The Eight Portraits of Joseph

Joseph, adored by his father, despised by his brothers, owned by his enemies, employed by a foreign king, then reunited with his family – it’s not about you.

Week 4 of It’s Not About You took us back into Genesis to study the life story of a man that mimics Jesus himself, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. The message today actually inspired two images, both requiring color in order to communicate properly. Instead of posting the concept drawings and notes I made during worship, I created a digital drawing of each image to translate what went on in my head.

8 Portraits of Joseph - watermarked

The Eight Portraits of Joseph

The core of Joseph’s life progresses through eight key stages, eight separate chapters of a life, eight portraits of a man.  As Ray was teaching us about each stage of Joseph’s life, I spent time contemplating on the emotional and physical environment where Joseph found himself, settling on a color to adequately represent that stage.

Portrait 1: The Favorite Son 

Portrait one is yellow; bright, warm and comforting. As Joseph’s story begins, he is the favored son by his father, Jacob (that’s Jacob that coerced his father, Issac, into giving him the birth rights due to his older brother, Esau. Yeah, that Jacob). Joseph’s in a pretty good place. As a sign of his esteem, Jacob has an elaborate coat made for Jacob, the garment we know as the “coat of many colors” (subtly alluded to in the overall image). All things considered, Joseph has it made.

Portrait 2: The Despised Brother

Portrait two is a drab, dark green; symbolizing discontent and envy. Joseph is not an only child. Naturally, his siblings do not appreciate the favoritism he’s receiving from their father, Jacob. The flashy coat was the last straw in a long line of offenses. With Judah instigating the deal, Joseph’s brothers devise a plan to remove him from the equation and earn their father’s favor by default. Joseph will be sold into slavery, his coat strategically torn and dipped in an animal’s blood, and the trail covered by explaining how Joseph was torn to shreds by wild animals to their father. The plan seemed impeccable.

Portrait 3: Enslaved

Portrait three is a drab, dark green; drab to make you taste the awkwardness experienced by Joseph’s brothers, green to symbolize the envy that awkwardness spawned. Judah and his brother’s observed a caravan of Ishmaelites passing through on their way to Egypt and chose to capitalize on an opportunity to get rid of Joseph without carrying the guilt that would follow murder. For twenty shekels of silver (about $228 USD in today’s conversion rate), life as Joseph knew it was over. He became legal property to a band of foreign traders. Jacob was destroyed at learning of the “death” of his beloved Joseph, to the wrath of wild animals, as his other sons re-told the scene.

Portrait 4: The Pure Servant

Through every stage of Joseph’s life, his constant was purity. Purity in body and in spirit in complete devotion to his God. Pure white, the universal symbol of purity, the fourth portrait of Joseph.

Upon reaching Egypt, Joseph’s ownership changed hands; the Ishmaelites sold him to the captain of the Pharaoh’s guards, Potiphar. Joseph, a hunk in modern vernacular, drew the eye of Potiphar’s wife. She immersed herself in the pursuit of Joseph’s body, taking control of a moment when her husband was absent to seduce the object of her lust. The scenario did not play out with Joseph becoming Mrs. Potipher’s Mr. Grey, like she had hoped. Joseph ran, as his master’s wife literally tore the clothes off his body! Enraged by the rejection she’d experienced, Potipher’s wife created a scene using Joseph’s clothes, accusing Joseph of attempting to rape her and condemning him to prison.

Portrait 5: The Slandered Prisoner

As a result of his devotion to purity, Joseph was imprisoned in, what I imagine as a dank, dirty environment. Dusty, blue-grey was the only color I imagined to represent the coldness Joseph must have felt in this chapter of his story.

Joseph’s life and legal status changes once again, he is now property of the Egyptian government, as an inmate. While serving his time, some of the pharaoh’s servants are imprisoned with him. Joseph brings out one of his innate big guns, and interprets the dreams of the two servants; a cup bearer and a baker. The dreams become reality, as Joseph predicted, and the cup bearer was restored to his position, beginning to create a path for Joseph into the royal court.

Portrait 6: The Celebrated Leader

Purple, the rarest, most expensive dye in Joseph’s culture; obtainable only by royalty. Now a member of the royal court, Joseph’s sixth portrait is purple, but not free of some subtle dark streaks to remind him of his past.

Despite being forgotten by the restored chief cup bearer, Joseph receives an opportunity to interpret a dream for the Pharaoh himself. His successful interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream earned him a get out of jail free card, straight into the Pharaoh’s employment, as governor over Egypt, no less. Distributing food in Egypt, during the seven-year famine predicted through Pharaoh’s dream by Joseph, becomes a responsibility of the governor and leads into the next portrait.

Portrait 7: The Brother Who Restores

The color for portrait seven didn’t come quite as easily as the others, how can a color represent the emotional release of restoration on its own? I thought further about what Joseph restored and the catalyst for its restoration. He restored his family through food distribution. Red and yellow are colors proven to inspire hunger (hence major fast food chains utilize them in the marketing designs), what color results from combining red and yellow? Orange. To represent the dirtiness of restoring a broken family, particularly this family, streaks of brown flood the orange hue.

As Joseph is distributing food in Egypt, familiar faces approach from the line of families praying for food; the faces of his brothers. Joseph is face with a choice, given his position. Feed the men who are his family by blood, or condemn the men to sold him into slavery and completely altered the course of his life to certain starvation by denying them the rations they wait for. His presence unbeknownst to his brothers, they approach and reach for their portion. Joseph stops them and accuses them of being foreign spies and locks them up for three days, despite their denial of any conspiracy. Joseph has a plan.

Portrait 8: The Reunited Son

Joseph’s story now comes full circle, back into the arms of his father Jacob along with the rest of his family. To symbolize this, the final portrait mirrors portrait one, the same warm yellow.

At the end of the three day stent in the Egyptian prison, Joseph reveals his identity and offers a deal to his brothers. Return home with enough food to feed their families, but leave the youngest brother behind. Confess to Jacob all that has happened and return for both members of their family.

These eight portraits of Joseph’s life are a foreshadowing of another’s, Jesus. From his rightful place at his father’s side, to despised by his brothers, sold into  captivity, brutalized despite his purity, justified his accusers by his mercy, and now back at the right hand of his father.

What else can we learn from Joseph’s ordeal besides the imagery predicting Jesus? God is sovereign, no matter your situation. We have a responsibility to perform the tasks God directs us toward, but his sovereignty follows the mission through to completion, even when we drop the ball. Judah was the instigator of Joseph’s plight. Jesus is a direct ancestor of Judah. Despite Judah’s envy and poor decision-making, God’s son was born out of his blood line. God’s sovereignty is balanced with our responsibility.

Sovereignty Balanced With Responsibility - watermarked

The background of this image is a deep, heavy blue which reflects the weight of our personal responsibility. Our success or failure at fulfilling our responsibility can bring us pleasure or it can result in pain. Judah’s irresponsibility brought with it pain; first for Joseph, then for himself. God’s sovereignty opened the doors for his ultimate mission, delivering the Messiah, to succeed through Judah despite his failure with Joseph. God’s providence is the only foundation we have for experiencing pain in life. As we learned during week one, God doesn’t owe us an explanation, even for our pain.

God’s sovereignty flows like a waterfall over our responsibility. The flow separates at the top of the image, curling back together as it splashes against the bottom of the page. Turning the image upside down reveals a heart shape forming over our responsibility. Further inspection of the heart reveals the updraft of the waterfall of sovereignty impedes on the center of the heart, breaking it in half. Like any good parent, it pains God when a child fails and must experience the consequences of their actions. With greater ability than any other parent, God’s sovereignty allows an ultimate goal to be accomplished through the consequential pain.


Here we are in the third week of It’s Not About You, a series where we’ve focused on popular stories in the Bible to clear up the lines that are often blurred  and expose that the story is not about us, it points to something bigger. Today obliterated an analogy I’m sure many of you have heard, and some have even used, comparing the story of David and Goliath to significant problems we face in life.

Before we delve into the arrogant narcissism hiding behind this comparison, let’s review this classic underdog story. Israel faced a stalemate in a war with the Philistines. The Philistines decided to propose a deal to end the conflict, allow the strongest warriors from each side to face off in a dual, the side whose warrior prevailed would earn ultimate victory. The Philistines nominated a borderline super-human named Goliath and waited for Israel to respond. David, a young shepherd who didn’t meet the minimum physical guidelines to join the army, delivered food to his brothers with an ulterior motive of bringing information of his brothers’ well being back to his father. While in the camp, David hears Goliath taunting the Israeli army and the Jewish God. Enraged by the insults slung at his God, David is compelled to act. He pushes through a wall of Israeli soldiers, denounces their cowardice for not standing up to this heathen, and demands King Saul allow him to represent his God and his country against the Philistine agitator. Refusing the typical armor and weaponry bestowed to a warrior, David entered the fight armed with a sling and a few smooth stones. With a flick of his wrist, David buries one of those stones deep into Goliath’s forehead, finishes the war by using Goliath’s own sword to behead him, then earns the right to marry King Saul’s daughter for securing Israel’s victory.

The plight of David and Goliath is often alluded to when someone faces an arduous situation or a daunting task. We imagine ourselves in the place of David, and label the oppressor our Goliath. We’ve completely misconstrued the imagery by doing this. Goliath is not an obstacle to overcome, he represents ultimate evil; in a sense, he is Satan. As much as your ego would like to think, you are not David. David is the one man who stands against evil to rescue his people, David represents Jesus. Last, the Israeli army is not everyone around you who is not strong enough to handle your situation. You are the coward, trusting in your own ability and retreating in the face of your opposition.

So what set David apart from the other, much more qualified soldiers that day? Passion. David’s passion for God, his dedication to reaching people and his vehement stand to face anyone who opposed his God. That was the secret to his success against Goliath.

Some of my favorite Hollywood quotes come from movies directed by Steven Nolan. Near the top of my list is a quote from Inception:

“What’s the world’s most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed, fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.”

David was infected by that parasite. I strive to let it sink deeper. An artist and mentor who worked closely with me to develop a visual ministry inspired me this way: “Don’t go out and try to set the world on fire. Set yourself on fire and see if it catches.”

Today’s drawing provided an excellent opportunity to play with a new computer drawing program I purchased for a logo design project. I love how it turned out!

Passion - David and Goliath - watermarked copy

The ominous black wave is Goliath, a fist forms from the crest and threatens to pound its target. This wave is evil, God’s ultimate enemy. A small, yellow wave retreats into the bottom right corner in trying to avoid the beating that approaches, appropriately represented in a cowardly yellow hue. This wave is the Israelite army in the story, us in modern  reality. A small spark of light splits off from the yellow wave, boldly standing between his people and ultimate evil. This was David that day for Israel, this is Jesus every day for us.

You are not David, but you can take a stand.