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By: Larry Shaffer
Fancy Meeting You Here!
Joseph, lesson 12
When Leigh and I meet new couples, we love to ask about the situations surrounding their initial meeting of each other. It is always interesting and unique. Yes, sometimes they give a quick and routine response; we met at church, we met at a bar; we meet through an on-line dating service; friends introduced us, etc. But if we add a few questions and take the conversation of their “routine” chance meeting further, we always discover an amazing story of providence and destiny.
On certain occasions, I will pick up my copy of Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. As you may know, I fancy myself as a Theologian of miniscule proportion. So, on occasion when I enthusiastically pick up this nearly 800 page volume of scholarly Theology written in the late 1940’s, my first priority is to make it look somewhat used and maybe mark it up a little with underlines and notations. That way, if someone is ever glancing at my library, they will notice the worn volume and marvel at my scholarly aspirations and theological acuity. (I hope you appreciate my attempt at sarcasm and self-deprecating humor. However, as you know, there is usually a grain of truth in most attempts at sarcasm and now you know one of my deeply hidden vulnerabilities of vanity).
Once I have shuffled around within this massive volume of theology, I then try to read about a topic I’ve been thinking about. Last night I found the section on the Providence of God. The author provides the following definition:
The Idea of Providence: Providence may be defined as that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator preserves all His creatures, is operative in all that comes to pass in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.
There is no perfect way to put into words the attributes of God. But that doesn’t stop Theologians from writing volumes in an attempt to do so. Nevertheless, whatever the right description is, our God manages to accomplish what we can’t fully understand and comprehend. Specifically, He works within the seeming contradiction of His absolute Sovereignty and our ability to choose and make decisions of our own will that we are responsible for —– He mixes it all up and creates the perfectly intended outcome for His beloved children.
I don’t know how He does it all, so I don’t argue Theology with anyone anymore like I used to in my youth. Some say man’s free will is dominant and others say that the Sovereignty of God rules supreme. I just know He does all things perfectly and according to His will within the context of man’s decisions, intentions and propensities, evil and good. I hope you can join me in this simple act of faith.
Hopefully, you’re still with me and I was able to trick you into mulling over a deep facet of Theology. After all, the study of God is one of the greatest studies we can pursue. Christians who consider deep aspects of our great God end up with a greater capacity to worship and praise our great God. A geeky way to say it is ‘Rich Theology produces Rich Doxology.’
With this context, let’s go back to the story of Joseph and consider the multiple “coincidences” that occur, (that aren’t really coincidences).
Then it came about after these things (sounds like words describing ‘coincidences’) the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was furious with his two officials…So he put them in confinement in the house of the captain of the bodyguard, in the jail, the same place where Joseph was imprisoned, (another amazing coincidence). The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time.
Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night, each man with his own dream and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected…Then they said to him, ‘We have had a dream and there in no one to interpret it.’ Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell it to me, please.’ 40:1-8
Lord, I’m drawn to the initial phrase in our text, “Then it came about…”. Today we will go through our day with little consideration of the divine specifics of what is happening around us. It’s just the routines of our lives. Nothing more, nothing less. Or is it? While our minds are simply going through the tasks before us, behind the scenes, You are somehow at work within us and around us to accomplish Your good purposes and Your perfect ends. How blessed we are to have You as our beloved God. We are Your delight and Your joy, through Jesus. As Paul said, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Praise God from whom all blessing flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Amen!