One of the great things about the seminary I attend is the chapel service conducted every Tuesday and Thursday morning. We get to hear from great preachers of the word, whether it’s one of the professors, administration, or a guest like C.J. Mahaney. This morning, I really enjoyed and benefitted from the preaching of Greg Gilbert, the pastor of the local Third Avenue Baptist Church. Greg’s preaching was a model for me as I consider how to preach: the main points of his message were the main points of the text that he preached from, he used great illustrations to make these points, he knew his audience and how to apply his points to them, he clearly outlined the passage in a way that was easy to follow, and he was dynamic and not boring. Thank God for preachers like this. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 EST, our chapel service is live-streamed, and the video is archived for later viewing as well. I encourage you to check out Greg Gilbert’s message as it is archived.
Anyway, Greg’s text this morning was the story of Joseph. While many consider the main point of this story to be a sort of “God can take you from rags to riches” application, Greg showed that the text is teaching differently.
There are three main points that Greg highlighted:
1) The complete sovereignty of God in every detail of this story
2) Joseph’s quiet trust in God despite what was happening around him.
3) The fact that the story is not all about Joseph, it is about what God is accomplishing through Joseph.
I won’t go into each of those here, but I did want to share some of his insights on the first. At no point are the events of the Joseph story outside of God’s control. The dreams that Joseph has are from God, and he has basically shown Joseph what he will do before he does it, proof that God is in control. In fact, Joseph’s telling his family of the dreams initiates the whole sequence of events that leads him to Egypt in the first place. It “just so happens” that Joseph’s brothers decide not to kill him and to sell him into slavery instead, and it “just so happens” that the slave traders are heading to Egypt, and it “just so happens” that Joseph’s owner is one of Pharaoh’s high ranking officials, and it “just so happens” that he is thrown into a prison with two other high-ranking officials who “just so happened” to have had a dream. God uses the brothers’ actions and all of the events that happen to Joseph to move him into a position of prominence in Egypt where he will be able to achieve safety for his family, the Israelites, and will bless the Egyptians through his wisdom.
One final nuance. It’s not only that God just “uses” the things that happen to Joseph. He says to his brothers at the end:
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
God “meant” all of these things. He didn’t just “use” them, as if they happened and God just made the best of it. He intended for all of these things to happen to Joseph, even the awful things, in order to accomplish the good purpose that He had.
That was a source of comfort for Joseph, and it should be a source of comfort for us. No matter what happens to us, God is in control, and it will eventually work out for our good if we love God. Sometimes God’s good purpose will be beyond our lifetime – think of all the Israelite slaves who prayed to God their entire life and did not live to see the deliverance from Egypt. But God’s good purposes will come to pass, and we will share in this goodness ultimately because we are united with Christ and share in everything good that God has given to Christ. Even though it is beyond our point of view now and our circumstances may point in the opposite direction, God will in time give us the fullness of this promised inheritance.