Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine by a spring, whose branches scale the wall.
I. WHAT IT IS. Deliverance from evil, succor against foes, victory over sin and death.
II. WHENCE IT COMES. The primal fountain is Jehovah, the covenant God of the believer. The salvation of the gospel is God's in its original conception and proclamation, in its subsequent procurement and donation, in its ultimate development and consummation.
III. HOW IT IS OBTAINED. Not by merit, or by works, but by believing, and waiting, and hoping. "He that believeth shall be saved." "The Lord loveth them that hope in his mercy." "It is good for a man both to hope, and to quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." - W.
: — "Joseph is a fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall" (Genesis 49:22). These words remind us of our Lord saying, "I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit." And they take our thoughts to an eastern vineyard, where the trellis bends with clusters, and a few strong shoots are left by the kindly husbandman to overhang the enclosure for the passer-by.
I. IN HIS UNION WITH CHRIST, THE CHRISTIAN IS AS A "BOUGH."
Joseph is a fruitful bough.I. PREDICTION OF HIS FUTURE GREATNESS.
1. His extraordinary increase.
2. His great prosperity.
(1) (2) (3) II. PRAISE OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. He had been a much-tried man (ver 23). (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. He had gained the victory over his trials (ver 24). III. HIS DESTINY THE NATURAL RESULT OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. His filial obedience. 2. His desire for God's glory. 3. The operation of that principle by which God rewards in kind. 4. The principle that God's dealings in the past constitute a ground of hope and trust for the future. 5. The principle by which a firm and well-established godliness tends to continue. (T. H. Leale.)
(2) (3) II. PRAISE OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. He had been a much-tried man (ver 23). (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. He had gained the victory over his trials (ver 24). III. HIS DESTINY THE NATURAL RESULT OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. His filial obedience. 2. His desire for God's glory. 3. The operation of that principle by which God rewards in kind. 4. The principle that God's dealings in the past constitute a ground of hope and trust for the future. 5. The principle by which a firm and well-established godliness tends to continue. (T. H. Leale.)
(3) II. PRAISE OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. He had been a much-tried man (ver 23). (1) (2) (3) (4) 2. He had gained the victory over his trials (ver 24). III. HIS DESTINY THE NATURAL RESULT OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. His filial obedience. 2. His desire for God's glory. 3. The operation of that principle by which God rewards in kind. 4. The principle that God's dealings in the past constitute a ground of hope and trust for the future. 5. The principle by which a firm and well-established godliness tends to continue. (T. H. Leale.)
II. PRAISE OF HIS CHARACTER.
1. He had been a much-tried man (ver 23).
2. He had gained the victory over his trials (ver 24). III. HIS DESTINY THE NATURAL RESULT OF HIS CHARACTER. 1. His filial obedience. 2. His desire for God's glory. 3. The operation of that principle by which God rewards in kind. 5. The principle by which a firm and well-established godliness tends to continue. (T. H. Leale.)
2. He had gained the victory over his trials (ver 24).
III. HIS DESTINY THE NATURAL RESULT OF HIS CHARACTER.
1. His filial obedience.
2. His desire for God's glory.
3. The operation of that principle by which God rewards in kind.
5. The principle by which a firm and well-established godliness tends to continue.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. Union with Christ.
2. Dependence upon Christ.
3. Sustentation from Christ.
II. IN THE RESULTS OF HIS UNION WITH CHRIST, THE CHRISTIAN IS AS A "FRUITFUL BOUGH."
1. Some united, but dead.
2. Some living, but fruitless.
III. IN THE SOURCE OF HIS FERTILITY, THE CHRISTIAN IS AS A "FRUITFUL BOUGH BY A WELL." As the bough drinks of the spring through the tree, so the Christian drinks of spiritual blessings through Christ.
IV. IN THE HIGHER ATTAINMENTS OF SPIRITUAL LIFE, THE CHRISTIAN IS AS A "FRUITFUL BOUGH BY A WELL WHOSE BRANCHES RUN OVER THE WALL."
1. Over the wall of sectarian prejudices.
2. Over the wall of unbelieving doubt.
3. Over the wall that separates the world from the Church, and blesses the dying, with fruit.
4. Over the wall that separates earth from heaven, and looks "within the veil."
(W. H. Burton.)
The blessing of Joseph — "Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well." In these words we are reminded of our Lord's own statement (John 15:5), "I am the vine, ye are the branches." The Christian is only a bough of the Tree of Life. But he is to be a fruitful bough. "Herein is My Father glorified," said our blessed Lord, "that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples." And how is this fruitfulness produced? The passage shows us: "a fruitful bough by a well." The believer is to live near to Christ, the well of living waters, and to be drawing forth all his nourishment from Christ by the Holy Spirit. The roots of the tree draw forth the waters from the well, and send them up into all its branches. Thus the "bough" becomes beautiful and fruitful. And the well is hidden. The process goes on in secret, but, notwithstanding, it is an unceasing process. Mark, also, that the branches of this fruitful bough are said to "run over the wall." The believer's fruit must be seen — seen by all who pass by. Alas! only the foliage is too often seen l But the world looks beneath all. But now observe how the patriarch passes rapidly from the figure of a fruitful branch to that of a military warrior: "But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." True faithfulness is ever linked with the cross, and also with warfare. "Fight the good fight of faith"; "put on the whole armour of God"; "quit you like men; be strong" — such are the expressions used to show us our true position in this world. There is an inseparable connection between life and faithfulness, between the cross and the warfare. But the "bow abiding in strength" points also to Christ. It tells us of the strong, unyielding position in which He would carry on His government (see Revelation 6:1, 2). And we see the "arms of the hands" of the true Joseph "made strong" — in the power of His exalted position at the right hand of the Father — "by the mighty God of Jacob." In beautiful keeping with this we see the "white horse" — always the emblem of victory — victory in holiness, purity, and truth. Let us now return to the rest of the passage: "from thence" — i.e., the mighty God — "is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel." We must read the passage correctly: " The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, even from the Shepherd and Stone of Israel." Thus we find here that Joseph's hands were made strong for his work by the mighty God of Jacob, the Shepherd and Stone of Israel. He who is the mighty God is the great Shepherd of His sheep, and the great Foundation Stone of Israel. And now the blessings promised and to be prayed for are described: "blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under." They begin with heaven, and they take in the earth. This is ever God's order. The patriarch continues: "blessings of the breast and the womb." Jacob prays that his son may be blessed from heaven with rain and dew, and with fountains and brooks which spring from the great deep or abyss of the earth, so that everything that had womb and breast in the natural world should become pregnant, bring forth, and suckle. He then continues: "The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors, unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills." The blessings which Jacob implored for his son Joseph were to surpass the blessings which his parents had transmitted to him, as far as the great mountains towered above the earth. These blessings were to descend upon "the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of the separated one from among his brethren." As we read these promises and prayers for blessing on Joseph, our thoughts are carried forward to the Lord Jesus Christ. Language seems to fail the old patriarch in his longings for blessings on his son; but as we see Jesus, "the separated One," we behold these desires fulfilled.
(F. Whitfield, M. A.)
I. In the first place, consider THE BRANCH THAT BEARS FRUIT OVER THE WALL. It is one thing to bear fruit in the vineyard, and another to have such vigour that we also bear fruit beyond; and we speak now of the latter.
1. Fruitfulness to more than have claim upon us. Some have such claim; their relationship, their desert, their needs, appeal to us so forcibly and reasonably, that we wrong them if we refuse our sympathy and help; these are they who have right to the vintage — the children of the husbandmen, as it were, for whom the vine exists, and who are somewhat free to the grapes. But others have no such right, or have forfeited the right they had, the unloving and unlovable, those who abuse your kindness, those who bring their troubles on themselves, those who again fall when they have many times been raised, those who seem hopelessly bad and to have no redeeming trait. And there are those, of whom all this cannot be said, who are deserving, and yet have no claim on us — whose rights extend to some other vineyard, but not to ours. Now we take our text as symbolically speaking of usefulness to all these, the branch breaking away from its support, and reaching, with its grateful fruit, to those outside. And do we not need, my friends, to consider that? The good Samaritan in his kindness to the Jew that had fallen among thieves, was a branch that ran over the wall. Our Lord's deed of mercy to the Syro-Phoenician woman was a branch that ran over the wall. Anal whilst it is right to give the bin-Jest of our life to those who have claim on the vine, it must be right to let some shoots trail to the larger world outside, and to the very grating of the prisoner's cell.
2. Ministry to those outside our particular vineyard. Into every department of life Christianity casts some healing influence. There is much, indeed, for it to do yet; but it has been the originator or beneficent ally of all onward movements in the history of the race. See how its branches run over the wall; how contrary it is to the spirit of exclusiveness! Its blessings are for the Church, but, in a less degree, it blesses the world as well. And that warns us Christian people against exclusiveness in religious sympathy; exclusiveness is not Christianity. It were a bad day for any church when its thought, and effort, and means are spent only on its own work and wants, and it ceases to care with brotherly interest for other churches, God's vast world-wide work. Let the main clusters, if you will, be for those for whom God planted the vine, but see to it that strong fruitful branches run over the wall.
3. Refreshment to the casual passer-by. The text was suggested in passing a vineyard on the south side of the Alps, as outside the enclosure some unpruned shoots, with their just-formed grapes, were waving in the wind, to be perhaps a refreshment to some traveller in the summer's heat. It is the picture of a Christian whose abundant inner life comes out unawares, as it were, for the benediction of any who may pass that way. Tired pilgrims pass us every hour, some oppressed with their burden, some parched with the world's dust, some who have lost their strength in conflict, and some who thirst but for a tender look, a friendly utterance, a sympathetic grasp, and with these would go their way revived. Think of such finding this reviving in us!
II. Consider, secondly, THAT THIS IS THE MARK OF THE BRANCH OF THE TRUE VINE.
1. Christianity tends to the enlarging of our sympathies. It brings us into contact with Christ, and makes us partakers in His Spirit. Nothing is more striking or blessed in Scripture than the absence of exclusiveness in our Lord's love and readiness to bless. Christianity is the being joined to Him, "and he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." In His people, then, this spirit of unexclusive sympathy exists in germ; and as they commune with Him it grows, and they spontaneously care for those He cares for.
2. Beside this, Christianity claims a deliberate consideration of others' wants. "We, then, that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves"; "let every one of us please his neighbour for his good, for even Christ pleased not Himself"; "bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ."
3. And Christianity results in unconscious, unchecked fruitfulness. Christianity is not so much a doing as a being. We are not Christians because we do this or that. "Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from Me ye that work iniquity." Christianity is a new nature taking the place of ours, by which heart and mind, and character and life become Divine. Now our nature cannot appoint set times in which to express itself, nor fence off a few to whom alone it shall make itself known. Every branch of the Vine which Jesus is, necessarily runs over the wall somewhere, bearing unconscious fruit not only for the vineyard it is expected to enrich, but also for the passer-by outside to pluck.
III. Then CONSIDER HOW THIS OVER-THE-WALL FRUITFULNESS MAY RE SECURED. The very word "fruit " teaches us. Distinguish between "works" and "fruit." "Works," says one, "may be the actings of a legal spirit; they are done in obedience to laws; they may be performed perfunctorily, and are no part of one's nature." But fruit is the sign of life; it is not due to commands, nor even to effort; it is life spontaneously, naturally, sweetly giving itself forth. Now it is fruit of which we speak, fruit that Christ wants. "Herein is My Father glorified that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be My disciples." Then what is needed for this over-the-wall fruitfulness is the earnest culture of our spirituality. Culture the life, and the fruit comes of its own accord; branches running over the wall are but the exuberance of life. Let me give these three brief rules:
1. It depends on the measure in which we receive the life of Christ. "Joseph is a fruitful bough." Only a bough. We are "boughs," that is all; therefore we have no life in ourselves, and God does not require us to have any; the life is in the Vine — "our life is hid with Christ"; "as a branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me... severed from Me, ye can do nothing."
2. And it depends on our fruitfulness to those nearest to us. For the strong shoots that trail outside will spring from the strong wood in the vineyard itself, and the dresser of the vines, we may be sure, will only permit the branch that does its duty first within to carry strength elsewhere. To bear fruit over the wall only, or chiefly, is to rob the Husbandman, for where He has planted us He means our richest grapes to grow. We must love our own best — our own family, our own church; our deepest sympathies and best energies are for those to whom God has given most claim upon them; and only when we have done that, He would have us not forget them that are without. "Learn first to show piety at home"; "do good unto all men, but specially to them that are of the household of faith." And that is the successful order. It is by putting strength into our nearest duties, and fulfilling Christian love to those nearest to us, that we get the power for the ministry beyond. Bear ripe good fruit within the wall, then — for then it will be possible, and the Husbandman will permit it — let some branches run over.
3. And it depends on our submission to the Divine culture of our piety. For Joseph was the fruitful bough — Joseph, of whom it was said "God made him fruitful in the land of his affliction." "Every branch in Me that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. "The fruitful branch is pruned closest, and if the shoots that stray over the enclosure are to bear grapes, some others must be nipped. Is not that blessed compensation (even were it all) for Christian suffering — more fruit to God and man? That is a price that must be paid for fruitfulness. "The vine that bears much fruit is proud to stoop with it; the palm stands upright in a realm of sand."
The archers shot at him, but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. —
II. The text not only gives the fact of Divine strength being bestowed, but also THE MANNER OF THE GIFT. What boldness of reverent familiarity there is in that symbol of the hands of God laid on the hand of the man. A true touch, as of hand to hand, conveys the grace. Nothing but contact will give us strength for conflict and for conquest. And the plain lesson, therefore, is — See to it that the contact is not broken by you. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)I. THE CRUEL ATTACK. "The archers have sorely grieved him." Joseph's enemies were archers. The original has it, "masters of the arrows," that is, men who were well skilled in the use of the arrow. Though all weapons are alike approved by the warrior in his thirst for blood, there seems something more cowardly in the attack of the archer, than in that of the swordsman. The swordsman plants himself near you, foot to foot, and let you defend yourself and deal your blows against him; but the archer stands at a distance, hides himself in ambuscade, and without you knowing it, the arrow comes whizzing through the air, and perhaps penetrates your heart. Just so are the enemies of God's people.
1. First, Joseph had to endure the archers of envy. When he was a boy, his father loved him. Therefore, his brethren hated him. Full often did they jeer at the youthful Joseph, when he retired to his prayers; when he was with them at a distance from his father's house, he was their drudge, their slave; the taunt, the jeer, did often wound his heart, and the young child endured much secret sorrow. Truly the archers sorely shot at him. And, my brethren, do you hope, if you are the Lord's Josephs, that you shall escape envy? I tell you, nay; that green-eyed monster envy lives in London as well as elsewhere, and he creeps into God's church, moreover. Oh! it is hardest of all to be envied by one's brethren.
2. But a worse trial than this was to overtake him. The archers of temptation shot at him. You know it is opportunity that makes a man criminal, and he had abundant opportunity; but importunity will drive most men astray. To be haunted day by day by solicitations of the softest kind — to be tempted hour by hour — oh! it needs a strength superangelic, a might more than human, a strength which only God can grant, for a young man thus to cleanse his way, and take heed thereto according to God's word. Truly the archers sorely grieved him and shot at him; but his bow abode in strength.
3. Then another host of archers assailed him: these were the archers of malicious calumny. Seeing that he would not yield to temptation, his mistress falsely accused him to her husband, and his lord, believing the voice of his wife, cast him into prison. There was poor Joseph. His character ruined in the eyes of man, and very likely looked upon with scorn even in the prison-house; base criminals went away from him as if they thought him viler than themselves, as if they were angels in comparison with him. Oh I it is no easy thing to feel your character gone, to think that you are slandered, that things are said of you that are untrue. Many a man's heart has been broken by this, when nothing else could make him yield. The archers sorely grieved him when he was so maligned, so slandered. Oh child of God, dost thou expect to escape these archers? Wilt thou never be slandered? Shalt thou never be calumniated? It is the lot of God's servants, in proportion to their zeal, to be evil spoken of.
II. We have seen these archers shoot their flights of arrows; we will now go up the hill a little, behind a rock, to look at the SHIELDED WARRIOR and see how his courage is while the archers have sorely grieved him. What is he doing? "His bow abideth in strength." Let us picture God's favourite. The archers are down below. There is a parapet of rock before him; now and then he looks over it to see what the archers are about, but generally he keeps behind. In heavenly security he is set upon a rock, careless of all below. Let us follow the track of the wild goat, and behold the warrior in his fastness.
1. First, we notice that he has a bow himself, for we read that "his bow abode in strength." He could have retaliated if he pleased, but he was very quiet and would not combat with them.
2. Mark well his quietness. His bow "abideth." It is not rattling, it is not always moving, but it abides, it is quite still; he takes no notice of the attack. The archers sorely grieved Joseph, but his bow was not turned against them, it abode in strength. He turned not his bow on them. He rested while they raged. Doth the moon stay herself to lecture every dog that bayeth her? Doth the lion turn aside to rend each cur that barketh at him? Do the stars cease to shine because the nightingales reprove them for their dimness? Doth the sun stop in its course because of the officious cloud which veils it? Or doth the river stay because the willow dippeth its leaves into its waters? Ah! no; God's universe moves on, and if men will oppose it, it heeds them not.
3. But we must not forget the next word: "His bow abode in strength." Though his bow was quiet, it was not because it was broken. Joseph's bow was like that of William the Conqueror, no man could bend it but Joseph himself; it abode "in strength." I see the warrior bending his bow, how with his mighty arms he pulls it down and draws the string to make it ready. His bow abode in strength; it did not snap, it did not start aside. His chastity was his bow, and he did not lose that; his faith was his bow, and that did not yield, it did not break; his courage was his bow, and that did not fail him; his character, his honesty was his bow; nor did he cast it away.
III. The third thing in our text is the SECRET STRENGTH. "The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob."
1. First, notice concerning his strength, that it was real strength. It says, "the arms of his hands," not his hands only. You know some people can do a great deal with their hands, but then it is often fictitious power; there is no might in the arm, there is no muscles, but of Joseph it is said, "the arms of his hands were made strong." It was real potency, true muscle, real sinew, real nerve. Oh ye foes of God, ye think God's people are despicable and powerless; but know that they have true strength from the omnipotence of their Father, a might substantial and divine. Your own shall melt away, and droop and die, like the snow upon the low mountain's top, when the sun shines upon it, it melteth into water; but our vigour shall abide like the snow on the summit of the Alps, undiminished for ages. It is real strength.
2. Then observe that the strength of God's Joseph is divine strength. His arms were made strong by God. Why does one of God's ministers preach the Gospel powerfully? Because God gives him assistance. Why does Joseph stand against temptation? Because God gives him aid. The strength of a Christian is divine strength.
3. Again: I would have you notice in the text in what a blessedly familiar way God gives this strength to Joseph. It says, "the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Thus it represents God as putting his hands on Joseph's hands, placing his arms on Joseph's arms. In old times, when every boy had to be trained up to archery, if his father were worth so many pounds a year, you might see the father putting his hands on his boy's hands and pulling the bow for him, saying, "There, my son, in this manner draw the bow." So the text represents God as putting His hand on the hand of Joseph, and laying His broad arm along the arm of His chosen child, that he might be made strong. Like as a father teaches his children, so the Lord teaches them that fear Him. He puts His arms upon them.
4. This strength was covenant strength, for it is said, "The arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Now, wherever you read of God of Jacob in the Bible, you may know that that respects God's covenant with Jacob. Covenant mercies, covenant grace, covenant promises, covenant blessings, covenant help, covenant everything — the Christian must receive if he would enter into heaven. Now, Christian, the archers have sorely grieved you, and shot at you, and wounded you; but your bow abides in strength, and the arms of your hands are made strong. But do you know, O believer, that you are like your Master in this?
IV. That is our fourth point — A GLORIOUS PARALLEL. "From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel," Jesus Christ was served just the same; the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, passed through similar trials; He was shot at by the archers, He was grieved and wounded, but His bow abode in strength; His arms were made strong by the God of Jacob, and now every blessing rests "upon the crown of the head of Him who was separated from His brethren."
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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