God's Wonderful Plan
We’ve probably all heard the statement, ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.’ But then the realities of life press in on us relentlessly: sickness, pain, broken relationships, abuse, shattered dreams, temptation, sin, death. So where is this wonderful plan for my life? What on earth is God up to? That’s actually a great question. When we explore what God is up to in our lives, we discover that his good plan is not a plan for our ease and comfort, but rather a plan for our death and resurrection – dying to sin and to our old self and rising to a whole new life in him. He loves you and me too much to leave us unchanged. This process is often hard and painful, as Joseph discovered, and the pathway along which you are called to walk may be similarly confusing and disorienting. Yet along that difficult pathway, Joseph found that the Lord was with him, even when he felt most abandoned and alone. In light of Joseph’s experience in Egypt, we too may discover that even when God’s wonderful plan leads us into trials and temptation, his grace is sufficient for us.
Joseph must have grown up hearing a great deal about God’s wonderful plan for his life. He was the favorite son in a favored family. The Lord had called his great-grandfather, Abraham, to be the father of his chosen people, the one through whom the blessing would come to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3). His own father, Jacob, had been chosen to be the heir of that blessing in an oracle given before he was even born (25:22-23). However, Jacob’s pathway to receiving this blessing was long and bewildering, complicated by his own sin and the sin of others against him.
Now Joseph in turn was the favored son, born of Jacob’s favored wife, Rachel, and protected and pampered by his father from his earliest days. The richly ornamented coat that he wore was a symbol of his high status in the family. And this was not just his father’s wonderful plan for his life. While Joseph was still a young man, the Lord sent him two dreams in which he was at the center. In the first dream, his brother’s sheaves bowed down to him while they were out harvesting in the field, while in the second dream the entire universe – sun, moon, and stars – came bowing down to him. If anyone ever had a reason for saying, “God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life,” surely it was Joseph.
Then everything in Joseph’s life seemed to go horribly wrong. His father sent him to visit his brothers while they were out watching the sheep (Gen. 37:14). When his brothers saw him coming in the distance, they conspired to kill him (37:18). Only when some Midianite traders happened to pass by did they revise their plan into a money-making scheme (37:28). They sold Joseph to these traders, who took him down to Egypt, where he was purchased by an Egyptian official named Potiphar (37:36). God’s wonderful plan for Joseph’s life seemed shattered by a combination of human jealousy and greed. Where was God at the crucial moments of Joseph’s life when his dreams were being derailed? Joseph must surely have pondered that question many times on the way down to Egypt and during his days as a household slave.
Yet the narrator, who is remarkably reserved about identifying God’s role in the rest of Joseph’s story, breaks in to inform us no fewer than five times in the opening five verses of Genesis 39 that the Lord was with Joseph in Egypt, giving him success and causing him to find favor with his new employer. He wants to make sure that you don’t miss the point that just because life is hard and isn’t turning out the way that you hoped, that doesn’t mean God is against you or that his wonderful plan for your life has been derailed. God can be with you in Egypt, in bondage, and in a set of frustrating circumstances where you are experiencing the consequences of other people’s sins against you, just as much as he is with you in the sunnier days in Canaan, where everything seemed to be going according to (your) plan. In fact, Joseph began to embody the Abrahamic promise of being a blessing to the nations precisely in that situation of trial and loss: everything that his Egyptian master entrusted to him prospered for Joseph’s sake (Gen. 39:5). According to v3, Potiphar recognized what was going on: he saw that the Lord was with Joseph. Joseph’s painful ‘sidetrack’ turned out to be a wonderful opportunity for this particular Egyptian to see the Lord at work.
Is there someone near you who needs to see what ‘the Lord is with us’ looks like in the midst of suffering, pain, and loss? My friend, it is one thing to declare that ‘the Lord is with us’ when there isn’t a cloud in the sky. It is quite another to be able to confess that ‘the Lord is with us’ in the valley of deep shadow. Join us this week as we learn how the Lord equips us to follow His Son in both the sunshine and the storm.
By His Grace,
*This post was adapted from Ian Duguid’s introduction to this chapter in his book, “Living in the Light of Inextinguishable Hope: The Gospel According to Joseph.”