Intended for Good (Part One)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

We come to the climax of our study about God’s providence in the life of Joseph son of Jacob. Through many twists and turns, God planned the events of Joseph’s life for the Lord’s goals in the great story of his glory in Jesus Christ. It is this section that provides God’s viewpoint on all that has happened.

We should approach this with more than a casual interest. It is one thing to say that God intended good in the events of Joseph’s life. It is quite another to make that same affirmation about our own lives. The way to begin is not to hope for or to wait for some crisis in our lives, and then to hope that we will see that God is working for our good. Instead, we must see God involved in our lives today, and every day and night. Wise military commanders prepare their troops for battle before they ever enter into harm’s way. God’s instruction about his story prepares us to serve him in all circumstances of life.

The account begins with the brothers’ misinformed plan (50:15-18). People, especially men, have the tendency to approach problems as “the fixer”. We listen to someone’s difficult situation for a couple minutes, and then spout out solutions to fix the other person or their circumstances. We try this with ourselves constantly by seeking advice from supposed experts or reading self-help books or surfing the internet. This approach is a recipe for disaster, and it could have made things much worse between Joseph and his brothers. Let’s think through their proposed solution.

  • It arose from uncertainty in their hearts: “what if.” They were trapped in guilt producing fear sequence. Guilt so awakens fear that a person will not feel secure. Cain became ruled by guilt and fear after he murdered his brother (Genesis 4:13-14). Joseph’s brothers lacked insight about Joseph’s character. Godly people are often misunderstood. The Lord Jesus was misunderstood by his family, Paul by the Corinthians, and David by his wife Michal.
  • It showed a mixture of worldly-wisdom and spiritual wisdom. They hid behind their father’s coat tails. They told a doubtful scenario from our perspective, but it might have happened. Did Jacob know about the sin of the ten against Joseph? Did they mislead Joseph that Jacob did? Would Jacob doubt Joseph’s intentions? The brothers took advantage of the grieving process, when a tender heart would be even more sensitive to an appeal like this. They did ask for forgiveness. Perhaps they should have used a better approach, but they did attempt to correct their problem.
  • It was presented in an inexact way. We have the advantage of possessing the Scriptures, and so we should do better. They spoke through a messenger instead of personally. Fear, rather than love was controlling their hearts. The brothers appealed to Joseph with a legal attitude: “we are your slaves.” Compare the lost son in the parable (Luke 15). They wouldn’t claim the relationship that was theirs. How do you approach God after you have sinned? Do you attempt to pay your way back into his favor, or do you ask for cleansing because of Christ’s atonement? Christians don’t make light of their sin, but they exalt the preciousness of the blood of Christ. The brothers’ plan to fix their relationship caused Joseph more hurt. While he could be glad about their repentance, their distrust of him after years of kindness would hurt (50:17).

Are you in need of restoring a relationship with someone? Are you tempted to follow worldly wisdom to find a fix to the situation? Make a fresh start by seeking the Lord in prayer. Call upon him in your trouble. He can act in the hearts of all involved (you and the other person or people). Humble yourself in prayer, asking him to act by his powerful grace and love.

Grace and peace, David

A Sad Decline

20150710_1657532 Chronicles 16:1-6

So far in this series of articles, we have seen Asa’s faith in and zeal for the Lord. In the first two thirds of his reign, he was able to accomplish much for the cause of God and truth. But in the final part of his life, the wheels seemed to fall off, spiritually seeking. Yes, he would be honored and esteemed by his people at the end. But the Holy Spirit presents his spiritual problems to us. The Bible never hides the sins and flaws of the people of God. It always shows humankind for what we are: people in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy. We ought to remember the perspective of the NTS on what is written in the OTS (1 Corinthians 10:11-13; Romans 15:4). These words are for our benefit. They are to teach us as we live in our part of the story of God’s glory in Jesus Christ. May we listen with responsive hearts!

First, we should see that expedient policy guided Asa in his decline (16:1-6). I use “expedient” in the sense of contributing to advantage or interest, as opposed to right. Asa decided to pursue a course of action that made political and military sense, instead of doing what was right before God. The point is not how terrible Asa was to act this way. The point is for you and me to look at our decisions in the light of God’s word and to evaluate whether we pursue what is right or what is merely expedient.

A crisis developed for Judah (16:1). The king of Israel had a plan to oppress Judah. Such events are common for nations in this fallen world. Greed is more than an individual sin. It controls whole people groups, who long for what others possess. You can trace political evil and war back to greed (James 4:1-2). Eliminate human greed and you end war. (In other words you won’t end war by peace conferences, resolutions, and a lot of handshakes among world leaders.) The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Ancient writers dated events in various ways. Though it might seem strange to our western minds, evidently the writer of Chronicles was dating this event from the time of the division of Israel and not from the start of Asa’s reign. Since they lacked an agreed on system of dating, the ancients would do this type of thing at times.

The action of Baasha, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, was a clear threat to the well-being of its sister kingdom, Judah. Here is a sad situation. One group of God’s people was trying to harm the other. But Asa missed the way at this point. It was an opportunity for diplomacy, not for political intrigue. Asa started to act according to worldly ways rather than according to God’s Word. Overall, he was still loyal to the Lord (cf. 15:17). But his mind began to seek so-called wisdom that was contrary to what he claimed to believe. He also decided to act contrary to his own experience of God’s ability to deliver his people (cf. 14:12-13). Always remember the ways that the Lord has helped you in the past.

Asa’s thinking shifted from being God-centered, and so he made his own plans (16:2-3). Consider the course he turns to (cf. Henry):

  • He sought an alliance with an ungodly king and nation. This tore down the wall of separation that God had erected in the law covenant to keep Israel devoted to him (cf. Ephesians 2:11-14).
  • He weakened the other nation (Israel), which was at least publicly was part of God’s people. This would lessen God’s honor among the nations. It was a great change from the height of Solomon’s reign.
  • He paid for alliance out of the money stored up for the worship of the Lord. This weakened his country spiritually. He misused resources for political purposes that were set aside for God’s honor.
  • He set in motion an attitude of independence from the Lord. Instead of relying on what God could do for his people, he set an example of solving problems from fleshly wisdom. This is hard to eradicate from the way people think.

Asa achieved apparent success by his worldly policy. Israel was weakened in the north and had to shift its attention to combat the Arameans that had conquered several of its towns. This gave Asa the opportunity to strengthen his defenses. Instead of Ramah being a thorn in Judah’s side, the strong points he built would prove troublesome to Israel. Though worldly wisdom might apparently “work”, it brings in other destructive tendencies that weaken the worship of God and the faith of God’s people. Let us learn from Asa’s mistakes.

Grace and peace, David