Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ever Want to Punch God in the Face?

We’ve been reading the story of Joseph and his brothers for the last few weeks as the OT lessons, and, in today’s reading, we finally see Joseph reveal himself to his siblings. In today’s lesson (Genesis 45:1-15), the author writes, “Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him,” so he sent everyone out of the room. And then, in a moment that must have been equally powerful and humiliating and joyful, Joseph tells his brothers who he really is. I bet at least one of them wanted to punch him in the mouth.

It almost reads like a practical joke. Joseph has sent his brothers to and from Pharaoh’s palace twice. He has held Judah captive. He has led them to think that Benjamin would be a prisoner forever. He has made his father worry night and day about whether he would ever see all of his sons again. They have jumped through all of his make-believe hoops. And finally, when Joseph couldn’t stand it any longer, he pops out from behind his disguise and says, “Ta da! It’s me, Joseph! Recognize me?”

Yeah, I totally would punch him right in the face.

Then again, his brothers did sell him into slavery and consider him dead. Perhaps they deserved this long and difficult trial. Maybe Joseph was right to put them through such hell. It certainly made it possible for them to appreciate the real punch line in the story: “And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

God knew ahead of time that Joseph being sold into slavery would be necessary to save the promise he made to Abraham—that a remnant would grow into a great nation. But that seems like an awfully complicated way to accomplish that.

Sometimes God works in clear and direct ways. Sometimes God works through methods that infuriate us. Sometimes God goes through great lengths to break us down and humble us before building us back up again. The point is that we cannot know what God’s plan is. But we have to believe that there is a plan.

Maybe divine providence is simply humanity’s ability to look back over history and see a pattern of God’s promises being fulfilled through otherwise random or haphazard occurrences. But even then, it’s still a plan. How is God working in your life? Can you see it? Can you find a thread—no matter how thin or randomly swerving—that connects the pieces of your life into a God-controlled whole? Don’t give up just because it doesn’t make sense. And don’t give up just because you sometimes want to punch God in the face. Eventually, we will see where he is leading us, and we will be thankful, too.

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