Jacob’s experience of God was not simply a hand-me-down. The second way he identified God was as “the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day.” Notice that God was not just a shepherd or the shepherd of all of his people, but rather “my shepherd.”
Who is God to you? If you were to summarize your personal knowledge of God, what would you say? I’m not asking at this moment about your doctrine of God, your articulated theology. I’m wondering more about your relationship with God, your experienced theology. (Of course, in the end, what we believe about God and what we experience should converge. But, on the way to meeting God face to face, they are often distinct.)
For several days we have been working together on the question: Did Joseph ultimately fail? We know that his plan and execution of this plan kept thousands of people alive through years of famine. But, his plan also led to the enslavement of these thousands to Pharaoh.
Last week, we began to consider whether Joseph ultimately failed in the most important work of his life. In Friday’s devotion I made the case for Joseph’s success. Today I want to present the other side of this argument.
In yesterday’s devotion, we began to wrestle with the question of whether or not Joseph failed in his main mission in life. On the one hand, his foresight and leadership saved thousands if not millions of lives from starvation. On the other hand, in the process of saving the Egyptians and his own family, Joseph made all of these people slaves of Pharaoh. Because of Joseph’s actions, Pharaoh ended up owning all the animals, land, and people of Egypt. Hundreds of years later, the Israelites would be oppressed as slaves in Egypt as a distant result of the outworking of Joseph’s plan. So, did he succeed? Or did he fail?
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I asked the question: Did Joseph ultimately fail? To be more accurate, I borrowed that question from Al Erisman in his book The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph (chapter 25). Yesterday, I considered whether Christians ought to ask such questions of biblical heroes, answering in the affirmative. Today, I want to begin to reflect on the question itself.
“Did Joseph ultimately fail?” Al Erisman poses this question in his book The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith, and Calling from the Life of Joseph (chapter 25). If, like me, you grew up in the church, faithfully attending Sunday School throughout your young life and believing that the Bible is God’s Word, then Al’s question can seem like heresy. How dare Al ask such a thing! Joseph is one of the great heroes of the Bible. Of course he didn’t fail! Or . . . did he?
Sometimes God’s “mysterious, marvelous ways” exceed all of our expectations in their obvious goodness. Sometimes, however, God’s ways are mysterious in the opposite direction. It can be hard to catch the marvelous quality.
Last Thursday’s Life for Leaders edition was entitled “God’s Mysterious, Marvelous Ways.” In this devotion I focused on Joseph’s claim that God, not his brothers, had sent him to Egypt for God’s own purposes. Today, I want to reflect with you on another dimension of God’s mysterious, marvelous ways.
Today is my mother’s birthday. In her honor, I want to tell a story about her life that illustrates what we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion.