Sunday, March 16, 2014

"The Providence of God ..."

Day #79:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - March 17th

Scripture Reading:  Genesis 44 - 47 ...

There are many things that can be learned in the true life story of Joseph and his brothers.  It would make a great movie.  It is a story of contrasts:  of jealousy and hatred, and mercy and forgiveness.  It is a story of intrigue and surprise, along with a beautiful reunion.  There are personal "angles" to the story everywhere.  But behind it all there is one continuing theme:  the providence of God in accomplishing His purpose through the choices of people and the circumstances of nature and the world around us.  Only God is powerful enough and wise enough to bring all the pieces together to produce the picture He desires.  He did it then ... He is doing it now.

Joseph had a gift from God.  It wasn't just his ability to interpret dreams, which he attributed to God, but it was his steady trust in the providence of God to bring good out of evil.  When sold into slavery by his brothers, he served the Lord in Potiphar's house and the Lord blessed him.  When unjustly accused and thrown in prison, he served the Lord in prison and the Lord blessed him.  And when his brothers appeared before him, he understood the purpose of God in all that had happened up to that time.

He said to his brothers, "Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. ... 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!"  (45:5-8).

Joseph's response could have been so different, but the Spirit of the Lord was clearly at work in him and he saw things from God's perspective, not from a purely human perspective.  This is the gift that God gives to those who know Him.  Through His Word God reveals His providence, His guidance over the events of mankind.  NOTHING happens by chance.  When people make evil choices in their sinful state, God is able to overrule them and to bring about good for those who trust Him.  How could we not think of Romans 8:28:  "And WE (believers) know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to HIS purpose."

Knowing this truth, believers can endure trials with hope, trusting God to work things out in unexpected ways.  Joseph wanted to see if his brothers were truly sorry for what they had done, so he gave them the opportunity to abandon Benjamin as they had abandoned him.  But instead, Judah volunteered to become a slave in Benjamin's place (44:33).  Their love for their father and their love for their brother moved Joseph to tears and he revealed himself to his brothers and told them to go back to Canaan and bring their father and their families to Egypt.

Imagine Jacob's astonishment when he heard the news that Joseph was alive!!  God said to Israel (Jacob): "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there and I will surely bring you back again.  And Joseph's own hand will close your eyes" (46:4).  Remember God's promises to Abraham that He would make of him a great nation and that He would give to Abraham's descendants the land of Canaan.  (Note:  Where are the descendants of Abraham living TODAY??).  Same God ... same promises ... same people ... same providence.

Of course, there was MORE going on than what we see in Genesis.  Remember God's prediction in Genesis 15:13 that Abraham's descendants would be slaves in a foreign land for 400 years, and then God would bring them back?  That's Exodus ... God would use all of this to provide the perfect picture of the sacrifice of His own Son to deliver ALL who believe from our slavery to sin and the judgment we deserve.

When we are tempted to lose heart, to believe all is lost, to get discouraged, to be overwhelmed by life's trials, we need to remember the providence of our God, who directs the affairs of men to accomplish His eternal purposes.  As God had a remnant in the days of Joseph and his brothers, so God has a remnant today.  As God kept His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so God keeps His promises today.  Every promise God ever made is "YES, and AMEN in Christ Jesus!"  (II Corinthians 1:20).

Joseph didn't understand all that God was doing, any more than you and I do, but he trusted God.  Those who lived by faith, who are listed in Hebrews 11, did not understand all that God was doing, but they trusted the God who had shown Himself faithful.  May we be found doing the same!

"Oh Lord our God, the Holy One of Israel, Your wisdom and power are displayed in Your providence over the events in our lives and in the world.  Open our eyes to see Your hand and to live by faith in Your good purposes for us.  As part of Your remnant today, remind us often of Your promises and give us grace to live with hope in YOU!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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