Summary: Genesis 50:15-21. A look at how the purposes of God are revealed in the life of Joseph through divine providence.
LESSONS FROM THE LIVES OF THE PATRIARCHS
GENESIS PART 2 | PATRIARCHAL HISTORY
JOSEPH: A MAN OF PURPOSE
What do you think of when you hear the word “purpose”? Most of us probably think of either doing something “on purpose” or purposely, or living life with purpose; in other words, living with vision, goals, or meaning. Those are, of course, acceptable understandings of purpose. But I want to suggest to us today that Joseph was a man of a different kind of purpose. Joseph was a man of purpose in the sense that he was used to accomplish God’s purposes in this world.
We see the purposes or plans of God being worked out in Joseph’s life through what we call providence. The simple way to explain God’s providence is to say that it refers to God’s preserving and governing all things by means of either primary or secondary causes. So either directly or indirectly God causes all things to exist and continue to exist and also controls all of those existing things.
A more complex definition of providence, but one that helps us grasp things a bit better I think, comes from Wayne Grudem: Providence means that God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.
So providence assumes that God is the supreme Creator of all things. And as Creator he prevents the universe from going into non-existence, he guides and directs all of his creation, and he does so in order to accomplish his purposes in every given situation.
The story is told of a missionary who was passing out copies of the Gospel of John in the Central provinces of India. One man took the Gospel of John and the missionary was excited as the man open it to read it. But when he realized it was Christian literature, he tore it into pieces and threw it on the ground. Another man shortly came by that same place and picked up a piece of the torn paper to see what it was. He read these words in his own language, “…the bread of life…”
He did not know what it meant and he asked some of his friends if they knew the meaning of this phrase. One friend told him, “I can tell you that these are words from the Christian Book. You must not read it or you will be defiled.” The man thought to himself, “A phrase as beautiful as this cannot defile.” So he bought a copy of the New Testament and read it until he found the statement, “I am the bread of life.”
Which means he opened the New Testament and read through Matthew, Mark, and Luke until he came to John 6. As he read and studied the passage, the light of the God’s Word flooded his heart and he trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior. And according to this story, that same man became a preacher of the Gospel in the central provinces of India. That’s providence.
Paul Harvey, the famous American radio broadcaster said this: Providence is God acting anonymously. That is the perfect way to describe providence from the human vantage point. Things happen all the time that make the world what it is and the way it is; God is in control of all of that without making his hand directly seen. Those unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge God’s rule would call it coincidence.