Unlocking the Mystery of God’s Sovereignty
What Joseph’s Life Teaches Us About an All-Powerful God
Part 2: Principles We Can Apply
In Part 1, we noted seven principles evident in Joseph’s life that relate to the teaching that God is sovereign over, or in control of, all things. Now we will consider how these principles relate to us.
- We first stated that it was obvious God planned for Joseph to be promoted from slave and prisoner to national leader. Does He have a unique plan for every believer that He orchestrates to bring about a desired result? Believers, theologians among them, differ on whether God has a specific, unique plan for each of Christ’s followers. However, Scripture is clear on this point: God ordained that every believer “be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). This will happen in an ultimate sense in heaven; but in the meantime, God does use people and circumstances in believers’ lives to make them more like Jesus. Even more importantly, God uses His Holy Spirit and His Word to mold His people into the image of Christ.
- Second, we said God used evil intentions and even evil deeds to bring about His will in Joseph’s life. This is entirely consistent with what Paul wrote about all believers when he stated, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28).
- Third, we said that Joseph’s case, the journey was difficult for many, including Joseph; yet the end result was wonderful for many more. As Christians, we can expect difficulties in this life. Jesus said, “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). What about other people? Here we can cite Romans 8:28 once again—“all things work together for the good of those who love God.” As God works in the lives of those who love Him, it is reasonable to believe that other people also will be influenced positively in a variety of ways and to varying degrees as a result. Moreover, it seems safe to assume that if these individuals are open to the Lord, substantial good will result in their lives as well (see also 2 Pet. 3:9).
- Fourth, we stated that even though Joseph surely had questions relating to the injustices he had experienced (see Gen. 40:14-15), we see no evidence that God offered Him any explanations. This is God’s way, for He refuses to be accountable to any human entity, and rightly so (see Prov. 25:2). Also, just as Joseph’s faith grew through his difficulties, our faith can grow through ours (see James 1:2-4). We can be confident as well that just as God blessed Joseph for his faithfulness, he will bless us for ours—perhaps not always in the ways we would first imagine, but certainly in the ways that He deems best (see 1 Sam. 2:30b, Matt. 6:33).
- Fifth, we noted that Joseph was misunderstood and was falsely accused, yet he grew and matured through the hardship he experienced. His faith in God increased as well. In John 15:18-22, Jesus told His followers they would be hated because of their association with Him. Being misunderstood would necessarily be involved. Yet in light of various other verses we have cited already, we know that such circumstances provide opportunities for our faith to grow.
- Sixth, we observed that God could have intervened and brought about many of the results He wanted without Joseph’s help, but He chose to use Joseph and others in implementing His plan. As the plan unfolded, many who looked at Joseph’s life got to see the benefits of trusting and honoring the Lord, despite hardship. Isn’t this just what God wants to accomplish in believers’ lives today? Jesus told His followers in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
- Our seventh observation was that in Joseph’s life, God not only had the big picture in mind (that of meeting the needs of people and nations during a devastating famine), but He also had the bigger picture in mind as well (that of bringing His people to Egypt and allowing them to be oppressed for many years, then dramatically rescuing them from bondage and bringing them to the land He had promised Abraham). In acting as He did, God would point to His ultimate plan of rescue, that of freeing people from sin’s bondage through the death of His Son (see Exodus 12). Our circumstances will not parallel Joseph’s in the same specific ways, and we reside at an entirely different era, one in which grace has been fully revealed. Even so, the whole of Scripture strongly support the idea that God always keeps the big pictures in mind—whatever their specifics might be. This consistently contrasts to our limited understanding and insights. Just what are the big pictures in relation to us? God has told about at least two. First, He wants to use us to introduce other people to Christ (see Matt. 28:19-20). Second, as we have said, He wants to conform each of us as believers to Christ’s image. We need to cooperate with Him in these two all-important quests, trusting Him for every detail in and beyond our lives.
Joseph’s life reminds us, therefore, of God’s love, compassion, and intentional orchestration of circumstances to bring about His desired plan in the lives of one of His own. Our situations are different from those Joseph faced, but much does remain the same, including human nature, limited human insight, an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and loving God, and the Lord’s desire to use His people to bring glory to Himself. Among a host of other things, the true story of Joseph reminds us that we, like Joseph, can trust a loving and faithful God to do His will in our lives, even if and when our circumstances appear to be spiraling out of control (see Pss. 11; 46). The truth is, He’s in control, no matter what!
B. Nathaniel Sullivan
Christian educator, Bible teacher, and Editor
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in SundaySchoolZone.com materials are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.