I was struggling to keep up with my high school chemistry class. I just wasn’t getting it. I was too proud to ask the teacher for help. I was failing. When it was time to take midterms I looked at the exam and thought, “Am I in the wrong class, this looks like German?” I turned in the exam disheartened. A few days later I got my graded exam back and in big red letters the teacher wrote on it, “PLEASE SEE ME TO RETAKE!”
Wouldn’t it be nice to retake life, start over a bad relationship, remake a painful experience, or to rewrite the past? Sometimes you have to live with the pain of the past or deal with hurtful relationships. And it is common to ask, “What is the purpose of suffering in our life? Is God really in control of every situation?” You may not get a second chance or an opportunity to retake the test, but your perspective of the situation may need to change. I trust the text today will answer these questions and more.
1. You can live free of regrets and unforgiveness despite all the hurts [Genesis 50:15-21]
In an important scene that closes Genesis, Joseph’s father Jacob dies. Joseph’s brothers fear he will hold their past hurts over their head since dad is not around anymore, but Joseph calms them with words of grace and forgiveness, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [Genesis 50:20] Joseph has a unique perspective of God’s sovereignty played out amidst his brother’s actions.
If you were to step back and look at Joseph’s life, it would look more like a roller coaster ride than a cushy bed of roses. His life is a series of ups and downs mostly at the hands of others:
That’s quite the ride! Most people strapped in a seat similar to Joseph would live with loads of bitterness, unforgiveness, regrets, or a desire to get even. Is Joseph superhuman? Or does he have a thick shell? I don’t think so. He simply shows fruit of a godly perspective of man’s attempt to hurt, but God’s heroic hand. He did not hold on to the hurts. Nor do you have to. Be free.
2. God works all things together for His glory and for your good [Genesis 50:19-21]
Joseph is the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament, “For God works everything together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purposes.” The story of Joseph is a lesson of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. His brothers are responsible for the actions they inflict on Joseph, but God uses it for His purposes in Joseph [cf. Ephesians 1:11]. In other words the brothers tried to put hurdles and hindrances in their brother’s path, but God used the hard road to prepare and strengthen Joseph for a position He had planned for him. The brothers had their purposes, but God also had His.
Through the way of suffering, by the hand of God, Joseph was being prepared for a position that led him to become the 2nd in command over Egypt [50:22, 26] and he served in that position with humility and integrity. Through Joseph millions of lives were saved across the region [50:20] and God’s people were preserved [45:7]. And ultimately, God gets the glory for fulfilling all of His promises [cf.15:13-14, Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15].
This is how the sovereignty of God works and how you can have hope through trials. God knows first hand how suffering and His sovereignty go hand in hand. A good, wise, and sovereign God brought about pain in the life of Jesus [Isaiah 53:10]. Jesus’ unimaginable pain and suffering lead to unimaginable joy and glory. You and I reap the rewards of His sufferings. He suffered a great evil so that you might be gifted a great good.
There is an uncanny connection between Genesis 1 and 50. The God who created the universe continues to rule over the affairs of His creation. He is not distant from His creation, nor is His creation autonomous and self-sufficient from his Creator. I can plant a healthy tree in my yard, but if God doesn’t send rain and sunshine the tree will whither and die. Likewise, I am utterly dependent upon God for life and breathe. He oversees my ups and downs. Even the droughts and floods have their purpose—they can bring me to my knees. He works all things together for His glory and your good.
3. Your life is too short to waste away [Genesis 50:22-26]
Chariots of Fire is a movie known more for its sound track than its main character. The one running in slow motion on the beach is Eric Liddell, Olympic Champion-turned-missionary to China. In a gripping scene in the movie, Liddell falls to the ground just a few strides into a 440-yard race. The crowd gasps. His hopes for any medal seem dashed. But to everyone’s amazement, he rises to his feet, leans back his head with mouth wide-open, strides with supernatural speed, and catches his opponents from twenty yards back to win the race.
The lesson learned from Liddell, “It’s not how you begin the race but how you finish that is important.” How true that is in life. As humans, we don’t begin well. We begin as sinners, desperately needing God’s grace. But even when we come to Christ, receive His grace and forgiveness, and begin running the race set before us [Hebrews 12:1] our race is often characterized by fits and starts. The way we run the race is important, but it is most important how we finish.
When you consider Joseph lived to be 110 you would think you would have a lot of time to waste. But 110 years compared to eternity is still extremely short. King Solomon lived life to the fullest, but described life as a vapor that appears for a second and is gone the next second [cf. Ecclesiastes]. James echoes, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” [4:14b]
Joseph lived long enough to bounce his great-grandsons on his knee. And before he was about to die he told his family one last story—a true story about his faith in God’s promises to Abraham [Genesis 15:13]. About four hundred years later his family would leave Egypt under God’s mighty hand and return to the Promised Land. On that day, Joseph requested his bones to be carried back and buried with his dad, granddad and great granddad [cf. Joshua 24:32]. Joseph finished well. He did not consider the ups and downs a waste.
25, 50 or 100 years from now will you be able to say, “I have trusted in God’s purposes all the way”? After this life is over there is no retaking the course or rescheduling the exam. There is no more time to improve your grade from a “D” to and “A”. There is no restarting to the race. This life ends at death. Joseph gives you and a glimpse of God’s purposes for living with purpose this side of eternity. He also gives us a glimpse of something else.
Joseph gives you an Old Testament glimpse of the redemptive qualities seen in Jesus Christ
Like Joseph, Jesus loved those who hated him and suffered unjustly at the hands of those who were jealous of His fame and glory.
Like the days of Joseph, God used what sinners meant for evil for good as He originally intended creation to be, and the saved of many lives through Jesus.
Like the end of Joseph’s life, Jesus spoke words of kindness, blessing, and forgiveness from the cross to His enemies thereby making them friends and brothers.
Like Joseph, Jesus was buried in a tomb. But, unlike Joseph who remains buried today, Jesus rose from dead victorious over sin. He became the second Adam who redeemed all that the first Adam had lost. And Jesus fulfilled the covenant promise given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And one day soon, Jesus will return as the King of Kings from the line of Judah with the scepter of sovereignty in His hand [cf. Genesis 49:10]. On that day, He will call His covenant people home to the Promised Land forevermore.
Since God is in control let’s live like it.