My favorite Bible story has got to be Joseph. But it's only my favorite because I know the complete story-beginning, middle and, especially, the end. A few years ago the kids and I saw the movie Holes. I struggled through it because it made me so mad that the main character was wrongly accused and thrown into this vile juvenile camp that was so void of justice. (Can you tell I prefer stories that have a clear black/white, right/wrong morality tale?) But it was not until the very end that I saw how all the bad that happened was ultimately for the good. And that's the story of Joseph.
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your live by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. (Genesis 45:5-8)God, in his infinite wisdom allowed Joseph to be proud and arrogant, allowed Jacob to lavish adoration on him, allowed his brothers to boil in jealousy and allowed them to sell him into slavery. Injustice was part of God's plan. (I know this opens up a can of worms to be discussed at a later time but stick with me here.) He was in control the entire time.
While Dave and I were at Caleb Project we would often go through an exercise looking at the prevenience of God - how has He gone before us, seeing how He has worked in our history. It's a fascinating way of writing the Joseph story into your own life. Prevenience is the conviction that God has been working diligently, redemptively, and strategically before I appeared on the scene, before I was aware there was something here for me to do (Eugene Peterson, the Contemplative Pastor).
Now this can get to be a bit narcissistic - looking at history to see how it all leads up to....ME! No, look at God's grace, mercy, strength, sovereignty in your history - focusing on His hand.
Looking through the Old Testament we can see the fingerprint of Christ so clearly, pointing to Jesus, the Messiah. But if I was there at Calvary would it be so clear. We live in an amazing time when scripture can be read, studied, devoured so freely. We live when we can see the beginning, middle and hints of the end. We call Friday GOOD because we know Sunday is there, assured.
It's mindbending to contemplate that Jesus knew his story (knows) and continued in the direction he was called to.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,
who for the joy set before him endured the cross,
scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men,
so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
It's mindbending and comforting that the Creator, our Redeemer is writing our stories, my story, your story for our good and His glory. We see so dimly what reality is and what history will write.
Later on in Hebrews the author reminds us that God is for us, in the midst of our story:
In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don't feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children? My dear child, don't shrug off God's discipline, but don't be crushed by it either. It's the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects.God is educating you; that's why you must never drop out. He's treating you as dear children. This trouble you're in isn't punishment; it's training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God's training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God's holy best. At the time, discipline isn't much fun. It always feels like it's going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it's the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.