’s signet ring to the world. It is of course the Spirit that places the seal on the salvation of others but it is we that take the message of the Gospel out into the world doing exactly as Jesus did and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In this way we are not only in His image spiritually but also in the things we do. God and His word leaves an impression on our hearts that changes us from within. Subsequently, our words and actions leave impressions on others that eventually point them back to the Cross and God.

To usher in the Kingdom of God, God chose Zerubbabel to continue His Davidic line that would give rise to the Hope of the nations in Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah 42:1-4 ~ “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

Matthew 12:20-21 ~ A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.

We as believers in the risen Jesus Christ take the news of His Great Hope in the message of the Gospel out to the nations of the world and we will do so until the end of the age. In so doing we die to self every day and take up our cross... just as He did.

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