14 “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. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” 17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Behold, in my dream I was standing on the banks of the Nile. 18 Seven cows, plump and attractive, came up out of the Nile and fed in the reed grass. 19 Seven other cows came up after them, poor and very ugly and thin, such as I had never seen in all the land of Egypt. 20 And the thin, ugly cows ate up the first seven plump cows, 21 but when they had eaten them no one would have known that they had eaten them, for they were still as ugly as at the beginning. Then I awoke. 22 I also saw in my dream seven ears growing on one stalk, full and good. 23 Seven ears, withered, thin, and blighted by the east wind, sprouted after them, 24 and the thin ears swallowed up the seven good ears. And I told it to the magicians, but there was no one who could explain it to me.” (Genesis 41:14–24 (ESV)
It is easy to overlook the obvious. It is also easy to overlook the seemingly unimportant details of life and living. However, the obvious and apparently inconsequential details of our lives, and the lives of others, are often really significant.
Take today’s text for example. Moses wanted his readers to know in the Joseph narrative that “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 before Pharaoh.” Why did Moses, and ultimately the LORD, find it important to inform us that Joseph shaved and changed his clothes prior to meeting Pharaoh?
First, there was the cultural reason. Egyptians were known for their careful attention to personal cleanliness. This was particularly in contrast to the customs of the Hebrews. The Egyptians only allowed a man’s beard and hair to grow as a sign of mourning. This was also in contrast to the Hebrews, who shaved both beard and head as a sign of mourning (Isaiah 15:1-2).
Second, there was literary reason. Moses noted that every time Joseph life’s changed, there was a marked change in his clothing. Jacob gave Joseph a beautiful coat of many colors, but his brothers stripped it off him and used his garment to deceive his father (Gen. 37:23, 31–33). Additionally, Potiphar’s wife stripped Joseph’s garment off of him, and used his clothing to deceive her husband, who was Joseph’s master (Gen. 39:12, 16–18). When pharaoh summoned Joseph, the text notes that after he left the jail, he “changed his garments” (Gen. 41:14). Finally, Moses recorded that when the pharaoh invested Joseph with absolute authority over all Egypt, he gave him a garment of fine linen along with a golden collar of authority (Gen. 41:42).
Third, there is also a spiritual reason. The Scriptures speak of our salvation in Jesus Christ as receiving the imputed righteousness of Christ (Romans 3:21-26; 4:1-12). The image is of the believer in Christ clothed in the perfect righteousness of the Lord, thereby being acceptable to come into the presence of God the Father.
Zechariah 3:1-5 dramatically illustrates this truth. “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “God makes Joshua fit for the priesthood by giving him new, clean garments. This foreshadows the work of the coming Branch (vs.8) who will fulfill a priestly function and provide clothing of righteousness from His own merit (2 Cor. 5:21; Col.2:13-14).”
Joseph shaved and put on clean clothes to come into the presence of the Pharaoh, the Egyptian king. By grace alone, through faith alone, and in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone God clothes us in the Son’s perfect righteousness in order for every believer in Christ to come into His presence.
Take time today to read and mediate upon the following biblical passages which speak of our righteous garment of salvation (Job 29:14; Isaiah 11:1-5; 59:17; 61:10; Revelation 19:1-8). Have a blessed day in the LORD.
Soli deo Gloria!