Joseph: Generous, humble, grateful

Perhaps you know the story — Joseph gets left for dead and sold off into slavery by his brothers, and then the narrative takes a redemptive turn. An amazing true picture of the Gospel, about 4,000 years ago. Let’s pick it up at the climax, Genesis 50:15-21:

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

This text, especially verse 20 as a summary of the theological thread in the story, helps us see a sort of “compatiblism.” That is, what one can intend for evil, a much greater One can intend for God. We can argue over if it is “intend” or “use” (make use of), or even “design” — as in God designed this seemingly horrible event for a greater purpose. Won’t get into those various theological views in this space at this time. Something more important must be seen here.

But what needs to be said is this: Joseph gets it. He is a true disciple and worshiper of God, for what is the outcome after 17 years in prison from the false accusation of another, preceded by estrangement from his family, and the while living as a forgotten on in a foreign land? All of that was not wasted in the forming of his character. (Which is to say that all of it was strangely necessary in God’s economy.) We see in Joseph a unique man, standing above the others of his day. He still worshiped God through it all. The pain, loss and confusion in his life draw him closer to God. Plus, the working of the events in his life came about for the rescuing of the “many” (v. 20). This man is aware of the implications of his actions, though not overestimating his own contribution.

Here was a man high in generosity AND humility. (How many people are generous, just as long as they get the credit? That’s called pride.) A friend pointed this text out to me yesterday, and I cannot take credit for this observation: Joseph was a generous person, high in humility because he was grateful in all things. (He is a living picture of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, if your mind is now thinking about these biblical themes.)

As a grateful person, Joseph saw his life as serving a greater purpose: for the saving of many lives. He essentially died to his brothers and father, and his life was hid in God for the sake of rescuing thousands. (For context: the famine that hit that land would have affected dozens of surrounding countries, not just Egypt. Joseph’s God-inspired wisdom prevented famine for that pivotal country and for so many others, evidenced in his brothers coming as sojourners to buy grain. A less generous man would not have cared, and without God already humbling him, what would motivate this man to reconcile with his brothers?)

How do we become generous people who live in proper humility? Gratitude is the dynamic reality that daily keeps us in this ‘happy tension’ of joyfully giving away our lives for a cause much greater than ourselves. Joseph became that man in the crucible of pain. There is no other way, and we must praise God and thank Him for His work in every circumstance under the sun. None of it has just ‘happened.’ For that we can be grateful.

When our lives become about the rescuing of many lives, we are no longer living for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Those people get it. God sees it in their generosity, gratitude, and humility.

(Thankful for my friend Jon who pointed this story out to me yesterday. I’ve been meditating on it since then.)

Happy Tensions: WHOs & DOs

I’ve been re-posting some of my favorite articles. Here’s one you may enjoy.

What do you think Christianity is? How do you read the Bible?

It is quite easy to think of the Bible as a book of rules — things to DO. Yet, it is far greatest The Story of God, of His coming near to us, and in that way is not primarily about us. The Bible is about GOD. And not just facts, figures and fables — as if God were a science experiment, a idea to be calculated, quantified and categorized. In reality, God has acted in history — in this real world — and as we read Scripture we discover the stories are true, the characters are generally failures, and God is always faithful. That’s step one, reading the Bible as if it’s about God and not just “me.” Of course, it must be experienced, taken into our whole lives, if we are to learn what God says.

There’s another needed emphasis, more likened to a simple priority: know the WHOs before the DOs. Jesus came to show us the way by BEING the way. No five step (or 12) plan for salvation here (though obedience and life-change is progressive and gradual). He’s the plan, the whole plan. So when we read, we see the what, why, how, and especially the Who of God’s Story.
Continue reading

Happy Tensions: Head + Heart

Christianity refuses to choose between head and heart. It is both head and heart. It is intellectually credible (if you would take time to study), as well as experientially pleasing. Christ fills our heads, and captivates our hearts. God’s Word forces us to think deeply, but touches us on the deepest level. It is real, and must be experience in real-time.

We each are drawn towards one direction. Be tethered to both. Those who detach the two are either swimming in a sea of religion, or being swept away in an ocean of mysticism.

Know God.

Love Him.

Enjoy Him.

Fill your mind with Him, and never stop swimming in the depths of His love, truth, and taking others to take the plunge with you. We were meant to know God, cognitively and experientially. And we were meant to do that with others, pointing others to Him. God wants to be known. Do you know Him? Do others know Him because of you?

Think.

Looking forward to this new book by pastor John Piper — Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.

Why was it written? Why do you have a mind? How does thinking relate to our emotions and loving people?

Focusing on the life of the mind helps us to know God better, love him more, and care for the world. Along with an emphasis on emotions and the experience of God, we also need to practice careful thinking about God. Piper contends that “thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God.” So how are we to maintain a healthy balance of mind and heart, thinking and feeling?

Piper urges us to think for the glory of God. He demonstrates from Scripture that glorifying God with our minds and hearts is not either-or, but both-and. Thinking carefully about God fuels passion and affections for God. Likewise, Christ-exalting emotion leads to disciplined thinking.

Readers will be reminded that “the mind serves to know the truth that fuels the fires of the heart.”

Here’s a preview [PDF preview from the publisher as well]:

HT: JT