Garland Of Grace – 09.01.16

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Selling My Children to the Ishmaelites

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Genesis 50:20

I suppose every family has inside jokes. One of the Martin family’s inside jokes involves selling our children to the Ishmaelites. I really do not remember how it began, but occasionally whenever our children misbehave, we jokingly tell them that if they do not straighten up, we are going to sell them to the Ishmaelites. This obviously is a reference to the story of Joseph sold by his brothers into slavery.  We made it a teaching tool to tell the story of Joseph. I am convinced that Sarah and I might quite possibly have the only children in the world that had the word “Ishmaelite” stored away in their vocabulary bank as early as age two.

The story of Joseph is fascinating.It demonstrates the goodness of God in all circumstances, no matter how bleak things might appear to be. Jacob had many sons, but Joseph was his obvious favorite. And the privileges that father Jacob hurled Joseph’s way acted as festering sores boiling within the hearts of his older brothers. Motivated by jealousy, they determined to rid themselves of Joseph by selling him into slavery to a band of traveling Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:28). Yet despite their evil actions, God used it to accomplish His purposes; for if Joseph had not been sold into slavery, he would have never been brought to Egypt. If he had never been brought to Egypt, he would have not been purchased by Potiphar (Genesis 39:1).  If he had not been purchased by Potiphar, he would have not had the opportunity to be falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:19).  If He had not been falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, then he would not have had the opportunity to be thrown into prison (Genesis 39:19-20). If he had not been thrown into prison, he would not have had the opportunity to meet the king’s cupbearer (Genesis 40:1-3). If he had not met the cupbearer, then Pharaoh would have not heard about Joseph (Genesis 41:9-13). If he had not interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, he would have never been placed into a position of authority (Genesis 41: 38-40). If he had not been placed in a position of authority, he would have never been a blessing to the people in the land during a time of famine. This is why years later Joseph told his brothers that what they meant for evil God meant for good (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph was a young man sold into slavery, accused of adultery, and thrown into prison, yet God permitted what He could have prevented to accomplish His overarching purposes. And the comforting truth is that God was with Joseph throughout the entire ordeal (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, and 23). So what may appear to be bad from our perspective is meant by God for our good and for His glory. No wonder the apostle Paul wrote to the early church at Rome and said, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

It is foolish thing to question the providence of God. Isaiah 46:9-11 says “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” The Psalmist expressed God’s sovereignty in Psalm 135:6 when he penned, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does…”

Wrapped in the blanket of God’s providential care, the child of God should find warmth in knowing that nothing happens without God’s permission.  We should embrace this truth all the more when those who oppose us attempt to do us harm; for when the hand of our enemy strikes us, we can find great comfort in knowing that it has happened to us under the care of the providential hand of God.

 – Pastor Eric

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