I wonder how many times in life when we feel tremendous frustration with what is happening, if we were somehow able to know what God was thinking and what His motives are in what is happening, we would be totally amazed. I was reading this morning in the last section of Genesis. It tells of the horrendous actions of Joseph’s brothers in their anger and frustration toward him, selling him to a band of traders who took him to Egypt and sold him as a slave. For the next fourteen years his life was filled with one tragedy after another. He was lied about, thrown into prison and in prison after doing a favor for a servant of Pharaoh was forgotten for two more years. Of course the time came when he was called to interpret Pharaohs dreams and was made into the Prime Minister of Egypt to prepare them for seven years of famine coming to the land. He was thirty when he became this leader in Egypt. There were seven years of plenty before the famine started. It was two years into the famine when Jacob, his father sent his brothers to Egypt to purchase food for the family. So, by this time, Joseph is 39. Events of all kinds would happen over the next year or so before he revealed himself to his brothers and had his whole family brought to Egypt to settle in the land of Goshen.
There was tremendous celebration when Jacob came to Egypt and God blessed him and his family there. Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years before he died and Joseph and his brothers carried him back to Canaan to bury him in the Cave of Machpelah. When the brothers all returned to Egypt, there was great worry on the part of Josephs brothers. They became very much afraid that now that Jacob was dead that Joseph would seek vengeance on them for what they had done forty years earlier in selling him as a slave. They came to bow before Joseph and gave him a made up letter from Jacob pleading for him to forgive his brothers for what they had done. It s a little like the student who writes their teacher a note as though it were from their parent pleading for mercy for their child.
Its at this point that one of the greatest statements of the Bible is found. it shouts a message to us about God and His work in our lives that goes far deeper than most of us would ever imagine. “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).
I wonder when Joseph realized that it was all part of God’s plan and that He was directing the events all through the years? Do you suppose he ever thought of such a thing during his days as a servant in Potiphar’s house? Would it have come to mind when everything was going great for his master and Potiphar put him over all his house? What about when his wife began to be drawn to Joseph and made advances toward him that he rejected and finally had to run away from? Would he have thought of such a thing when she lied about it and had him thrown into prison? Do you suppose he would ever have thought that God was working in the whole thing during those years in prison? I doubt the thought crossed his mind during those two years after he interpreted the servants dream and was forgotten. Truthfully, it is hard to imagine such a thought coming to him during the days of plenty when he was laying back goods for the day when the famine would come. Maybe he began to think of it during the days when his brothers came to get food and bowed before him without knowing who it was. But I suspect it didn’t become fully clear to him for some years after that.
It certainly shines out that God may well be working in things that go on in our lives when we have no idea that he is. He may be using things that seem absolutely horrible to us to prepare us for days ahead and opportunities He has before us. From our point of view it seems weird that God’s plan would take so long to be fulfilled and that it would lead through such difficult situations. But, if we are open to it, it is clear that God has always used challenging situations to prepare his people for opportunities ahead. Think of Moses being sent into the wilderness to take care of his father-in-laws sheep for forty years, preparing him to lead the Nation of Israel into the same desert area and stand on the same mountain to receive the Ten Commandment law.
it sincerely makes me wonder, how many of the circumstances that have taken place in my life that I complained about and felt hurt about, were really a part of God’s plan and that He was leading in a direction I couldn’t see.
It is worth remembering all the time that we are not in the place of God and that we seldom know where God may be leading or what tragedies lay ahead that he may be getting us ready to help his people deal with.
God, please help me to have the patience to wait and the wisdom to see your loving and guiding hand and to be ready to go where you want me to go and do whatever you call me to do. Through Jesus we pray. Amen.