It’s hard to relax and trust a plan if you don’t trust the person who made it. We once got suckered by the promise of a healing week in Denver that cost too much money and left us with more pain. We should have done more research.
Today’s plan is one that’s been around since time began and is backed by the God of the Universe. But it’s sometimes hidden inside suffering, and many turn away, not trusting its worth.
It takes the eyes of faith to find it, a soft heart to receive it, and everything we’ve got to hang onto it.
Joseph has been sold by his brothers as a slave to a band of traders heading to Egypt. Though arrogant and naive, he doesn’t deserve their treatment. Once there, he’s bought by Potiphar, a prominent official, and is entrusted to manage his household until he’s falsely accused by the Mrs and put in prison. There, he interprets the dreams of Pharoah’s cupbearer and baker and asks them to remember him to Pharoah, though they promptly forget, Ge 39-40.
But God remembers Joseph. He’s been suffering since the day he finds his brothers and their betrayal. Little does he know that God has divine plans for him and his suffering, ones that include his own humbling, healing, and saving.
He couldn’t guess that God has even bigger plans than these, ones that include saving everyone in the land from famine including his own family. Or that beyond these is God’s overarching plan to work through Joseph to preserve his people as a nation and bring salvation through One who would come from them to save the entire world.
It’s mind boggling to contemplate all that God had in mind when he let ten grown brothers become greedy bad guys who sell their own flesh and blood, Ge 37:18-28. This is not how I would begin the story of salvation if I were writing it. I would find good guys to depend on to bring about my grand plans. I’d find the ones most committed and godly and give them the promises of presence and blessing and their becoming a land-possessing nation.
But this is not the way God’s been writing it, and really, his story began at creation. Adam and Eve and their sin against him sparked his promise of redemption–the offspring who would crush Satan’s head through them, Ge 3:15. God’s been bringing about his plan to save man ever since.
Bringing life out of death and goodness from badness and beauty from ashes is what God does best. We see his power to take a lost soul and mark him “found,” to turn him around, to make him sound. We get a glimpse of God’s glory when we see him do what cannot be done by anyone else.
Each of the main characters thus far in the Genesis story have had trials in learning who God is and being in relationship with him. Most of them have limped along at best, believing and failing to believe, passing along a rag-tag sort of trust in a faithful God who forgives and suffers them for love.
And then there’s Joseph, who’s a cut above.
Though the cupbearer and baker forget Joseph, God hasn’t. And Joseph hasn’t forgotten God. All those hours bound on the way to Egypt, all those months in service as a slave in someone else’s house, all those years in jail responsible for other prisoners…those would have added up to just the kind of time it would take for Joseph to develop a life of faith and trust, Ge 40:23.
He had nothing else to sustain him in Egypt–no family, no friends, no home, no freedom, no education, no nation. There’s nothing like suffering to drive us crazy or to the Comforter. Given Joseph’s success everywhere he’s placed, I’m guessing he went to God quite a bit. He’s dependable and righteous, not bitter and hopeless as you’d expect. And he’s got a gift for finding meaning in dreams. The incident with Potiphar’s wife is telling, and so is his dream interpreting, Ge 39:3, 21-23; 40:8-23.
Joseph’s character has been forged by meeting God in his suffering. It would take a man walking closely with God to say “no” to the flesh when propositioned and to say “yes” to the Spirit so that hidden things, like dreams, have meaning. It would take humility to suffer well and to forgive a family who doesn’t love him, and then turn around and do good for them. It would take faith to trust that God is good and is in control when so many circumstances are against him, Ge 39:2-5, 7-10; 20-23; 41:16; 45:4-8
God’s hand is in the grand plan as well as the details. Consider that Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers and a man just happens to come along while he’s wandering in a field to ask him what he’s looking for. Joseph, a young man of 17, just happens to ask him for directions (shocker). And this man just happened to overhear his brothers say where they’re headed, Ge 37:15-17.
Brother Reuben suggests an empty cistern (rather than murder) as revenge, one that just happens to be right beside them. The traveling caravan just happens to come along when Judah’s greed overtakes his desire for blood, and they sell Joseph instead, Ge 37:21-27.
Joseph just happens to be sold to Potiphar where he’s well treated and trusted until his wife gets lusty. Joseph just happens to be mercifully imprisoned rather than killed. The cup bearer and baker just happen to lose favor with Pharoah soon after Joseph arrives and just happen to be put where Joseph is in charge and just happen to have dreams the same night that he interprets that just happen to come true, Ge 39:1-20; 40:1-22. Whew.
The cupbearer just happens to remember Joseph just in time to interpret Pharoah’s dream that just happens to come before a national famine. Pharoah just happens to like Joseph so well he puts him in charge of everything in Egypt, second only to him. His brothers come to buy grain in Egypt and of all the towns where grain is stored, they just happen to come where Joseph is so that he sees them, 41:9-44; 42:5-7.
When he reveals who he is to his brothers, Joseph says, “…it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then it was not you who sent me here, but God,” Ge 45:5-8. By refusing bitterness and embracing God’s sovereignty in his situation, Joseph brought God’s healing love to his family rather than revenge.
God’s grand, long range plans can’t be hindered by what people do or don’t do, whether good or bad. God is in control, not man, even of the seemingly insignificant things. All roads eventually lead to what God has in mind for all people at the end of time: judgment and eternal blessing or cursing.
There is comfort here that works deep. God is sovereign over all people, events, choices, powers, and plans. He wants–even commands–our obedience to him, but he’s not hindered by the poor choices of foolish people to bring about what he intends–the salvation of everyone who repents and believes him. This is consoling when our nation is rocking and rolling over elections and viruses and masking etiquette. “Jesus reigns” is a refrain that brings my pulse down and my praise up.
Joseph’s misfortune becomes the door to a closer communion with God that blesses and equips him for what’s ahead. Ours can do the same for us. God’s word never feels as real as when I’m afraid or in pain. Trouble can deepen our faith and trust. I’m grateful that I can’t mess up God’s good plans for me or for anyone else.
Joseph’s trouble blessed him. It also came…
…so that thousands of lives were saved from famine, Ge 41:56,
…so that his family was brought from Canaan and its pagan temptations to Egypt, Ge 45:16-18,
..so that the Jewish nation would be left alone by their new Egyptian neighbors rather than intermarried with (Egyptians hated Hebrews so much, they refused to eat with them), Ge 43:32 (http://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/genesis-43/).
…so that one day God would lead them out and take them back to Canaan (renamed Israel), Ex 12:40-41,
…so that one day, a woman named Mary would give birth to a Son, Lk 2:16,
…so that one day, all nations would be blessed by Jesus’ life, forgiven by his death, and saved by his rising, and that includes you and me, Gal 3:8; Ps 72:17; Jn 3:16.
God has a plan, and it has always been for good, for love, for life, forever, for us.
For a story about suffering as a door of hope, see https://iwantmore.blog/2020/12/05/december-5/.
Jesus tells a parable about why he doesn’t go ahead and pull the “weeds” the enemy sows next to the “wheat” Jesus sows. Weeds are “the sons of the evil one,” who don’t know him and don’t want him. Wheat are “the sons of the kingdom,” his followers. He says that pulling the weeds might disturb the wheat, so to leave them growing together, v 29-30, 38.
At the “end of the age,” angels will weed out “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” and throw them into the fire to be burned, “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But the righteous will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father,” v 40-43.
Then he teaches about God’s kingdom:
–It’s the tiny seed that becomes the largest tree “so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches,” v 31-32.
–It’s the yeast that works all through the dough, bringing rising life to every place, v 33.
–It’s the hidden treasure a man finds in a field and joyfully sells all he has to buy, v 44.
–It’s the pearl of great price a man sells everything he has for, v 45-46.
God’s kingdom starts as a small seed that grows and fills the earth with good. It’s more valuable than anything else we can find, and it brings the greatest joy. It’s worth whatever it costs to have as our own. Those who belong in it will be bright like sunshine. Those who don’t, won’t. Jesus is patient about weeding out evil, but eventually, judgment will come.
What if God’s kingdom is not our greatest joy? What if it’s not our most valued possession? It’s a treasure to find. Keep seeking God in his word and in prayer. Jesus promises that those who seek will find, Mt 7:8.
David’s been persecuted and hunted by his enemies. When he was delivered from all of them, including Saul, he sings Psalm 18 to God, (NIV Study Bible note). In it, he builds a tower of reasons why he loves God in the first two verses.
He says, “I love you, O Lord…
Then he says, “I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” God doesn’t just give him a fortress, he gives David the direct 911 line to the throne room. God answers and saves him from the “snares of death” and distress, v 3-6.
And last, David describes how God answers his call, when he “parted the heavens and came down,”
–with smoke from his nostrils and fire from his mouth,
–with earthquaking and mountains shaking,
–with dark clouds under his feet,
–with riding the cherubim and soaring on the wind,
–with dark rains clouds around him,
–with hail and lightning and his thunderous voice resounding,
–with shooting arrows and scattering enemies.
It must have been glorious. This is the same God who watches over us, who offers the tower and the call to him in our distress, who even allows us to say hurry up! Ps 38:22.
My take away today is this God is my God, who orders my life and attends to my call, who gives me the kingdom in exchange for my all.
“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”