In order to see how we can be within God’s will while feeling like we are way outside of it…we need to go back to a familiar story…the story of Joseph and his brothers as relayed to us in Genesis chapters 37-50.
As we know, Joseph was the next to youngest son of Jacob…and one of his 12 sons who would later go on to become the 12 Tribes of Israel. That’s not all we know of Joseph.
We know two other very important things. First, that God would put Joseph into such a place of power that eventually his brothers would all bow down in front of him in supplication. We know this because God showed Joseph this inevitability in a dream.
Second, we know that God wanted Joseph in Egypt so that he could prophesy about and take precautions to avoid…a 7 year famine that would devastate much of the Middle East. And though this information is not explicitly written in Genesis…we can be sure of it nonetheless.
And while we know that Joseph was favored by his father…we also know that his brothers did not share the same enthusiasm for their sibling. In fact, upon telling them about this dream of his eventual authority over them…they planned to kill Joseph.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed…and they decided simply to sell Joseph into slavery to a group of traders headed to…Egypt. Here the story begs for further investigation. Remember, God told Joseph that he would be in a supreme position of authority…and yet Joseph found himself sold as a slave…by the very people God had told him would bow down to him. To say he must have been confused is an understatement.
After reaching Egypt and being sold to an Egyptian captain of the guard…a man named Potiphar…Joseph’s plight seemed a bit more manageable. Finding favor with Potiphar, Joseph found himself in charge of Potiphar’s entire house. Maybe this would be the path God used to place Joseph in power over large things…by proving himself loyal over small things. Maybe that’s what Joseph was thinking.
Until…after doing the right thing and fleeing temptation when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, Joseph found himself in prison. And there he sat…for two years…for doing the right thing. A long way away from his brothers bowing down…a long way away from God’s will…or so it seemed.
After successfully interpreting the dreams of two of Pharaoh’s servants who were also in prison with Joseph, one of these servants mentioned to Pharaoh Joseph’s unique gift because he knew his Pharaoh was being plagued by dreams he could not understand.
Desperate, Pharaoh called on Joseph and told this Hebrew slave his dream. Without missing a beat…Joseph interpreted the dream and warned Pharaoh that a severe famine would strike the land in just 7 years…and that the famine would last 7 years. That news ended up saving millions of lives…and as a result?…Pharaoh placed Joseph as his second in charge over all of Egypt.
Here is where the story gets more interesting. Upon hearing that Egypt had food in the midst of the famine, Jacob sends his sons there to trade with the Egyptians for the precious food. Which found the brothers…in the presence of Joseph…whom they did not recognize…and they “bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground” (42:7).
God told Joseph that it was His will that Joseph rise to a level of power and that his brothers would bow before him. It was also His will that Joseph be betrayed by those brothers…sold into slavery…end up in Potiphar’s house…flee temptation…be rewarded for his honor by being thrown into prison…for two years. All the while…remaining in God’s will. Despite how Joseph must have felt at the time.
How do we know that? How do we know that was all God’s will? How do we know that God wanted to use Joseph to save lives during a devastating famine…how do we know any of this was God’s doing? Joseph himself said to his brothers, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good…to bring about that many people should be kept alive” (50:20).
There will be times where God’s Will will seem confusing to us…strange…hurtful…and that’s ok. It all goes back to the ultimate question: Is God Who He says He is and will He do what He says He will do? Regardless of how it feels at the time. Do I trust Him…when every cell in my body is screaming out against trusting Him?
Do I believe Him when He says: I will never leave you nor forsake you…and I am with you always…even unto the end of the age. How cool is that?
I am Dr. Danny Purvis…and on behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at The Growth Project…keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in St. Cloud, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.