No, not the Shakespeare play, but God’s providence, working all things together for good!

Dave spoke this morning from Genesis 37:12-36. We often question God, wondering what is happening in our lives and how good can come from the suffering and confusion that seem to dog us so often. The providence of God is ably illustrated in the story of Jacob and Joseph, however. In this chapter, we see how man’s schemings ultimately are woven into the tapestry being created by God.

Jacob, the ultimate con-man, the schemer, the one who was never happier than when he was plotting to retain control over his life, is sent spiralling into deep sorrow by the plottings of his sons, who sell Joseph into slavery. Jacob thinks his beloved son is dead. He has already suffered, facing sibling rivalry with Esau and then the schemings of his uncle, Laban. His sorrow at the death of his beloved wife, Rachael, is as nothing compared to his sorrow when he thinks Joseph has been killed by wild animals. His obvious favouritism of Joseph over his sons by his unloved wife, Leah, has caused deep rifts in the family, rifts that have not been helped by Joseph’s arrogant teenage boastings. Nonetheless, the problems faced by both Jacob and Joseph could not hide the fact that they were God’s sovereign vessels, chosen by God for special work. Over the years, God works through evil and the flaws in their characters to bring His glorious purposes to pass.

The family tensions in this story run high: a pitiful, self-recriminating father; a boasting teenage son with little thought for his older brothers; selfish older brothers whose jealousy and resentment spill over into differing plots (to kill, hide, and eventually sell Joseph into slavery.) The ‘sore spots’ in these lives are exposed by God and then used by Him to achieve His purposes. Jacob had great plans for Joseph, but God had even greater plans for him which necessitated removing Joseph from Jacob for twenty-two years – long, suffering, grieving years for Jacob, but years when God’s providence was being worked out invisibly so that only God could get the ultimate glory.

God wants us to take our hands off the controls and let Him have control of our lives. What He has promised us, He will fulfil (see Hab 2:3), even though we may have to wait for this fulfilment. (“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”) We have to be prepared to leave it to God, to ‘let go and let God’. Ultimately, what mattered through the long years of captivity, arrests, imprisonments and being forgotten by those who had promised to help him was that the Lord was with Joseph (Gen 39:2). At the end of the story, Joseph can see that what his brothers meant for evil was turned into good by God (Gen 50:20). God can work in the most dysfunctional families and the least auspicious situations to bring His plans to pass (see Romans 5:8). What matters to us in the waiting periods is that God is with us, and we know He will work all things together for good.