Saturday, March 23, 2013

In God's Hands

“For…you have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy.” Psalm 31: 7-8

The following paragraphs are intended to help us see that God’s hand is the undergirding “moving sidewalk” that is constantly carrying us forward in His purpose even when the enemy and circumstances try to point us in the opposite direction. Lawless hands may “grab” us, but God’s hand rules. We must see ourselves in God’s hands rather than victims of those who mistreat us.


Whose Prisoner?
“…I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you…” Ephesians 3: 1

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner….” 2 Timothy 1: 8

The apostle Paul did not take on the role of victim nor did he rail against those who placed him in chains. Focusing upon them would have depleted his spiritual life leaving him bitter and frustrated. He counted himself a "prisoner of the Lord" not of the Romans. And his enemies, without realizing it, sent him to the very city (Rome) to which Jesus had told him to go (Acts 23:11). His epistles from the Roman prison are in our Bible today and have been read by millions. Though he was bound, the word of God was not bound. His testimony is a poignant reminder that we are in the hands of God, not in the hands of those who afflict us.

Who Sent Joseph?
“But the patriarchs, being envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him.” Acts 7:9

“He [God] sent a man ---Joseph--- before them, who was sold as a slave.” Psalm 105: 17

Joseph’s brothers sold him to traders who carried him off to Egypt in chains where he served as a slave and was unjustly accused and imprisoned. His “owners” and masters controlled all the decisions for his life. They “hurt him” and had no regard for his God, yet unwittingly sent him to the very position of which God had spoken in the prophetic dreams of Joseph's youth.

“God sent me.”
“But now, do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45: 5

Had Joseph focused on the cruel acts of his brothers and masters, he would have developed the victim mentality with all its self-centeredness, ungodly attitudes, and deficiencies of character. He would have been overwhelmed with bitterness and anger. He might have written a book with a sad ending about how he had been mistreated and sent to Egypt as a slave. He most likely would have committed adultery with Potiphar’s wife and wasted away in prison.

Joseph, however, did not focus on those who mistreated him. His business and call was higher. On the surface it appeared that his brothers in cruelty had sent him to Egypt, but the truth is that God sent him to save his family and a nation, and to settle his people in a place where they could grow and develop until God was ready for them to enter the promised land 400 years later. Lawless hands had “grabbed” him, but God’s hand ruled.

In Whose Hands?
“Him, being delivered over by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2: 23-24

“Lawless hands” were at work with malevolent intent grabbing Jesus to crucify him upon a cross, and yet beneath it all was the hand of God delivering Jesus over to his determined purpose. Here is the mystery of God's sovereignty. The actions of wicked men against an innocent person were turned to the purpose of God and to the salvation of the world.

Oppressed people tend to see only the “lawless hands” that mistreat them. The result is loss of faith accompanied by harmful and ungodly attitudes. Jesus, however, kept his heart toward the Father's plan knowing that the redemptive hand of God was at work to fulfill the greater purpose of God. The enemy's plan backfired. Christ became the crucified lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and He was raised from the dead as our Lord and Savior.

We are in the hands of God.
The sovereign hand of God undergirds and holds us in spite of the “lawless hands” that work against us. His hand is the “moving sidewalk” on which we stand and which carries us forward even when it seems the enemy and life attempt to carry us backwards.

When we spend our emotional, mental, and spiritual energy on the "brothers" who "threw us into the pit" or the "Romans" who "threw us into prison," we make ourselves their victims and their prisoners. But when we engage the Lord, surrender to Him, and stand in faith with a right spirit, we experience the grace and power of God working all things together for our good and to His purpose.

We may not always be given the most comfortable route. The Apostle Paul might have preferred to go to Rome on a wonderful Mediterranean cruise ship with the bountiful buffet meals and lively entertainment. Joseph may have preferred to go to Egypt as part of a family vacation, a group tour of the Holy Land with all the first-class accommodations and helpful tour guides followed by a first class excursion to Cairo. But each man’s journey was painful and in chains. They took the way of the cross and drank the “cup” of suffering on their way to the joy set before them and to the fulfillment of a purpose which was greater than themselves and their comfort.

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.’ So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying '…I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you. Now please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your fathers.’ And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them. ‘Do not be afraid, for I am in God’s place. But as for you, you meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive…and he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50: 15-21