Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Joseph and the Providence of God Gen 50:20

Within the sovereignty of God which carries the idea of independent autonomy lies the concept of God’s providence which sees God as providing continual care over His creation. Merrill Unger states of God’s providence: “That God could create the world and then forsake it is inconceivable in view of the perfection of God. Accordingly, in the power and wisdom and goodness of the Creator declared in the Scriptures, we have the pledge of constant divine care over all parts of His creation (The New Unger's Bible Dictionary). So it comes as no surprise that Joseph would claim in Gen 50:20 “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…”

To understand this concept properly we must look at the word “meant” translated ‘chashab’ which carries the idea of something that is interwoven. Now it would be a mistake to see God’s intent as being interwoven with that of man’s so that they struggle against each other to a particular outcome. Rather it is better viewed as the interweaving of “human events” by God the master weaver to obtain the outcome fitting to His purpose. This means the events of Joseph’s life, his family, all of Egypt, as well as the famine were woven as a tapestry for the expressed purpose of furthering God’s purposes on earth or “to preserve many people alive.” It is this preserving interweaving that is expressed by Isaiah in Isa 45:7 where he declares that it is God who causes “well-being” as well as “creating calamity.”

It would further be an error to take this concept too far concluding as the fatalist that all of life is predetermined so that man plays only a puppet roll. For the exercise of man’s will and their culpability is clearly demonstrated throughout the scripture. For instance Lot looked of his own will to “well watered plan of Jordan” (Gen 13:10), and it was Abraham who told Pharaoh and Abeimelech that Sarah was his sister (Gen 12:13; 20:2). In contrast to evil intent we also see Abram giving freely of his own will a tithe to Melchizedek (Gen 14:20). But we should not think these things happened outside the expressed desire or providence of an all mighty God who holds the hearts of men in His hand, turning them any way He chooses (Prov 21:1) which is clearly seen in Ex 14:8 where it is God who “hardens” Pharaoh’s heart; “for in Him we live and move and exist…” (Acts 17:28).

So that ultimately there is only one will, that being God’s and how He works His sovereign will and still allows for the free will of man is a mystery He has not chosen to reveal.

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