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The Hand of God

Where are you seeing the hand of God in your life recently? Over the last few months I have received numerous positive comments concerning our series Grace and Brokenness. I believe the positive reception of this series is due to the fact that the stories of Jacob, Joseph, and their broken family dynamics continue to resonate with many of our own experiences today. Just like the people in these stories, we understand what it means to live with broken parents who make broken decisions, and then to our own horror, we make the same broken decisions when confronted with the same situations. In the midst of this cycle of brokenness, we try to pursue a relationship with God and his people, but we become overwhelmed with shame and guilt and remove ourselves from the possibility of journeying with them both. It is my hope and prayer that through this series we have heard the constant message that God continues to want to have a relationship with us through the messiness of life and that we can find a Christian community that will embrace us in the midst of that journey.

The Hand of God in Your Life

In light of these thoughts, I would like to ask this question: How would you describe your understanding of the hand of God throughout your life? Do you sense his presence on a regular basis or does God seem more distant to you? For some of us, this is a simple question. We feel close to God on a regular basis and hear the voice of God all the time. However, for many of us this is a very difficult and complicated question. We have been taught all the right words to say about God, but if we are really honest, we feel very distant from God and seldom, if ever, hear his voice or feel his hand. We believe in him, but he still seems distant more often than he feels close. What does this mean?

Are some people wired to be close to God and some of us are not? Or, is something else going on with this strange dynamic? In thirty years of ministry experience I have learned that some people find it easy to trust God and many find it a very difficult journey. I do not believe one is better than the other, but it reveals the great diversity in God’s creation and that for some of us, our journey with God will be tough and much work because it’s what we need. As a Christian community, we need to be patient and loving of both groups. The struggle for those who find a relationship with God easy will be the trap of pride. Thinking of ourselves better and more spiritual than those who struggle with faith. While those who struggle with faith will constantly battle the temptation to walk away because God does not always seem to be close and intimate. May we provide a loving space for both.

The Hand of God in Joseph’s Life

These challenges are revealed in our story for this week. Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers in an emotional burst of tears. He surprises his brothers by no longer speaking through an interpreter and reveals himself in Hebrew to them and they are scared to death. He draws them closer and tells them that they sold him into slavery so many years ago. What a shocking moment for the brothers as they are forced to go back to their darkest moment, but can you imagine the shock experienced by Benjamin because he was never aware of what his brothers had done. Can you imagine Benjamin’s look of horror as he stared at the rest of his brothers and silently asks, “What do you mean they sold you into slavery?”

However, Joseph frames his journey in a very unusual way. Rather than make accusations to his brothers or condemning them for what they did, he explains to them that God’s Hand was present in the midst of their choices and actions. During the many years that Joseph was separated from his family, he grew and matured in his relationship with God and his perspective on what his brothers did to him. Joseph had forgiven his brothers and continued to believe that God had a bigger plan. It was not until many years later that Joseph would understand the horrible events as a means by which God would deliver his family and protect them from starvation.

Joseph learned something very important during his time away from his family: Will God’s Story shape my understanding of my story or will my personal story shape my understanding of God’s Story? In other words, do I interpret the events in my life based upon God’s presence, promises, and greater plan, or will I use my story to reinterpret God’s Story so that I justify all my choices and actions? Joseph’s challenge is a challenge we all face today. Will I live my life based on what God says about humanity and how we are supposed to live or will I live my life based on my feelings and beliefs and reinterpret God’s Story so that I can justify what I want to do? Joseph chose to live out of God’s Story. How are you choosing to live your life? Whose story is shaping the decisions that you make?

Joseph reunites with his brothers and challenges them to go home to their father and inform him of his safety and to bring all their families back to Egypt. Pharaoh provides resources and wagons for the brothers to go home and retrieve all their family members. The brothers return home and notify their father that Joseph is still alive and the news almost costs Jacob his life. He cannot believe the news, but his sons finally convince him that their words concerning Joseph are true. Jacob’s spirit and joy are restored and he excitedly departs for Egypt with the rest of his family.

The family leaves for Egypt and stops at Beersheba where Jacob will make numerous sacrifices to God. During the night, God speaks to Jacob in a vision confirming his presence in the life of Jacob and his family, and assuring Jacob that he will be present with him in Egypt and will fulfill his promise of making his family into a great nation. Jacob and his family finally arrive in Egypt waiting to be reunited with Joseph.

the hand of God

One of the major themes throughout the stories of Jacob and Joseph is the presence and promises of God. God continues to work behind the scenes through the broken choices of all the characters to bring about the protection and redemption of his people. Jacob has numerous encounters with God, yet so often makes questionable moral decisions; however, God seldom speaks to Joseph, yet he continues to live a deeply devout life and lives from a divine perspective on life and events. As you look at these two individuals, whose life do you most identify with and why? May you find comfort in either one as you seek the hand of God in your life.

grace and brokenness

 

 

Listen to the podcast of Chuck’s message and share with someone who would appreciate the reminder of God’s love for us and His desire to have a personal relationship with us.

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