“Christians cannot promise that life on earth will get better as time goes on; we have no assurance that it will. It is perfectly possible that our civilization will decline as ancient Rome did, and that our descendants will live through another dark age. The sinful passions of fallen man have not been defeated, and Satan is still active. We may be caught up in things that defy our imagination, and it is perhaps better that we do not know what will happen to us or to our children in this life. But what we can say for sure is that God is in control of events, that whatever happens will resound to his glory, and that no power in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:39).”
– Gerald Bray’s Augustine on the Christian Life (p. 210)
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
This is the culmination of the series of messages given during the previous Sundays regarding the life of Joseph. The series is entitled Grace in Disguise. The message this morning is Suffering and the Sovereignty of God. Even so, this is still about grace in disguise. But this time, since we are now at the end of the story of Joseph, this is now about the unveiling of the disguise, and the revealing of the grace which was there all along from the very beginning of Joseph’s ordeal.
I’ve started my 2014 Bible reading plan and first on the list is Genesis 1:1-2:3. Here are some of my reflections:
1. The Creative Power of God. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (1:1) Creation owes its existence to God; all creatures owe their existence to God. By God’s Word out of nothing they came to be.
2. The Dignity of Human Beings. (a) They, male and female, alone of all the creatures on earth, are created in God’s image. (b) God gave them dominion over the earth and the living creatures on it. (1:26-28)
3. The Providence of God. God has provided for the sustenance of the creatures that he has made. “You shall have them for food.” (1:29) “[To] … everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” (1:30)
4. The Goodness of Creation. “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (1:31) Creation, as God originally made it, is beautiful and good. And even after the fall we still see significant remnants of this beauty and goodness.
5. The Sacredness of the Sabbath. “And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” (2:2-3) Even the omnipotent God rested! Rest is important, the day of rest is sacred – i.e., not to be violated but to be treated with reverence. There are a number of positions people hold regarding the Sabbath (some say it’s been changed to Sunday, some say what matters is the principle of rest in one day out of seven and not a specific day); the important thing however is: God rested, so should we.
“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15)
Faith is a commitment in the context of relationship. It is the response of intimacy, issuing or arising from the sense or realization that that relationship has been in place all along, from the very beginning. From my youth up – even from my mother’s womb – I have been protected, guided, cared for. “My times are in your hands!” Why are my times not absolutely chaotic, such as we would expect from an absolutely godless world? The forces of chaos do not reign supreme; they are held in check. His hands are there caring for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. My times are my times – a bit of meaningful history, even if not completely comprehensible – because his hands are there: He is there, and my times are in his hands.
What is man? A vessel that the slightest shaking, the slightest toss will break… A body weak and fragile, naked, in its natural state defenceless, dependent upon another’s help and exposed to all the affronts of Fortune.”
The New Testament says something similar; the difference is it subscribes to the idea of providence, not fortune.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)