Trust, Trials, and Time

Bible Focus: Genesis 42-50

Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But they could not answer him because they were terrified in his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please, come near me,” and they came near. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt. And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

“Return quickly to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me without delay.”

Genesis 45:3-9 CSB

I’ve always been drawn to time-travel stories. These stories typically involve one or more people traveling to the past in order to either change something about their present reality or to create a new possibility for their future.

What’s intriguing about such stories are the leaps of logic one must take to keep the varying timelines straight in one’s head. Once a character has the ability to travel back and forth in time, they have the ability to change things in powerful ways. However, they are usually limited in their ability to know the possible consequences of their travels in time, so their actions are subject to all kinds of side effects–including the possibility of permanently damaging the space-time continuum and ending the universe as they know it.

Of course, back here in the real universe, the true God is not hampered by such limitations. I assume that God could time-travel, if he wished. But I think it more likely that he would never need to do so. According to the Bible, God’s perfection, presence, power, and knowledge extends to every corner of reality. Therefore, God has total and perfect recall of everything that has ever happened, and he completely and clearly sees the future as if it has already happened. And if God chooses to intervene at any moment in time, he knows exactly what his actions will accomplish. There are no unintended side effects. God is never truly surprised.

God completely knows the future, and he knows exactly what his actions will accomplish. God is never truly surprised.

As a young man, Joseph experienced prophetic dreams given to him by God. In these dreams he was symbolically portrayed as a ruler over his brothers and even over his father and mother. He told his dreams to his family, and as a result, his father rebuked him and his brothers hated him. Joseph’s brothers later sold him as a slave and he was shipped to Egypt. I wonder if Joseph ever felt that he had messed up the fulfillment of God’s dreams.

Whether he felt that way or not, it wasn’t true. If Joseph had never spoken of his dreams, then his brothers likely would not have sold him into slavery the way they did. Then he would not have gone to Egypt, encountered Pharaoh’s cupbearer in prison, interpreted Pharaoh’s dream of a worldwide famine, and been promoted to Pharaoh’s highest ruling position. Joseph didn’t mess up God’s plan; he fell right into it.

Joseph’s faithfulness to God also played a role in God’s plan. Between being a son in his father’s house and a supreme ruler in Egypt, Joseph went through many difficult trials. But he trusted God though his trials and he kept obeying God.

One day, during the worldwide famine, Joseph’s older brothers showed up in Egypt to buy food. They didn’t recognize Joseph, and he decided to put his brothers through an elaborate trial of his own. Using false accusations, harsh questioning, imprisonment, and intimidation, he manipulated them into bringing his younger brother, Benjamin, to Egypt. Then he arranged for Benjamin to be accused of theft and enslaved.

His brothers were distraught. They knew their elderly father would be crushed if Benjamin did not return home with them. His brother Judah begged Joseph to enslave him in Benjamin’s place so that his father would not suffer. At that, Joseph could contain himself no longer, and he finally broke down and revealed who he was.

It’s unclear why Joseph acted this way towards his brothers, but there’s no evidence that Joseph was trying to harm them, punish them, or take revenge. Joseph even urged them not to feel upset with themselves for sending him to Egypt. He had come to terms with all the trials he had faced, and he had concluded that a loving God had orchestrated it all.

Here’s the good news: if we are trusting in Jesus, we don’t have to fear our trials. God knows every trial we will face, and he won’t leave us to face them alone. We can trust God and obey him through our trials, and his love can ultimately bring our hearts peace.

Featured image by Nicolas Jehly on Unsplash.

This post is #10 in The Truly Good Book series. Subscribe to more posts below.

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