Last week's Torah portion came from Genesis 37:1 - 40:23.
I have several true born again believer friends who love to tell me about how this or that has happened so perfectly in their lives that they know that God has orchestrated these events. Yet, when terrible or unpleasant things occur, it is Satan that is attacking them. But I think we are too quick to attribute method and motive to both the Lord and our enemy.
Most of the Bible's characters are complex, in that they display both good and bad, but Joseph, who is introduced in this section of Scripture, seems truly to be a type of Messiah, where his sterling good character generally shines continuously. In chapter 37 Joseph is seventeen years old and the favored son of his father Jacob. Because of Jacob's favoritism, Joseph's brothers are jealous. Then through a series of events, a many colored coat, tattling on his brothers, and dreams of supremacy, his brothers decide that Joseph needs to be killed. As the account unfolds Joseph is finally not killed but sold to a caravan of Ishmaelites/Midianites on their way to Egypt. When they reach their destination Joseph is sold to Potipher as a slave.
At this point in Joseph's life, everything must have looked exceptionally bleak. What was God doing? Or were these events an attempt by Satan to "break" Joseph?
Joseph prospered in the house of Potipher. That is until Potipher's wife takes notice of Joseph's good looks. When Joseph refuses to commit adultery with Potipher's wife, she cries that Joseph tried to assault her. Potipher has Joseph thrown into prison. Again, what was God doing?
Next, as Joseph is in prison, he is again prospering. He even interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's butler and baker who had been thrown into prison with Joseph. As the dreams come to pass in reality, Joseph asks the butler to remember him when he is freed from prison and put back in place as Pharaoh's chief butler. Our account ends like this:
Genesis 40:23 (KJV)
Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.
From a human perspective, Joseph must have been discouraged. He could not see God's purpose and plan. He could credit God with his prosperity, and he could blame Satan for his difficulties, but would this have been correct? Does this tell the full story?
Too often we forget that God is in ultimate control of everything. This is not to say that God micromanages everything for us, that we have no decisions or choice in our lives. Nor, is it false to say that our enemy is at work here on our fallen world. But everything that we go through has been scrutinized by God and will only be permitted if it is His will. Sometimes, that means that good happens. Sometimes that means that bad happens. Sometimes our own choices are foolish. Sometimes our choices are smart. Sometimes God allows our foolishness. Sometimes He does not. Looking at our lives we have really no way of knowing the whys. We can not see God's ultimate plan and purpose. We can only trust!
Joseph's story continues in the next Torah portion. We will finally get a glimpse of what work God is doing. This will be the same for us. One day, in eternity, we will see how each piece of our lives connected, to mold us and make us into the people that God wants us to be.