The Lord declared in Isaiah 55:8:
8″For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
9″For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
In a psalm of praise, David recorded in Psalm 145:
17The LORD is righteous in all His ways
And kind in all His deeds.
What we gather from these two verses are two important aspects of God. One, His purposes and works toward His determined ends greatly exceeds our rationales. Two, all that He does is righteous and kind. It is when we experience trials and great suffering that we sometimes question God and His righteousness and kindness. May the Scriptures prove to be our comfort.
Continuing my journey though the Scriptures, I was greatly encouraged by the account of Joseph. Again, the grace of God was abundant through the working of the Holy Spirit by allowing me to see and ponder things that are particularly relevant to things going on in my life now.
Genesis 37:18-28 records the cruel treatment of Joseph’s jealous brothers selling him to the Ishamaelites for 20 shekels of silver. These Ishamaelites would later take Joseph to Egypt where he would be purchased by Potiphar of Pharoah’s house. Very early in Genesis 39, we learn, “2The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. 3Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand. 4So Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.”
Despite being a victim of sibling evil, being separated from his natural family which were the covenant people of God, being far from home, and his position as a slave among pagan people, Joseph was not angry at the Lord. Though Joseph’s circumstances were hard and were vastly different, his faith in the immutable God never waivered. The Scriptures tell us that in the hard times the Lord was with Joseph and blessed Joseph’s work, which led to him becoming the overseer of Potiphar’s house.
To add to this multi-layered trial, Joseph was repeatedly tested sexually by Potiphar’s wife with very strong advances. (Genesis 39:7-13) Illicit sex and other forms of lusts of the flesh are often crouching at the door when we go through trials. We are fools to think that sinning relieves life’s pressures or exacts revenge if we blame God for our trials, as if He were acting malicious toward us. However, notice Joseph’s reply to her advances, “8But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. 9″There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
The foundation of Joseph’s refusal was his loyalty to God. Joseph had a theocentric perspective! Had he not had this perspective, consider how damaging his witness could have been in the sight of the Egyptians. Consider how the LORD’s name could’ve been blasphemed. Consider the practical implications had he given in to Potiphar’s wife’s advances. Proverbs 6 says, “27Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? 28Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? 29So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.”
As an act of revenge, Potiphar’s wife, a rejected woman, accuses Joseph of attempted rape. This act of slanderous revenge lands Joseph in prison, but Genesis 39:21 tells us, “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.” What grace from God!
As we have learned, the Lord was with Joseph, extended kindness to him and caused him to prosper under the hand of Pharoah to the extent that Joseph became second in command in Egypt. Faced with a God wrought famine, as the Lord revealed to Joseph the interpretation of Pharoah’s dreams, Joseph devised a plan that would prevent starvation in Egypt and surrounding lands. (Genesis 41:1-49)
Having been hit by the famine in Canaan, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Unbeknownst to the brothers, they are reverently beseeching Joseph for grain, thus fulfilling Joseph’s dream. After a series of testings and blessings, Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. (Genesis 45). Imagine how his brothers must’ve felt seeing Joseph alive and well. Imagine the guilt and shame they were feeling at that moment. But notice the disposition of Joseph’s heart toward his brothers. He was gracious and merciful. Also, notice Joseph’s words describing the events of his life.
3Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. 4Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5″Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6″For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7″God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.”
Verse 5 tells us that it was God who sent Joseph, through the evil treachery of his brothers, to Egypt to preserve life. Verse 7 tells us it was God who sent Joseph through this same evil to preserve a remnant in the earth, to keep alive by a great deliverance. Later, in Genesis 50, Joseph again reassures and comforts his brothers guilt by saying:
20″As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
We must never lose sight of the fact that for the believer, God is working all things, including acts of sin, to a good and glorious end. Consider the death of Christ. As we see here, God ordained Joseph’s situation for the preservation of the remnant of Israel remembering His covenant with His Son in eternity past, spoken to Abraham in Genesis 12.
Are you in a trial now? Don’t doubt the Lord’s arrangement of it, presence in it and purpose behind it. As we see from this account trials:
- Are designed to cause us to rely on and demonstrate the grace of God.
- Are designed to cause us to grow in and reflect the glory of God.
- Are designed to bring forth the good will of God in our lives and the lives of others.
- Are designed to demonstrate the glory of God to unbelievers.
Also, when we go though trials, by God’s grace, let’s demonstrate the integrity that Joseph did so we will not blaspheme the name of God; but rather emit His fragrance of life and be a blessing to those around us for His glory.
Grace & Peace,