We recently just concluded an eight-week collection of messages all about growing emotionally in order to truly grow spiritually. The entire series was inspired by a book by author/pastor Peter Scazzero called, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” In one of the chapters entitled, “Going back in order to go forward,” Peter Scazzero argues for the importance of journeying through the history of our family line in order to recognize patterns of generation sin and dysfunction. We can’t grow out of what we don’t know is affecting us, so by becoming aware of what our family has struggled with and what’s been handed down to us, we are then able to surrender those things at the foot of the cross while also picking up a Kingdom vision for our family’s future. I think this is an important exercise that every follower of Jesus should do if they genuinely wish to continue to move forward into God’s good plan for their lives. Still, Joseph’s story reminds us that there’s MORE to look for in our past than simply our family's shortcomings.
In Genesis 45, we are brought into one of the most beautiful and climactic moments in all of the Bible, and that’s when Joseph finally reveals his identity to his brothers, who believe he has been dead and gone for over 17 years. And in this chapter, we see two things about Joseph's perspective and the state of his heart. First, he had already done the work of “going back in order to go forward.” Joseph had come to terms with what had been handed down to him because of the sins of his brothers. Joseph had forgiven them entirely, without ignoring what they had done against him. “4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here… (Gen.45:4-5) He had moved past this dark moment in their families history and he wanted his brothers to do so as well.
But Joseph’s broken family history was not the only thing he had become aware of during his time in Egypt. He became aware of God’s hand over his life and God’s perfect plan unfolding right before his eyes despite whatever circumstance he walked through. “8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”(Gen.45:8)
Sometimes it can be challenging to see the hand of God over our lives in the very present moments of our life. People sin against us, and we walk through difficult circumstances like an unplanned diagnosis or the loss of a job, and life at times can feel chaotic and random. While none of us are free from these things happening to us, as children of God, we are free to “go back in order to go forward.” Joseph learned to look back at the hand of God and to see that even the moments that seemed like setbacks, failures, or just downright unfair were actually orchestrated by God. God was not surprised by the pit Joseph was thrown into, the band of slave traders that he was sold to, or the jail that he was thrown into because of Potiphar’s wife.
How wonderfully those two things meet in practical harmony – the free will of man and the predestination of God! Man acts as freely and just as guiltily as if there were no predestination whatever, and God ordains, arranges, supervises, and over-rules, just as accurately as if there were no free will in the universe.
This is entirely my personal opinion and interpretation, so take it or leave it, but I believe that Joseph had this revelation of God’s perfect plan just three chapters earlier when Joseph’s brothers initially made the journey towards Egypt to receive help for the famine. “6 Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them….”(Gen.42:6-7)
At this moment, Joseph’s dream that he received from God as a zealous and immature seventeen-year-old was coming to pass right before his eyes and being fulfilled despite his off-path life. Joseph saw the hand of God over his life, allowing him to continue going forward. What about you? Have you taken the time to go back in order to go forward? I promise you that you will see God’s GOOD AND PERFECT plans all over your story by doing this. You may see God’s hand in little things, like when somebody just invited you to a church service where God personally met you and intersected your life. You may see God’s hand in something big, like a warning from the Holy Spirit that saved your life or somebody close to you.
I saw God’s hand in my life when he challenged me as a young college student to start a men’s prayer group with some buddies of mine. I had never done something like this before and, honestly, didn’t feel comfortable or qualified to either, but for some reason, I did it. The name I felt God had given me for this group was “Solid Rock,” based on Psalm 40.
“He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.”
I had no idea, but it was during these two years of praying with those guys that God taught me how to pastor people. A few years later, God called me to move to OKC to step into a role I didn’t feel qualified for. And it was until about a year ago that God revealed that “Solid Rock” was preparing me for “New Song.”
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Some might call it a coincidence. I see the hand of God. This revelation breathed so much life and confidence in me, knowing that God truly is turning everything around for the good of those who love Him. What about you?