1 Chronicles 18-20

1 Chronicles 18-20…100% God’s sovereignty and 100% human responsibility.

These chapters outline a time in which soldiers, like Joab, did not hesitate to speak freely of God to their companions in arms. As we move increasingly toward a culture in the US where absolute truth is considered divisive and intolerant, casual followers of Jesus will be exposed. Even in the bible belt, there will likely be a cost to following Christ in the coming years, and those who would typically make a hasty profession of faith will have to carefully consider what they are doing.

We are reminded in this section of 1 Chronicles of Joab’s memorable advice to both trust in God and fight tirelessly. David’s General felt that the ultimate issue of the battle must be left to God, but that nothing could absolve him and his soldiers from doing their best. They believed that God was in complete control of the situation, but that they also were completely responsible for acting, and seeking to obey and love Him by excelling in their fighting.

This balance of God’s work and ours is an evidence of understanding scripture clearly. We must believe that God is the ultimate arbiter, but we must seek to speak and act as though the responsibility were entirely on ourselves. To believe that God will do all, and therefore ourselves to do nothing, is as bad as to believe that God leaves us to our unaided endeavors. We believe in the strength and sufficiency of God’s purpose. But, we know that there is a link in the chain of causation which we must supply. This is difficult for us to grasp in our finite human minds, which is why we need to trust the truth of scripture more than our own understanding.

Genesis 42-44

Genesis 42-44…Joseph’s brothers go to Egypt, they return home and then go back to Egypt, and Joseph plants a silver cup on Benjamin.

Joseph was hard on his brothers, not from a spirit of revenge, but to bring them to repentance. Not seeing his brother Benjamin, he suspected that they had treated him harshly as well, and he gave them occasion to speak of their father and brother. God, in his providence, sometimes can seem similarly harsh with those he loves, and can bring about difficulties for His children.

Joseph decided that one of them should stay, and the rest go home and bring Benjamin. It was a very encouraging word he said to them, “I fear God.” This assured them he would do them no harm. With those that fear God, we can expect to be treated respectfully. We should examine ourselves to be sure that we do fear God. To be clear, this is not the kind of fear a prisoner has for his tormentor, but rather, the fear that a child has for his father. This fear involves respect and love, and deep desire to please. It can be implied from Genesis 42, that treating others disrespectfully shows we do not fear God.

In Genesis 43, Joseph’s brothers return to Egypt. They show great respect to Joseph, and his previous dreams were fulfilled more and more. Joseph showed great kindness to them in return, and this is another example of a Christ-type in the Old Testament. Joseph was a sinner, and is not our savior, but the Lord uses examples like him as well as Noah and Moses and David as a picture of the coming Messiah. Joseph makes his brothers see that he is their only refuge from destruction. He overcomes their unwillingness, and brings them to himself. Then, as he sees fit, he gives them some taste of his love, and welcomes them to the provisions of his house, as a preview of what he further intends for them. Christ does the same with us.

Though all of the brothers show repentance for the way they had treated Joseph when they kneel before him (Genesis 44:14), it is Judah who stands out as the godliest of them all. Only the irresistible work of the Holy Spirit can explain such a transformation in Judah’s life. It may have taken years to get him to this point, but the Spirit’s sanctifying work, seen in its beginning stages when Tamar convicted Judah of his selfishness (38:1–26), shows its profound results in the face of danger in Egypt. Having been humbled and put in place by Tamar, Judah now willingly puts himself last, revealing a self-sacrificing love that will give up everything so that his father, who might never love him as he does Benjamin, will not grieve. Truly, as Matthew Henry writes, Judah surpasses all his brothers “in boldness, wisdom, eloquence, and especially tenderness for their father and family.”

Genesis 39-41

Genesis 39-41…Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker meet Joseph in prison, and Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and is put in charge of Egypt.

Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers, and was taken down to Egypt. Genesis 39-41 is a remarkable part of God’s history as He continues to use the most unlikely circumstances to bring about His glory. In these chapters, we can observe three things Joseph did which demonstrate his love for the Lord.

1) He trusted God’s sovereignty. If anyone had reason to grumble and complain about unfair circumstances, it was Joseph. Clearly God had given him a miraculous ability to interpret dreams, but on the surface it seemed that this gift only resulted in trouble. Later, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph explains what God was doing when he tells his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s trust in the Lord’s goodness was not shaken one bit. Our Father in heaven loves us and disciplines those He loves, so we need to trust His plan, even if we don’t understand it. He will undoubtedly bring us trials in this life.

2) He remained faithful. Joseph was put in a very difficult circumstance with Potiphar’s wife. She tried to seduce him, but he resisted. Notice the way in which he avoided sin in Genesis 39:10; “And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.” This is the kind of vigilant faith Jesus described in Mark 9:47 when He talks about pursuing holiness. He says, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell.” Joseph was wise enough to know that it wasn’t enough to simply avoid sleeping with her. His faith was big enough and his love for God passionate enough, that he decided he could only remain pure by avoiding her altogether. A helpful example of how we should approach similar situations.

3) Joseph sought to change his circumstances. A common misconception of reformed theology, especially by those who are not reformed, is that it removes free will and human responsibility from the equation. However, this would be hypercalvinism, which is wrong. Any teaching that assumes we must sit back and let God do whatever He is going to do because we have not control over anything is false. The scriptures are full of imperative commands, as well as examples of saints throughout history who took action. Joseph certainly understood God’s hand in his difficult circumstances, but he aggressively tries to change them to better himself. In Genesis 40:15, when he interprets the dream of Pharaoh’s cupbearer in prison, he says, “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.” The story of Joseph is a great example of both God’s sovereign hand orchestrating events, as well as man’s responsibility to act, and his freedom in doing so. This is difficult to grasp in our finite humans minds, but God is 100% sovereign and man 100% responsible. This is true throughout scripture, and therefore is to be believed.