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Tag Archives: sin

God Meant It Unto Good

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

If a person completely unfamiliar with the Book of Genesis sat down and read the first two chapters, then skipped ahead and read the final two, they would likely have the overwhelming feeling that something had gone horribly wrong in between the two sections. Perhaps unable to put their finger directly on it, they would sense that something catastrophic had occurred in between. Genesis 1 opens with God moving upon a barren planet, filling it with life and light. Genesis 50 ends with the burial of Joseph. Genesis begins with the birth of everything and ends with the burial of the final personage covered in the narrative. In short, Genesis begins with life and ends with death.

Even the most hardened atheist must concede that there seems to be something very unnatural and even unfair about the cruel, nearly mechanical cycle of life and death. All living things die eventually, but why is this so? Why is it that the human body, so resilient, so able to reproduce and revive its own cells, finally ceases all of these processes and ultimately surrenders to the cold grasp of death? How is it that everything which God created and called “good” has become otherwise?

Man has within his heart an instinct for survival, a desire to live, and an expectation of immortality. We know within our own hearts that we ought not to die, that this is not the way things were intended to be. And in reflecting on the Book of Genesis, we see that God never intended for it to be like this. Yet sin entered in; and with it, death (Rom. 5:12). This is what went horribly wrong in those chapters between the Second and Forty-ninth of Genesis: sin. We tend to blame all of our woes on external forces, but they originated within ourselves. Man has defied the Law of God and has brought death upon himself as a result.

Yet another theme is woven into the pages of Genesis, a theme that would be overlooked by the person skipping over all of those intermediate chapters. Redemption. What man has defiled, God desires to cleanse; what man has broken, God desires to fix; and what man has lost, God desires to restore. In other words: what man has thought for evil, God has meant for good. Even the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which led to the death, both spiritual and physical, of every person who would ever live can be overcome by what God has done through Jesus Christ on man’s behalf. Evil intent darkened the hearts of Adam and Eve in that Original Sin, yet God brought something good in the Redemption made available by the Blood of Christ, the Redemption offered to all men whereby they might be saved.

And so it is with the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers when they sold him into slavery. What they intended for evil, God meant for good. For this single sinful act of the brothers would set into motion all of the events that would one day bring them alive into Egypt. Though by no means alleviating their responsibility for their actions, God would bring something beautiful from the ugliness that the brothers had done. Even so, we know that the brothers of Joseph repented of the wicked deed they had done and did what they could to make things right. Fearing retribution from Joseph’s hand after their father passed away, they threw themselves upon his mercy and even appealed to Jacob’s final wishes to save them. But Joseph, his eyes fixed steadfastly on the perspective of God upon the entire matter, holds no such purpose as their destruction in his mind. He deeply loved his brothers and had forgiven them. Besides this, how could he wish harm against them when what they intended for evil, God meant for good?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 19, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Who Sent Joseph Into Egypt?

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)

The implications of this statement made by Joseph to his bewildered brothers must have been as perplexing and astounding to them as it has been to generations of Bible readers since it was first spoken. As believers, we tend to just sort of skip right through such profound statements with the unspoken understanding that, naturally, all things are under God’s control and He is in control of all things. Skeptics enjoy reading such statements as opportunities to impugn the character of God; assigning to Him full responsibility for the entirety of man’s errors. But what exactly do such statements really mean? More directly: was everything which we have read about occurring in the life of Joseph a part of God’s perfect plan?

Before we are too quick to answer this, we should consider what it would mean if all of these things were, in fact, the plan of God. First of all, it would imply that it was God’s plan for the brothers to commit sin by selling their brother into slavery. James tells us in his epistle that God never entices man to do evil (James 1:13) and consequently could never plan or intend for anyone to commit sin. Sin is, therefore, never a part of God’s perfect plan. Yet we are told that God sent Joseph into Egypt, i.e., that He planned for Joseph to go there. How is this possible if God did not intend for the brothers to sell him into slavery?

This is an area of disputation that has historically resulted in all sorts of theological dilemmas, calling into question where the line is drawn between God’s will and the free will of man. Does God or does He not ever step across that line in order to accomplish His perfect will? My simple answer to this is that He does not. What God does do is to take the opportunity to use even the sin, errors, and shortcomings of man (believers and unbelievers alike) to bring His will to pass. It was not God’s intention for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery, but He chose to use that as the impetus that would put Joseph into the land of Egypt. God did not plan for Potiphar’s wife to make lewd advances toward Joseph nor to falsely accuse him of misconduct; yet He used those very things to facilitate Joseph’s delivery into prison — a place where he would come into close contact with the chief butler and baker of Pharaoh.

How God would have brought His will to pass apart from the sins of these people is anyone’s guess, but we can be assured that God did not need the sins of man to help His plans along. He never does. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of our Lord in that He is able to accomplish His will in spite of man’s sin. What a profound reminder that God is in complete control!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 11, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

The Sins Of Judah

“Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not have relations with her again.” (Genesis 38:26)

Chapter 38 is another one of those sections in the Book of Genesis that seems out-of-place. Chapter 37 leaves off with Joseph being sold as a slave to Potiphar in Egypt and Chapter 39 picks up in the same spot. Chapter 38 spells out the sordid misdeeds of one of Joseph’s brothers, namely Judah, and seems to be an irrelevant parenthetical account; an unnecessary interruption in the narrative which has been focusing on Joseph.

While the incidents surrounding the sins of Judah do very little to advance the story now before us, they do serve as a very enlightening background and explanation for what will follow.  We caught a glimpse in Chapter 37 of the level of depravity that the sons of Jacob had fallen to, now we get a more detailed, up-close look at one son in particular. Perhaps it is intended that we consider him as an example and his wickedness recorded here but an illustration of the great sinfulness which characterized the entire family. Nevertheless, there are at least three main reasons why we are told about Judah’s actions here:

Judah’s Sin Shows The Need To Get The Israelites Out Of Canaan

First and foremost, the sinfulness of Joseph’s brothers (we saw another example in the lives of Simeon and Levi back in Chapter 34) demonstrates the need for God to get the family out of the land of Canaan. Here we are only three generations removed from Abraham himself and the family has already so adopted the practices of their pagan neighbors that they are morally no better than the inhabitants already living in the land. Everything about Judah’s dealings with Tamar was typical behavior of the Canaanites. Even his grave, hypocritical double-standard as recorded in Verse 24 is characteristic of the worldly, man-of-the-flesh. The vilest of heathen is indignant when confronted with the sins of others, though he himself sees no injustice in his own.

If the family of Israelites had become so utterly corrupted by the influence of those living around them in just three generations, how much greater would the contamination have been had they remained in Palestine all along? Thus God chose for them to dwell in the incubator of the wilderness of Egypt, removed from the corrupting influences of their neighbors. Even the Egyptians’ contempt for all keepers of sheep served the purposes of God, for it allowed the family to be further segregated in the land of Goshen within Egypt.

Judah’s Sin Shows the Contrast Between Joseph’s Character And His Brothers’

It is not likely just a coincidence that we are told of the sexual impurity of Judah just before we are told of the chaste behavior of his younger brother, Joseph. It is safe to conclude what Judah’s (and probably every other brother, except Benjamin) response would have been to the advances of Potiphar’s wife. As we began to see in Chapter 37, Joseph is different from his brethren. Joseph fears God and respects others while his brothers seem to simply take whatever they want and mistreat others for their own selfish interests.

Judah’s Sin Characterizes The Line Into Which The Lord Jesus Will Be Born

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram.” (Matthew 1:2-3)

Chapter 38 of Genesis serves as a profound reminder of how great humanity’s need for a Savior really is! We see that even those who were in the lineage of the Lord were sin-stained, imperfect people. Perez was the illegitimate son of Judah and his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Yet he became the father of Hezron and ultimately an ancestor in the line that led to the Lord Jesus. The sordid deeds of Judah show us that God did not choose the noblest, the most morally upright, or the most righteous of the sons of Israel through which to bring the Lord Jesus into this world. He used sinners to bring about His purposes. If men like Judah fit into the plans of God, maybe He can use the rest of us sinners, too.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published September 16, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

 

A Legacy Of Deception

“But Jacob’s sons answered Shechem and his father Hamor with deceit, because he had defiled Dinah their sister.” (Genesis 34:13)

Before Genesis 34, we are told very little about the children of Jacob. This chapter, however, records a very sad and sordid incident that will serve as the first of many blights on the family. We saw a genuine turning to God in the life of Jacob in the last two chapters, but it appears that deception and trickery are still the order of business in this household and that Jacob the Deceiver has passed this legacy on to his sons.

Sadly, although Jacob has come around and is now walking uprightly, the time spent growing up in this household and in the household of Laban have made a very unfortunate impact on his sons. Is it any surprise that these young men would conduct their affairs in the same manner as their father and Uncle Laban had? So often we do not think about the consequences in the lives of our little ones when we model less than admirable moral behavior. Even when we tell them to do better, even when our words teach them to make better choices than we have; it is our actions which prove the most convincing.

I am in no position to suggest what the best course of action would have been for Jacob’s family when confronted with the news of the sin committed against Dinah. I do not think any of us are privy to knowing what the Lord desired for them to do. We can be sure that intermarrying with the Shechemites was not God’s intention for them. But we can also be certain that He did not intend for Levi and Simeon to deceive them and then proceed to slaughter every man in the city! Nevertheless, this is what they did because this was the method of doing business that they had grown up with. When Jacob protests against what they have done (v. 30), I believe that they were genuinely surprised. Is this not something he himself (that is, the old Jacob) might have done in their position?

It is unfortunate, but it is not always possible to undo the negative impact that we have had on others, particularly our own children, which we made before we came to God. Sometimes the damage lingers. All that we can do is pray that we are able to influence them enough in our new walk with Christ and that our new nature will affect them all the more. For most of Jacob’s sons, well, we see in Genesis 50:16-17 that they were still relying on deception and trickery at the close of the book, so it may be that even after all of the uprightness they would behold in their father’s life hereafter (as well as the graciousness of their brother Joseph) that they would never fully overcome the “lessons” of their formative years.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published July 21, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Abraham In Gerar

“Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. (Genesis 20:2)

I still remember how horrible I felt that night when I was a young Christian, as the preacher related his stories at the close of the sermon. He had been talking about the Lord’s ability to instantly free the believer from sin’s hold on their life. He told us story after story of people who had been in bondage to all sorts of sinful behaviors who, upon coming to the Lord Jesus Christ, were immediately freed from even the faintest yearning for what they had recently been so passionate toward. “That man had smoked for over 30 years”, this preacher proclaimed, “And when he came to Christ, he NEVER had the desire for a cigarette again!” The boisterous “Amens!” and “Hallelujahs!” that filled the sanctuary after these words were spoken led me to believe that maybe I was the only person in the entire congregation who still struggled with sinful desires!

Many of us have heard accounts of people getting saved and being instantaneously delivered from an addiction or sinful desire that they have had most of their lives. I have no doubt that this does sometimes happen (I must confess that I personally have never met such an individual, but I take the stories told to me in good faith), but it seems to me that this is not the normal way that the Spirit of God operates in the lives of His people. The record of Scripture as well as the everyday experiences of those Christians who have confided in me enough to be completely candid about such matters testify to the fact that true holy living is usually something that takes place over time. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the guilt of our sin is immediately wiped away and our position with God is changed in a single instant. But the ability to break some of our stubborn sinful habits is something that only just begins at that point.

I believe that the preacher who talked about those people instantaneously freed from their sinful desires that night was intending to do nothing but glorify the mighty ability of our precious Savior to free those who will put their trust in Him. But it made me seriously wonder why God would do that for some folks while others of us continued to struggle and flounder with the same sins over and over. Many students of God’s Word have been puzzled by the 20th Chapter of Genesis, asking why in the world is it even in the Bible? It looks so much like the events recorded back in Chapter 12, when Abraham and Sarah were in Egypt, and is so similar to what is later described in Genesis 26:6-16, that some scholars have suggested that the three accounts are all based on a single event and that a scribal error explains the redundancy. But when we truly understand mankind’s fleshly nature, there really is no puzzle at all. Honestly, I am glad that this chapter is in the Book of Genesis because it tells us that even Abraham was not beyond repeating the same sin more than once. We may not all have been instantly freed from our sinful desires when we received Salvation, but we are certainly in very distinguished company.

Abraham’s deception of Abimilech in Gerar is recorded right before the conception of Isaac (Genesis 21:2). It was necessary for Abraham to deal with this sin and get it out of his life before he could receive all that God planned for him to have. We may take comfort in the fact that Abraham apparently did not learn from his sin the first time in Egypt; in fact, we see that this ruse was a common practice that he and Sarah engaged in as they traveled about (v.13). But we must also realize that the time came for them to deal with this sin and get it out of their lives before God’s plan for them could go forward. So it is with us. We may struggle with the same sins again and again, and God is merciful to forgive us when we confess them to Him. But until we deal with them and trust in Him to free us from those sins, we will never receive all that He has intended for us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 10, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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