Genesis 37:16–27, Deuteronomy 30:15–20, Matthew 12:46–50
One of the most heartbreaking things taught by certain Christian traditions is that God wills bad things to happen to people. One of the reasons they draw that conclusion is that we are able to look back at stories like Joseph’s and say, “God knew/planned/designed this to happen.” For people who have no faith or have believed themselves betrayed by God, how could such a perspective bring them comfort or joy? In fact, it is not surprising that they would never trust such a God.
One of the other presumptions often followed is blind faith. Blind faith often means “following your heart” without any planning. This is not Joseph’s faith, or at least scripture doesn’t provide that description. Part of the other problem with our looking back and imposing our own stories is that we forget or neglect a basic reality—and it certainly was Joseph’s—life is hard. What Joseph experienced is probably not that different than others experienced in the same era. We can draw that conclusion fairly easily, for selling family into slavery is still a story being experienced today in many parts of the world. It doesn’t make it easy, though.
When Moses sends off the Israelites to the promised land, he presents a choice: life or death. One would think that was an easy and simple choice. As the story of the Israelites unfolds, however, we can see that it isn’t the case. Yet, again, the conclusion could be drawn that God planned that the Israelites would not choose life. Yet, that isn’t God’s intent, purpose, or God’s heart (as revealed by his prophets). Yes, God knew, and God loved them anyway. God knew, and he loved everyone so much that he permitted awful things, even while he cried out to them to return.
God did not seek to send Joseph to death or slavery. Joseph’s brothers had a choice. There were plenty of choices that could have been made differently, Israel (or Jacob) could have made different decisions, as could have Leah and Rachel. Joseph definitely could have made different decisions. It’s not what God directs or allows, it’s what God redeems that is the real story.
What is God’s will for us? Well, God’s will for Joseph was that Joseph interpret dreams that God gifted him the ability to interpret. God’s will for Moses that he guide the people to the Promised Land. They both did it, but not fully and in the best way.
God’s will for Jesus‘ family was that they raise and love the Messiah. They did, but as the “blooming” of the Messiah occurred, they weren’t so happy. What was God’s will for them? They partially succeeded but had a slight change of heart. Did they fully oppose God’s will? No. They just made things a little more difficult for the Messiah. Being true to form, Jesus redeemed it, teaching us what it means to be Jesus’ family.
1) Why is “being in God’s will” so attractive? Why is the view of God controlling everything the opposite of “being in God’s will”?
2) What is the difference between being in “God’s will” and blind faith? What are the similarities?
3) Why is redemption such an important piece of understanding “God’s plan” versus God redeeming our choices?