God is holy

Psalm 99, which is titled The LORD Our God is Holy, begins with a tribute to God’s exalted position in the world. Psalm 99:1-5 states:

The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
    He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
    he is exalted over all the peoples.
Let them praise your great and awesome name!
    Holy is he!
The King in his might loves justice.
    You have established equity;
you have executed justice
    and righteousness in Jacob.
Exalt the Lord our God;
    worship at his footstool!
    Holy is he!

The Hebrew word that is translated holy, qadowsh (kaw-dosheˊ) “is often used to refer to God as being inherently holy, sacred, and set apart (Psalm 22:3[4]; Isaiah 6:3; 57:15); and as being free from the attributes of fallen humanity (Hosea 11:9). Therefore, in the Old Testament, God is accorded the title ‘The Holy One of Israel’ (2 Kings 19:22; Psalm 78:41; Isaiah 17:7; Jeremiah 50:29). As such, God instructed that humanity should be holy because He is holy (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2)” (H6918).

God indicated that the way that people were to become holy was through consecration. He said to the Israelites, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45). On another occasion, God made it clear that all the people of Israel were to be holy (Leviticus 19:2) and later added that he is the one that sanctifies us (Leviticus 20:8). God said, “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:24).

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul explained the process that God established before the foundation of the world to make his chosen people holy. Paul said:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-10)

Paul continued his explanation using the analogy of a husband and wife’s relationship to each other to illustrate how sanctification works. Paul said:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:22-27)

The process of sanctification is focused on the unification of Christ with his church. Paul said that we need to submit ourselves to Christ, so that his word can make us holy. The Greek word that is translated sanctify in Ephesians 5:26, hagiazo (hag-ee-adˊ-zo) means “to make holy” and when “spoken of persons: to consecrate as being set apart of God and sent by Him for the performance of His will” (G37). Hagiazo is derived from the word hagios (hagˊ-ee-os) which is translated as both holy and saints throughout Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (1:1, 4, 13, 15, 18; 2:19, 21; 3:5, 8, 18; 4:12, 30; 5:3, 27; 6:18). When the word saints is used in the New Testament, it is referring to someone that has been purified and sanctified by the influences of the Holy Spirit. “This is assumed of all who profess the Christian name” (G40).

The term saints is also used in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word qadowsh (kaw-dosheˊ) which is usually translated holy is translated saints in Deuteronomy 33:3 in the King James Version of the Bible. Qadowsh is also translated as saints or holy ones in Psalm 16:3, 34:9 and 89:5, as well as in several books of prophecy (Daniel 8:13, Hosea 11:12, Zechariah 14:5) and in the book of Job (5:1; 15:15). Zechariah’s prophecy of the coming Day of the LORD seems to link together both the Old and New Testament saints and the unification of Christ with his church. Zechariah proclaimed:

Behold, the day of the Lord is coming,
And your spoil will be divided in your midst.
For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem;
The city shall be taken,
The houses rifled,
And the women ravished.
Half of the city shall go into captivity,
But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

Then the Lord will go forth
And fight against those nations,
As He fights in the day of battle.
And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives,
Which faces Jerusalem on the east.
And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two,
From east to west,
Making a very large valley;
Half of the mountain shall move toward the north
And half of it toward the south.

Then you shall flee through My mountain valley,
For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal.
Yes, you shall flee
As you fled from the earthquake
In the days of Uzziah king of Judah.

Thus the Lord my God will come,
And all the saints with You.

It shall come to pass in that day
That there will be no light;
The lights will diminish.
It shall be one day
Which is known to the Lord—
Neither day nor night.
But at evening time it shall happen
That it will be light.

And in that day it shall be
That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem,
Half of them toward the eastern sea
And half of them toward the western sea;
In both summer and winter it shall occur.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
In that day it shall be—
“The Lord is one,” And His name one. (Zechariah 14:1-9, NKJV)

Zechariah’s vision indicated that the LORD would come to the earth “And all the saints” with him (Zechariah 14:5). This is what is referred to in the Bible as the second coming of Christ, the appointed time when he will return to the earth and will reign over the entire world. The period of time in between Christ’s first and second coming is sometimes referred to as the Church Age, a period of time when the Gentiles will gain equality with the Jews and will enter God’s kingdom on the same basis, by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Paul talked about the Jews and Gentiles becoming one in Christ in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul said:

And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the same household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17-22).

Paul used the Greek word hagios (hagˊ-ee-os) to refer to both “the saints” and the “holy” temple that was being built together into a dwelling place for God (Ephesians 2:19, 21). The Greek word that is translated are being built together, sunoikodomeo (soon-oy-kod-om-ehˊ-o) means “to construct, i.e. (passive) to compose (in company with other Christians, figurative)” (G4925). Sunoikodomeo is derived from the words sun (soon) which denotes a union “i.e. by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition etc.” (G4862) and oikodomeo (oy-kod-om-ehˊ-o). Figuratively, oikodomeo means “to build up, establish, confirm. Spoken of the Christian Church and its members who are thus compared to a building, a temple of God, erected upon the one and only foundation, Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Colossians 3:9, 10) and ever built up progressively and unceasingly more and more from the foundation” (G3618).

The Greek word oikodomeo is sometimes translated as edify and is related to the word oikodome (oy-kod-om-ayˊ) which means “architecture that is (concretely) a structure” (G3619). Oikodome is usually translated as edifying or edification and was used by Paul to describe the process that the Church is going through in order to reach maturity and unification with Christ. Paul talked about this process in his letter to the Ephesians under the topic of unity in the Body of Christ. Paul said:

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

Edification may be a type of joint sanctification in which each member of the Body of Christ that is continually being added contributes to the collective state of the whole. Hebrews 12:12-14 indicates that holiness is the final state of the Church and a necessary condition for the Lord’s return. It states, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” The Greek word that is translated holiness, hagiasmos (hag-ee-as-mosˊ) is derived from the word hagiazo (hag-ee-adˊ-zo) which means to make holy (G37) and refers to the resultant state of the process of sanctification (G38).

The book of Leviticus teaches us that holiness is a state that can be transferred between things and people. The opposite of holiness is to be defiled which resulted from coming in contact with something that was unholy or profane. Leviticus 21:7 and 22:1-3 indicate that a woman whose virginity had been violated entered a state of defilement (H2491) and was cut off from the LORD’s presence. Numbers 5:1-3 states that anyone that was defiled had to be put outside the camp, “that they may not defile their camp” because the LORD resided there. In the same way that something or someone could become defiled; things and people could be made holy by coming in contact with something that had been consecrated to the LORD. Exodus 29:36-37 states, “Also you shall purify the altar, when you make atonement for it, and shall anoint it to consecrate it. Seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it, and the altar shall be most holy. Whatever touches the altar shall become holy.”

In addition to the altar, the sanctuary of the tabernacle, all the utensils that were used for sacrifices, the priests, and even the priests’ garments were considered to be holy things (Exodus 30:29; Leviticus 6:18, 27). The transfer of holiness from one object to another was connected with physical touch, but the Hebrew word that is translated touch, naga (naw-gahˊ) is sometimes used figuratively in the sense of emotional involvement and also sexual contact with another person (H5060) suggesting that the physical contact might have something to do with intimacy. Jesus often touched the people that he healed and on at least one occasion had physical contact with a man who had leprosy, a condition that defiled a person (Leviticus 13:3). Matthew tells us that when Jesus “came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord if you will, you can make me clean. And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8:1-3). The Greek word that is translated touched in Matthew 8:3, haptomai (hapˊ-tom-ahee) is properly translated as “to attach oneself to” (G680). Haptomai, used figuratively, means “to have sexual intercourse” (1 Corinthians 7:1), so the sense of intimacy seems to apply to the circumstance of Jesus healing the leper.

Isaiah’s vision of God’s throne room validates Jesus’ inherent holiness. Isaiah wrote:

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:1-3)

Isaiah referred to Jesus as the “Holy One” and said of him, “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called” (Isaiah 54:5).

“God’s presence is what makes any place, anything, or anyone holy (Exodus 3:5)” (H6944). One of the distinct characteristics of the Israelites’ camp while they were traveling to the Promised Land was that the Lord was dwelling in their midst (Numbers 5:3). Numbers 7:89 states, “And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak to the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.”

Moses’ interaction with the LORD involved a type of emotional involvement that might be considered to be intimacy or attaching oneself to another person. It says in Exodus 33:11 that God spoke “to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” and in Exodus 34:29 it states, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.” The rays of light that were coming from Moses’ face bare a resemblance to the description that Matthew gave of Jesus’ transfiguration. Matthew recorded, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him” (Matthew 17:1-3).

The Greek word that is translated transfigured in Matthew 17:2, metamorphoo (met-am-or-foˊ-o) appears to be related to the process of sanctification. Metamorphoo is derived from the words meta (met-ahˊ) which denotes accompaniment (G3326) and morphoo (mor-foˊ-o) “to fashion.” “Morphoo refers, not to the external and transient, but to the inward and real; it is used in Galatians 4:19, expressing the necessity of a change in character and conduct to correspond with inward spiritual condition, so that there may be moral conformity to Christ” (G3445). Paul used the word metamorphoo in his second letter to the Corinthians in connection with the veil that Moses put over his face to cover the light that shone from it (2 Corinthians 3:12-16; Exodus 34:33-35). Paul said, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (metamorphoo) into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Paul expanded on his discussion of transformation in his letter to the Romans. Paul wrote:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

According to Paul, the renewal of the mind was the key to sanctification. Paul said that we are not to be “conformed to this world” but transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). The Greek word that is translated renewal, anakainosis (an-ak-ahˊ-ee-no-sis) stresses “the continual operation of the indwelling Spirit of God” (G342) which is commonly referred to as the Holy Spirit or hagios (hagˊ-ee-os) pnuema (pnyooˊ-mah) in the Greek.

Transformation

One of the most clear indicators that God is involved in a situation is that the timing is perfect. That’s why it seems strange that Joseph remained in prison for two whole years (Genesis 41:1) after he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer. Genesis 40:23 states that the chief cupbearer “did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Joseph’s interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream didn’t seem to have any impact on him. Even though Joseph predicted the exact day (Genesis 40:13) that the chief cupbearer would be released from prison, the cupbearer ignored Joseph’s desperate plea for help (Genesis 40:14).

It seems likely that the two years Joseph remained in prison after he had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s officers was a period of time that God used to transform his inner character. Genesis 41:1 indicates that two whole years passed before anything else happened in Joseph’s life. The Hebrew word that is translated whole, yowm (yome) usually refers to complete cycles or measured periods of time like 24 hours (1 day) or 365 days (1 year) (H3117). The first biblical occurrences of yowm are found in Genesis 1:15-31 which indicates that God completed his cycles of creation in six 24 hour time periods. Genesis 1:15 states, “and the evening and the morning were the first day” .

The reason why two whole years passed after Joseph interpreted the chief baker and cupbearer’s dreams may have been because that was how long it took God to transform Joseph into a new person. The Apostle Paul described the process of transformation that occurs in believers as the renewing of the mind. Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

The Greek word Paul used that is translated transformed, metamorphoo (met-am-or-fo’-o) means to change into another form, to undergo a complete change and the present continuous tense of this verb indicates a process” (G3339). Metamorphoo is used in Matthew 17:2 to refer to Jesus’ transfiguration. It says, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2). The transformation of Jesus’ outward appearance may have been intended to show his disciples that his glorified state wasn’t the result of being crucified and resurrected.

Unlike human transformation, Jesus’ transfiguration was not a process that had to be completed. John’s gospel indicates that Jesus was in a glorified state before the world existed (John 17:5). Apparently, what happened when Jesus was transfigured was that his glorified state was manifested or you might say revealed to his disciples Peter, James, and John. The physical change in Jesus’ appearance was likely just an outward expression of an internal adjustment that caused his deity to temporarily eclipse the physical constraints of his body. One way of describing what happened might be that Jesus’ glorified state burst through the physical constraint of his body and was able to be detected by the visual perception of his three disciples.

Jesus referred to his transfiguration as a vision and commanded his disciples to “tell no one the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). The Greek word horama (hor’-am’ah) means “something gazed at” (G3705) and is comparable to the word optomai (op’-tom-ahee) which means “to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable)” (G3700). Dreams and visions such as the one that Jesus’ disciples had of his transfiguration may be related to one another in that they both tap into the spiritual realm where the past, present, and future seem to coexist. The dreams that Joseph had at the age of 17 connected him to a future that was very different from his current reality, but they instilled in him a belief that the events of his dream would one day take place.

Joseph had been a slave in Egypt for approximately eleven years and likely a prisoner in the king’s prison for much of that time when two men in his custody each had a dream the same night that caused them to be stirred up inside (Genesis 40:5-6). God may have used the dreams of Pharaoh’s officers to remind Joseph of his own dreams and to focus his attention on what what going on in the world outside his prison. After the chief baker and cupbearer were taken from the prison, Joseph was left to contemplate his own future for two whole years.

The human mind is intended to make meaning of things and when left to its own devices can be a very powerful weapon in Satan’s hands. During the two years that Joseph remained in prison, he may have experienced doubt and confusion and wondered why God had allowed him to suffer for so long. Joseph told the chief cupbearer, “I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit” (Genesis 40:15). The pit where Joseph was imprisoned was a dungeon, a large hole in the ground that was probably used for storing water before it became a prison. The Hebrew word that is translated pit in Genesis 40:15, bor (bore) is also used in Genesis 37:20 to describe the pit that Joseph’s brothers cast him into before they sold him into slavery. The similarity between these two places where Joseph lost his freedom may have caused him to think of both his imprisonment and being sold into slavery as one long, continuous cycle of unpleasant change.

The thing that Joseph never seemed to lose sight of that likely led to the transformation of his inner being, was the knowledge that God was in control of his circumstances. The Apostle Paul identified the source of personal transformation as renewing the mind. The Greek word anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis) refers to “the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life; and stresses the willing response on the part of the believer” (G342). Joseph demonstrated an adjustment to the mind of God by being loyal to Potipher and refusing to sleep with his master’s wife (Genesis 39:8-9). Joseph was concerned about the well-being of Pharaoh’s officers (Genesis 40:7) and asked the cupbearer to be merciful to him after he was freed from prison (Genesis 40:14) rather than demanding that he be repaid for interpreting the chief cupbearer’s dream. Perhaps, the greatest testimony to Joseph’s willingness to do things God’s way was his hard work and responsible behavior in spite of being a slave in Egypt.

Genesis 41:1-8 indicates that after two whole years had passed, Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him and his magicians and wise men were unable to interpret the dreams. “Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.’ Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit” (Genesis 41:9-13).

Psalm 40:1-3 may reflect what was going through Joseph’s mind when he was released from prison. It states:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

The phrase waited patiently “stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude…a forward look with assurance” (H6960). Waiting patiently for God to do something usually involves the discipline of silence and a restraint from activity. It seems that Joseph’s transformation was a direct result of him doing nothing other than continuing to expect that God would one day deliver him from prison.

The Apostle Paul described the process of spiritual transformation as putting off your old self and putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Similar to changing the clothes that we wear, spiritual transformation or what Paul referred to as sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), is an intentional effort to change the way we appear to others. The old self which is characterized by dulled spiritual perception (G4457) has to be replaced by a new self that is under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who directs its bent and energies Godward in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (G365).

When Jesus was transfigured, a bright cloud overshadowed his disciples, “and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him'” (Matthew 17:5). God’s reference to Jesus as his beloved Son was meant to convey the special relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father. It could be that Jesus’ transfiguration had something to do with the close connection he had established with God through intimate prayer. God said that he was “well pleased” with Jesus even before he had completed his assignment of dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The Greek word that is translated well pleased, eudokeo (yoo-dok-eh’) stresses “the willingness and freedom of an intention or resolve regarding what is good” (G2106).

One way of looking at eudokeo is to see it as a commitment that cannot not be broken. God being well pleased with Jesus meant that he would not change his opinion of his beloved Son regardless of the circumstances that might effect his viewpoint. Jesus’ assignment of bearing the burden of sin changed the way he appeared to his Father, but God was just as well pleased with Jesus after he was scarred and broken by the weight of sin and human depravity as he was before. Jesus’ transfiguration was evidence that his eternal state and status with God had already been secured before he died on the cross and was resurrected.

God instructed Jesus’ disciples to “listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). The Greek words akouo (ak-oo’-o) and autos (ow-tos’) mean more than just tuning into what someone is saying. It implies that there is a spiritual aspect to what is being said and a need for spiritual discernment to make sense of the message. Many of the things Jesus told his disciples didn’t make sense to them at first. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that the disciples realized Jesus was going to establish his kingdom on earth by means of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of believers, revealing and confirming the truths of God’s word (Matthew 16:18). Paul described this capability as “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).

Joseph demonstrated spiritual enlightenment when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer (Genesis 40:12-13, 18-19). As a result of his correct interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and asked to interpret two dreams that caused him to be troubled in his spirit (Genesis 41:8). Pharaoh’s astrologers and wise men were unable to interpret his dreams because of their unregenerate condition. The only way the dreams’ meaning could be deciphered was to open them up or you might say to unlock the truth that was contained within them.

Joseph’s preparation for the task of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams was likely the long period of silence he endured after successfully interpreting the dreams of the chief baker and cupbearer. Two whole years of nothing happening while Joseph waited patiently for the LORD to deliver him from the pit may have been a type of spiritual exercise that strengthened Joseph’s faith and helped him to understand things from God’s perspective. Psalm 40:4-5 states, “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” The Hebrew word that is translated makes, siym (seem) has to do with the act of placing something in a permanent or secure location. In the context of making the LORD our trust, siym means to invite the Lord into our heart or to be saved.

Joseph’s inner transformation was followed by an external transformation that began when he was summoned from his prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Genesis 41:14 states, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.” “Egyptians were normally smooth-shaven, while Palestinians wore beards” (note on Genesis 41:14, KJSB). This seems to suggest that Joseph was required to conform to Egyptian customs in order to speak to the king of Egypt, but it could be that Joseph voluntarily changed his appearance so that he wouldn’t offend Pharaoh out of respect for his position.

Pharaoh greeted Joseph with the statement, “‘I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (Genesis 41:15). Joseph could have taken credit for his interpretation of the cupbearer and baker’s dreams, but instead he let Pharaoh know that God was communicating with him. Joseph said, “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16). The Hebrew term that is translated favorable, shalom (shaw-lome’) means peace and “signifies a state in which one can feel at ease, comfortable with someone. The relationship is one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war” (H7965). Joseph spoke these words before he had even heard Pharaoh’s dream, suggesting that God had already been talking to Joseph about the message he was going to relay to Pharaoh.

After Pharaoh told him his two dreams, Joseph said, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (Genesis 41:25). Pharaoh’s dreams contained information about the future, but he wasn’t able to utilize the information because of his unregenerate state. Paul described this condition as the futility of the mind (Ephesians 4:17). The Greek word mataios (mat’-ah-yos) “denotes communication that is devoid of force, truth, success, result; it is useless, of no purpose” (G3152). Nous (nooce), which is translated mind in Ephesians 4:17, means the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining” (G3563). Contrasted with Pharaoh’s dulled spiritual perception, Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret the dreams and provide guidance about how to utilize the information (Genesis 41:28-36) made him an extremely valuable resource to the king of Egypt.

Joseph’s plan to store up grain during seven years of abundant crops and then, distribute the grain during the seven years of famine that would follow may sound like he was just using common sense, but Pharaoh’s response showed that he could never have devised such a plan on his own. “Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God'” (Genesis 41:38). Pharaoh’s reference to God’s Spirit being in Joseph was a unique distinction. Before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit didn’t dwell inside believers. Essentially, what Pharaoh was saying was that Joseph’s knowledge and understanding of God was so close to his actual character that what he was saying sounded like it was coming directly from the mouth of God. In other words, during the thirteen years Joseph had suffered as a slave, he had been transformed into the image of God.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the thrown will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” This he set him over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-43)

Joseph’s mental acuity was recognized by Pharaoh as a divine gift from God. The fact that Pharaoh made him second in command, showed that Joseph was not only discerning and wise, but also a loyal servant that could be trusted with a great deal of responsibility.

A different form

Perhaps, the most remarkable thing that happened during Jesus’ three-year ministry was his transfiguration. Only three of Jesus’ disciples were allowed to witness this amazing event. Following his disclosure to his disciples that he would suffer many things and be killed and on the third day be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21), Matthew tells us Jesus took Peter, James and John “and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart” (Matthew 17:1). The private place he took these men to may have been somewhere Jesus went to on a regular basis. After Jesus had fed the five thousand and sent his disciples away in a ship, Matthew tells us, “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was alone there” (Matthew 14:23). It could be that on this particular occasion Jesus didn’t want to leave Peter, James and John alone. They were most likely disheartened by the reminder that Jesus would soon be killed and needed this beneficial experience of seeing the end result of Jesus’ death and resurrection to get them over their discouragement.

Matthew’s description of his transfiguration indicated that Jesus became like a shining star, “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Since Matthew wasn’t present at the time, it is likely his description of the transfiguration was based on his interpretation of what he heard Jesus looked like. Luke said of Jesus’ transfiguration that “the fashion of his countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29), meaning literally, Jesus became a different person. A deeper understanding of the words used by Matthew and Luke to describe what happened to Jesus show that the change that took place was an inward and real change of Jesus’ character and likely had nothing to do with his physical appearance. The root word morphe (mor-fay’) has to do with the nature or essence of a person, “not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exists (3444). From this standpoint, it appears that when Jesus was transfigured, he took on or was given a different identity.

An interesting aspect of Jesus’ transfiguration is recorded in Matthew 17:5 where it says, “a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” As if there might have been some confusion as to who he was at this point, his Father made it clear that Jesus was still the same person he was when he was baptized (Matthew 3:17), the Son of God. In other words, Jesus didn’t or wouldn’t become God at some point in time. Jesus was and always would be God’s son. From this standpoint, you could say that when Jesus was transfigured, he took on or was given a different nature, not identity, meaning he changed from who he was in the form of a man into who he was in the form of God. An example of this is water turning into steam or ice. It still has the same chemical makeup, but looks completely different. Another way of looking at it would be a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. They are one and the same creature, but look nothing like each other.