Genesis 45:4-8 (ESV) So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed 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 yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 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.
My personal experience with God’s gracious and transforming work of the gospel at the age of 20 really set the course of how I would read and interpret the Bible.
I was somewhere I probably should not have been with goals that were less than honorable doing a task I had no business doing. Yet, there I was. I was not looking for God, but I sure looked like I was. Thankfully, God had completely different plans.
I heard, for the first time, the message of the cross of Jesus, his justifying work for sinners, his reign in his kingdom, his power to take sinners from death to life, darkness to light, and rebellion to mission.
Previously, I wouldn’t say there was no gospel. It was a syncretized gospel that included Jesus but also has become better understood, according to, Christian Smith, as moralistic, therapeutic, deism. And let me be clear, I’m not blaming anyone for that. It was/is the air I currently breathe in the spiritual environment where I live and was raised. It is what makes ministry hard in the south. Without careful and intentional parsing of ideas and thoughts, one can syncretize faith in Jesus with a hundred other things and end up with some Frankenstein spirituality that wears a Jesus t-shirt.
God miraculously saved me without asking me, without me inviting him to save me, and I am so glad he did. I didn’t even believe or know I needed saving. If he hadn’t done that, I’d be lost still.
That’s kind of my point in that excursion of part of my story. Sinners aren’t looking for God. When God met me in that sermon about the cross, it set me to reading the Bible (another story in itself), and pondering on how God could override my thing and bring his thing to me and do so with a string of events that I was not even aware would lead to that moment.
How can God have people plan an event, have that particular preacher of God’s word be invited and accept the invitation, that person prepare that particular sermon, I decide to attend something I really likely never would attend and for purposes that were less than holy, and have me sitting there at that exact moment for that exact message and pull off a miraculous transformation that would then shape the rest of my life? My goodness!
I mean, would I have educationally made the decisions I made after this encounter with God? Likely not. I’d likely ended up in the Marine Corp and in the first Desert Storm. Would I have met Jennifer? Would I have Gabriel, John Mark, and Daniel? Would TRC be a reality? I mean, my goodness.
All that because of that glorious intersection of God’s gospel of the kingdom with this sinner. I write this with tears of joy in my eyes. How glorious is God!?
That story of God’s grace has caused my eyes to be keenly aware of the good and even dark providences of God in the Bible and in my own life. Joseph encountered a dark providence that had woven in it glorious and gracious good providences.
The hell that man had to go through to get to the place of second in command in Egypt is mind numbing, and it stirs old hurts in this boy as I write because my growing up was by no means Joseph’s but it carried its share of hell, and I virtually hated childhood and hated people who made it like it was.
But there is God working and weaving an eternal plan for good to come out of awful things on earth.
Joseph said three times in Genesis 45:4-8 that God sent him there. That’s the inspired author, not me. We want to argue with his words and find some reason to dismiss them. To reconcile how God can mean Joseph’s brother’s evil to be meant for their own rescue blows my mind. I don’t have the vocabulary on this side of the new creation to express what fires off in my brain with this truth. The best I have is that I absolutely adore it!
Perhaps if your path was not as ragged as other’s paths, the good providence of God and the mysterious passages about God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility cause you to trip up. Let me just encourage you to not trip on them. Just enjoy them. For many of us, these passages help us to climb out of despair and onto the solid rock of God’s good love for us when it didn’t feel like he was even real.
God was gracious to get me from childhood hell to that place where he gloriously raised me to life that I could never imagine that I could have. Simply stated, I won’t argue with him, I’ll just receive it by faith.
As you read your bible, try not to push back in your soul when you read things that seem to conflict with thoughts and feelings, and views. Let the Scripture sit on you, let them burn, let them scrub, let them heal, let them be a salve to hurt, let them have their good effect, and don’t try to run from any of it. To run is to run from God. God is graciously hunting us down for good. Be caught in his good grip of grace and delight in his power and might for the good of his people. Enjoy the lengths he’ll go to in order to see that we arrive completed on that glorious day even if it is through the valley of the shadow of death, for there we never have to fear evil, for God is with us.
Philippians 1:6 (ESV) And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.