Tag Archives: provicence

Providence: The Examples of Joseph and Esther

 

Scripture makes several promises to God’s faithfulness that, if true, require that God is still at work on behalf of His children today.  Notice the following promises.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”

Matthew 10:29-31 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore: you are of more value than may sparrows”

Remember when we took our time and looked at Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

Hebrews 13:5-6 “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

The lesson today centers around two main characters in our Bibles.  They both lived during a time where the Israelite nation were facing possible extinction, and both times the people were saved. In each of these events God does not use miraculous means to save the people.  What happens can best be described as providential.

Providence and Joseph

As we first look at the life of Joseph we acknowledge that some miracles were involved. Joseph’s prophetic dreams and his ability to interpret the prophetic dreams of others were miraculous.   This event was miraculous because it could not have occurred naturally.  In this case we go beyond “perhaps” to certainty because Scripture tells us God worked behind the scenes to make things happen.

READ Genesis 50:20

Let’s trace the story of Joseph.  As things stand in chapter 50 Joseph was second in command only to Pharaoh in Egypt, and was in charge of distributing the large storehouses of grain that he had been accumulating.  There is a widespread famine just as Joseph had miraculously predicted by interpreting Pharaoh’s dream.

Before Joseph could be the dream interpreter he was to meet a butler and a baker in prison.  Here again he interpreted dreams of these men which soon took place. But Joseph was forgotten and let in prison.

If Joseph had not been in prison, the butler would not have known to recommend him to Pharaoh.  As one consider it, it is quite unusual that the butler was reestablished as Pharaoh’s butler after he was released.  But if he had not been, he would not have had the opportunity to tell Pharaoh of Joseph, who had correctly interpreted his dream. But if he had not been restored, the butler would not have had the opportunity to tell Pharaoh of Joseph, who had corrected interpreted his dream.

Joseph would not have been in prison had it not been for Potiphar’s wife.  She lied about him and accused him of rape when it had been her failed attempts to seduction that made her husband Potiphar put him in jail.  We wonder, why was not Joseph killed for this crime?  Could it be that Potiphar had faith in Joseph to the amount that he doubted his wife’s story, but to save face he had him interned?  The overall effect of Joseph’s character and integrity, which had so impressed Potiphar before likely had an effect on the situation.  (Genesis 39)

Joseph would not have been in Egypt had it not been for his brothers having sold him into the caravan of traders. And had they not arrived at the time when Reuben was away he probably would have been pulled out of the pit and sent home.  (Genesis 37)

And Joseph would not have been in this circumstance had he not shared with his brothers and father his dreams.  And perhaps his dreams would not of had the same effect if he had not received the status of “favorite son” and the multi-colored coat.

A whole set of remarkable events, some would say coincidence-some good, some related to the integrity of Joseph, some related to the evil of others–all worked together to put Joseph in position to save his family from the famine.

But what was Joseph thinking as he lived these events? Was he surprised that no one came and saved him from the Ishmaelite traders? After many months working for Potiphar did he think no one cared.  WE get a glimpse into his mind in Genesis 41:51, 52 when he names his sons.  “Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house. The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”

Only later in chapter 50:20 that we read earlier do we realize that Joseph finally understood what was happening to him.  God had a hand in these “coincidences,” overruling the jealous brothers intent and using even their sinfulness to accomplish His purposes.  The providence of God worked for the good of god’s people in the life of Joseph.

Providence and Esther

The key verse in this set of circumstances is found in (READ) Esther 4:14. “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a times as this?”

To give a quick overview of the book we first notice that the King, King Ahasuerus was in conflict with his Queen, Queen Vashti. She refused to allow herself to be paraded in front of a lot of drunken men and so she was quickly removed from her position.

King Ahasuerus then is advised to find a new Queen.  And so all of the beautiful young virgins are gather together into a harm in Susa where the king would then “interview” all of these women until he found one suitable to be the Queen. From this process a new Queen was chosen, a Jewish maiden named Esther.

Esther has a cousin named Mordecai.   Mordecai who was also in the Persian empire because his family had been taken away into captivity.  This man Mordecai that a favorite prince of the King (Haman) has made a plot to destroy the Jews who lived in Persia.  So he goes to Esther and encourages her to influence the king and stop the slaughter.

A series of events take place where the man Haman, the prince who has the king’s ear, goes from most favored to the subject of the kings wrath.  While this is happening, the events lead not to a day where the Jews will be destroyed, but to a day when the Jews can defend themselves and destroy their enemies.

Despite the fact that no mention of God or of any explicit act of God is mentioned in the book of Esther, there are inspired indications that God’s providential hand was at work. When Mordecai was sending word to Esther, pleading with her to intervene, he sent this word:

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews, For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13, 14

Mordecai was aware of the promises God had made to the Jews since the time of Abraham and of the steadfast love of God that ensured His promised would be kept.  Somehow in God’s providence, the Jews would be spared to fulfill their role and bless all the families of the world through the promised Messiah.

God has at times saved His people in miraculous ways.  We are reminded of the time when in Isaiah 37 the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.  There was nothing left for Sennacherib king of Assyria to do but to depart and go home after such a miraculous defeat.

In the narrative of Esther is was through a string of remarkable “coincidence” that we say were not coincidental but providential, relief came to the Jews.  We see a king who cannot sleep reading how Mordecai saved him from assignation.  There is Haman falling into the lap of Esther pleading for his life at the “right moment” for the king to see.  God was working and as Mordecai said, “relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews” (Esther 4:14).

Summary:

For us today, God is still keeping watch above His own. Any one of us at any time could be in a situation that could call for a faithful, effective action on our part to bring about God’s will for His church.  Who knows whether we may have come to the kingdom for just such a