Thursday, January 20, 2011

Joseph and the Providence of God

As we approach the conclusion of the story of Joseph, I would like to take an opportunity to address the topic of God's providence. Traditionally, within Christian theology a distinction has been maintained between God's "general" providence, which refers to God's oversight and preservation of creation, and "special" providence, which refers to God's specific intervention into the lives of individuals.

After Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, he says to them, "it was not you who brought me to Egypt, but God" (Genesis 45:8). This is a profound statement regarding the "special" providence of God. From a human point of view Joseph's presence in Egypt is the result of his brothers' jealously and their malicious attempt to end his life. However, Joseph sees God's hand at work through the circumstances of his life; Joseph is able to forgive his brothers, in part, because he sees a greater purpose in his suffering.

The doctrine of providence or divine sovereignty is difficult for us to understand. Throughout the history of Christianity, many theologians have debated the relationship between providence and human agency - How do we reconcile God's sovereignty with the assertion that humans possess free will? In the case of Joseph, it is important to note that Joseph does not claim that his suffering and mistreatment were part of God's will, but that God worked through the various circumstances of his life in order to bring about the fulfillment of God's will. It is also important to note that although Joseph experiences suffering and rejection, his story is ultimately one of restoration and reconciliation.

As we reflect upon our own lives, we all have experiences that cause us to doubt God's care and provision. However, more often than not, we are able to look back over the course of our lives and see the providential hand of God at work. As the apostle Paul reminds us, "we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:22).


  1. Great verse -- Romans 8:22. Thanks for blog to tie up Joseph's journey so nicely.

  2. I too focused on Joseph being able to forgive his brothers by seeing God's will at work. An amazing way to see the world. I wish I could more often remember that God has a larger plan for me and not to sweat the small stuff as much. I wil work on that. Joseph's forgiveness is also an amazing trait. Could I forgive my siblings for selling me into slavery? I doubt I would have the strength to do so.

  3. The Healing of Gennesaret: I am having issues about the BLIND FAITH these people had to get healed. It isn't that I don't believe they had it but how did they? and why can't I? Do I have too much information, from the world, church, as well as the Bible? Do I think too much!? I don't expect the answer here - just throwing it out there.