Our Unforgettable God.
Genesis 45-46, Matthew 23
And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 45:5-8 ESV
I love this passage. In it we have one of the most clear, real-life illustrations of the sovereignty of God. Through the life of Joseph we are given a glimpse into the sometimes unseen and incomprehensible ways of God when it comes to the lives of men. For Joseph, it had become clear that God was behind all that had happened in his life. To his brothers, it was all a mystery. They knew nothing of Joseph’s life since the day they had sold him into slavery, and they were oblivious to God’s larger plan for them and their father’s household. But despite their ignorance of God’s ways, He was still at work.
What does this passage reveal about God?
Joseph gave God the credit over and over again. He clearly saw the hand of God controlling and directing His life, from start to finish. He saw his position as second-in-command over all of Egypt as God’s doing, not a result of his own talent or hard work. He told his brothers, “God has made me lord of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:9 ESV).
“God sent me before you to preserve life…” – vs 5
“God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors…” – vs 7
“So it was not you who sent me here, but God…” – vs 8
“God has made me lord of all Egypt…” – vs 9
It was all God’s doing. What an incredible outlook to have on life. What a refreshing perspective to have on the things that take place to us and all around us as we live on this planet. Joseph knew that God had been at work behind the scenes every step of the way in his life. And God would assure Jacob that all that happened had been for a greater purpose. “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (Genesis 46:3-4 ESV). God wanted Jacob to trust Him. There was much that Jacob did not know, but he could lean on the fact that God was knowledgeable of ALL things. He was in complete control of all situations and circumstances. There had been a reason behind Joseph’s sudden disappearance and years of painful absence. There had been a reason for the famine. There was a perfectly good explanation for the need for Jacob and his entire family to relocate to the land of Egypt. And while Jacob had been ignorant of much of the explanation behind these events, he now knew that his God could be trusted.
But the story does not end there. Moses records that when Jacob and his family arrived in the land of Egypt, there were only 70 of them. This small fact would prove significant to the rest of the story. The warm welcome by and generosity of Pharaoh would also prove an important factor in all that would happen next. God was at work. He was once again orchestrating events and individuals in such a way so that everything could take place just as He had planned.
What does this passage reveal about man?
There are those who have learned to see God’s hand in all the circumstances of life. Over time, they have developed the capacity to look for God’s involvement in even the worst of situations. They live by the perspective that God is all-seeing and all-knowing. There is nothing that escapes His sight. He is never asleep and never caught off guard by the events of life – either good or bad. They live by the words of the psalmist: “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:3-4 ESV). Those individuals don’t just know about the doctrine of the sovereignty of God, they believe in it and live their lives according to it.
But there are those who live as if God is not there. They view the circumstances of their lives as if they are somehow out of God’s control and He is out of touch with what is going on in the world. When bad things happen, their view of God seems to be that either He is unaware of what is going on or He simply doesn’t care. But the prophet Isaiah reminds us: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear” (Isaiah 59:1 ESV). Difficulties in our lives do not prove the weakness of God, but simply expose our lack of faith. A life lived without an awareness of God’s sovereignty results in a life lived with self as god. One of the greatest illustrations of this is provided by Jesus in chapter 23 of the gospel of Matthew. Here Jesus gives His seven woes against the Scribes and Pharisees – the religious elite of His day. They had made themselves the authorities of their day, living according to their own set of standards, rather than in keeping with God’s commands. They had become hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another. They had no fear of God in their lives. Claiming to be experts in the law of Moses and knowledgeable of God’s Word, they were blind to all that God had said and all that He was doing in and around them. They even failed to recognize the very one for whom they had been waiting for generations. Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, but they failed to see Him for who He claimed to be. Rather than recognize Jesus as the Christ, they simply viewed Him as competition. They had no place for the sovereign hand of God in their lives. They were too busy playing god themselves.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
I need to develop a healthy awareness of God’s activity in and around my life. A cognitive understanding of God’s sovereignty is of little use if I don’t put it into practice each and every day of my life. I must learn to look for the hand of God in the everyday affairs of life. Sometimes His activity will be a mystery to me, hidden from view. It’s at those times I must trust. I must recall the stories of Joseph and remember the moments in my own life when He was there even though I was unaware. They say hindsight is 20-20. Looking back is a wonderful practice for the believer. It pays to periodically reflect on our lives and look for those moments where God showed up. I’m sure Joseph had plenty of opportunities while sitting in Pharaoh’s palace to look back on all the events of his life and see God’s sovereign, all-powerful hand at work all along the way. Just prior to the people of God entering into the Promised Land, Moses gave them a series of warnings. He knew what was about to happen and he also knew what they were going to be prone to do: Forget God. So he told them, “when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Deuteronomy 8:12-14, 17-18 ESV). As God’s people, our lives are in God’s hands. And we should never forget it.
Father, forgive me for the many times when I fail to see Your hand at work in and around my life. So often, I forget what You have done time and time again in my life. I tend to take credit for what You have done. I dismiss Your work and mistakenly assume that I am in charge of my life. But You are the sovereign God of the universe. My plans can never trump Yours. Help me to have the perspective that Joseph had. May I increasingly learn to see You actively at work in my life, promoting Your plan to perfection. Amen.