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B'resheet/Genesis 45:8 "And now, it was not you that sent me here ..."
Sforno comments, perhaps somewhat wryly, "Now that you realise the Divine plan and purpose behind all this, a design which could not have been achieved without the earlier conflicts." Putting those words into Yosef's mouth, he demonstrates how although we pray and ask G-d to do things, we often cannot recognise the hand of G-d at work until afterwards, looking back with hindsight. Was it reasonable - within a few moments of discovering that this mighty Egyptian official was their brother Yosef, whom they had sold into slavery some twenty or so years ago and almost certainly had given up for dead - to expect these bewildered brothers to recognise the providence of G-d? "Now that you recognise the Divine plan ..." - that's a pretty tall order.
Writing in his book "G-d Crucified", Richard Bauckham speaks about the way in which G-d is both novel and consistent: "He may act in new and surprising ways, in which He proves to be the same G-d, consistent with His known identity, but in unexpected ways. He may be trusted to be consistent with Himself, but He may surprise in the ways He proves consistent with Himself. The consistency can only be appreciated with hindsight." So here, no-one could have predicted the sequence of events that led Yosef through sibling rivalry, slavery and prison to the most exalted position in Egypt, wielding an enormous power that affected the whole of the Middle East region for decades. Yet, looking back, we can see how G-d started sowing the seeds and gave specific promises and commitments to Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov, not to mention Yosef himself, that to the original hearers must have sounded a little strange, yet to us who see the whole picture from the end are really quite obvious indications of what is about to happen.
Imagine the surprise felt by the crowd surrounding the stake when Yeshua cried out, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23;34, NASB). At that moment they were unable to really see what was happening; they certainly saw the physical events of the crucifixion - for many of the crowd or those there in an official capacity, yet another crucifixion, one of many the Romans used as a deterrent to the unhappy people of Judea - but they were too close to be able to see the big picture. The disciples couldn't see it in spite of having been warned beforehand: "We are now going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be handed over to the head cohanim and Torah-teachers. They will sentence Him to death and turn Him over to the Goyim, who will jeer at Him, beat Him and execute Him on a stake as a criminal" (Matthew 20:18-19, CJB). The centurion in charge of the execution squad nearly saw it when he said, "Truly this was the Son of G-d" (Matthew 27:54, NASB). But it takes the hindsight of Kefa some 53 days later to be able to recognise that, "this man was arrested in accordance with G-d's predetermined plan and foreknowledge; and, through the agency of persons not bound by the Torah, you raised Him up on a stake and killed Him" (Acts 2:23, CJB).
Further Study: Isaiah 42:5-9; Ephesians 1:9-12
Application: When we are in the heat of the fire we are often too distracted by the the flames that we are unable to see the plan of G-d being worked out. If this is so for you today, then take a few moments to ask G-d to pull your head back from the bricks so that you can see the whole wall and recognise what He is doing in your life.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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