Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Am I in the place of God?

I stumbled upon some beautiful and magnificent words from Joseph at the end of the book of Genesis.

The question posed in my title is from Genesis 50:19. Joseph, his 10 older brothers, and extended family have just returned from a long and very emotional burial/memorial of their father Jacob. As anyone who has lost a important family member knows, these can often be very stressful times--questions over inheritance, questions over guilt and vindication of past wrongs, and many other uncertainties arise. It's very messy.

If you are familiar with the story of Joseph (if not it, is a wonderful read), Joseph is now second in command of the most powerful nation on earth, at that time, Egypt. He got there by numerous "misfortunes"; worst of all was the hateful betrayal of his brothers who sold him into slavery and pretended to their father that he had been eaten by wild beasts. Talk about drama! This is far worse than betrayal's my coworkers dwell upon when watching the Murray and Springer shows! It's just evil.

And his brother's know it! They come groveling before their younger brother, begging for forgiveness in the name of their dead father.

But now at the time of opportunity to have revenge, Joseph speaks simple but profound view of his life and his God. ""Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.(Gen 50:19-21)"

Most of the world would see such evil and encourage Joseph to some kind of retribution against his brothers. At least hold a grudge. The best counselors of the world may advise Joseph to work through his pain and eventually come to the conclusion that he is better then them and rose above his circumstances. His brothers would be either booed with great disdain or told they should learn to forgive themselves.

But Joseph sees himself humbly and takes his horrible circumstances as a planned gift from God. How could he not freely forgive? Although he is second in command over the known world, he is not God. How could he see himself above his circumstances or bitter to them? God, in absolute sovereign control, designed the brothers to wickedly betray him and sell him as a slave. It was not God's delight to have them sin against him but to bring out good by it--tremendous good! Thousands, perhaps millions, of people were saved from the destructive famine to come! His own family was preserved alive. How could he not humbly submit to this good God who allowed his brother's evil desires to bring about this salvation?

The problem of pain and suffering, evil and circumstance is met with a simple response in the form of Joseph's question: Am I God?

Who can argue with his humble question? It is beautiful theology...beautiful logic...beautiful truth.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I think this is the best you've written yet, not because your other stuff isn't good, but just because this was simple and basic truth. Just what my heart needed this afternoon.

I love you!