Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…

Devotion in Genesis

Our Bible reading this week includes Genesis 44-47. This incorporates the story of Joseph but there is much for us to learn about God and us. In this section of Scripture we see one of the clearest teachings in the Bible when it comes to the harmony of God's divine sovereignty over all things and man's responsibility from his freedom of the will.

So here is how one can understand this from the story of Joseph and what happens to him via his brothers.

These are what are known as “Compatibilist” Texts
This means two things that need to be brought together in convergence.

One is the sovereign control of God, He is ordaining, He is determining, He is causing to bring about certain things but that sovereign ordination of God doesn’t cancel out human free action and responsibility.

Instead that sovereign action of God is compatible with and doesn’t happen separate from responsible human action.

So these two things are compatible – Divine Sovereignty and Free Human Responsibility

Genesis 45:4-8
You remember the story, there was seven years of plenty and seven years of famine.
So when the brothers went down to Egypt to buy food the one that they appeared before was in fact there brother Joseph.
The brothers sold Joseph as a slave hoping that he would have a painful death.
They had no idea that he was promoted, God had given him those dreams, and now he was second in command in all of Egypt.

Then in Genesis 45 Joseph decides to reveal his true identity to his brothers.
“Then Joseph said to his brothers, . . . ‘I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.

Question – is this true?
Did his brothers sell him into Egypt?

Yes indeed they did, they plotted it and carried it out and did exactly what they wanted to do.

First of all they wanted to kill him but Reuben was there and kept them from doing that, but when the caravan came along they decided that was better because they could make some money and also be sure he would have a painful death as a slave.

Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you
sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life . . .

Now stop and think, notice is does not say this “don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me into Egypt for God took what you did and turned it into good.”

Instead it says that God sent me, this is the language of past tense or past action to indicate what God did and what they did. The brothers selling Joseph into Egypt was God’s sending Joseph into Egypt. It was not using what they did for some good purpose.

Now here is the question – when you have two activities that converge in bringing about what happens:
The brothers selling Joseph into Egypt
God sending him to Egypt

Now the question is would one of the two actions be more ultimate or primary? Or does one of the two weigh in heavier than the other in explaining what happens.

7 God sent me (notice who gets dropped out of the equation all together in this verse – the brothers are no longer mentioned because God’s purpose is fulfilled in what they did)
before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. (It looks like a stronger weight given to God’s action than the brothers)

8 Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; (This verifies what we thought in verse 7 that God has the ultimate action here) and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.’”

In an ultimate sense what happened to Joseph can’t be explained by what happened according to your jealousy and anger and vengeful action toward Joseph in selling him into Egypt.

Basically what this means is that the brothers carried out God’s ordained will.

God sent Joseph through the brothers selling him.

Question: If that is the case then on judgment day can the brothers of Joseph hold up this passage from Genesis 45 and say “we can’t be held accountable for this because we didn’t send Joseph but it was God and therefore we are off the hook.”

Is that going to work? Answer - No way

And the reason we know this is because in Genesis 50 when Jacob dies and the brothers are left with Joseph they are worried because the father is gone so what is Joseph now going to do with them?

So they plead with him to forgive them and Joseph responds “you meant it for evil but God meant it for good.”

It is very clear that God’s sending Joseph to Egypt through the brothers selling Joseph to Egypt does not in any way absolve them of responsibility.
God is praised for the action that He does for the people and they are blameworthy for the action they did in selling Joseph down to Egypt.

Are these things easy to understand? NO
But is both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man taught in Scripture? YES

However both are true and must be taught this way for that is how it comes to us from God’s word.