God’s providence. We talk about it a lot, but that word is never used in the Bible to describe God’s actions. The dictionary defines providence as God’s foreseeing care and guidance over the creatures of earth. The closest we come to the actual word in the Bible is in Acts 24:2 where the Greek pronoia (translated providence) is applied to a Roman governor named Felix.
Now, I’m not saying there is no such thing as God’s providential care. In fact, today’s reading is one of the best examples of God intervening to help his creatures. But what interests me most about this episode is the way God’s action is interwoven with the actions of men. In fact, the same word is used to describe the action of God and Joseph’s brothers which led to his captivity and slavery. Look at Joseph’s words to his brothers after they asked for his forgiveness:
“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
When Joseph says they “meant” it, he is using a word that originally described weaving something together, and which grew to mean thinking, planning, and intending something. Joseph’s brothers wove together a scheme in which they planned, purposed, and intended to harm him. God took the same fabric and, without undoing the brother’s handiwork, wove together a new piece out of the old piece which brought good to Joseph and his brothers. How deep is God’s wisdom that he knows how to do this! What craftsmanship and skill. What power to bring it to completion. At the same time, how significant that the brothers are not kept from making their choice. They are still held responsible for their actions. They still need, and find, forgiveness. God’s providence did not hinder their will, only its result.
Here are some quotes from others about providence:
“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” ― John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God
“The boundless stores of Providence are engaged for the support of the believer. Christ is our Joseph, who has granaries full of wheat; but He does not treat us as Joseph did the Egyptians, for He opens the door of His storehouse and bids us call all the good therein our own. He has entailed upon His estate of Providence a perpetual charge of a daily portion for us, and He has promised that one day we shall clearly perceive that the estate itself has been well-farmed on our behalf and has always been ours. The axle of the wheels of the chariot of Providence is Infinite Love, and Gracious Wisdom is the perpetual charioteer.” – Charles Spurgeon
“While God is not the author of evil and He never prompts or condones sin, nothing occurs without His sovereign oversight. Others may choose to do evil deeds and God’s people may suffer in the short term, but He will transform the evil intentions of evil people into opportunities for the enrichment of those in His care.”
― Charles R. Swindoll
“My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.”
― Corrie ten Boom