Then, just as they were sitting down to eat, they noticed a caravan of camels in the distance coming towards them….[Judah said,] “Let’s sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite traders.” Gen 37:25-26
What are the chances that the Ismaelite traders would pass by the area right at the time when Joseph showed up to where his brothers were staying? The chances are slim to none. But this worked out perfectly for Joseph’s brothers. They decided to sell Joseph into slavery instead of killing him. Later, as we read the rest of this amazing story, we find out that God had his hand in all this. God’s plan was for Joseph to go to Egypt, to become prime minister, and to save his family from the famine that was to come.
But this all raises some interesting questions:
1 – If this was all God’s plan, how can Joseph’s brothers be held responsible for their actions. They did evil, but we see that God’s will was accomplish through it.
2 – Why didn’t God get Joseph to Egypt in some other way?
3 -Why didn’t God just stop the famine?
The answer to all of this is in one of the most interesting and most debated doctrines of the bible. And that is the doctrine of Predestination and Foreknowledge.
To understand these doctrines (or teachings) we need to ask ourselves some questions:
1 – Does man have free will?
That is, does man have the ability to do what he chooses to do out of his own power? For example, did I choose to go to Java Jax today out of my own freedom of choice, or did I go because it was God’s divine will for me to go and I wouldn’t really have been able to do anything else anyway?
2 – Does God have a plan?
Is God doing something and if He is how is He doing it?
Let’s examine the first question: Does man have free will? Did Adam really have a choice of whether or not he was going to eat of the fruit of the tree God told him not to eat of? Did he? Or was he destined to eat the fruit and bring sin and death into the world? Only one of the two answers can be correct.
This should be common sense to us. Of course he had the choice. The bible makes zero sense if you erase the free will of man out of the picture. It’s plastered in every book of the bible from beginning to end. The bible is slammed full of statements that say, “if you do this, then you’ll be blessed. If you do that, you will be cursed.” The old and new testament are packed full of statements like this. You can’t get away from them.
The bible, logic, and real life circumstances show us that we have a free will to choose good or evil.
Now lets look at question 2: Does God have a plan?
Yes he does! This story in Genesis about Joseph shows us that God has a plan. God also has a plan for the world. He also has a plan for our lives.
So here’s the kicker: How does God accomplish His plans and not step over the free will of mankind? The answer is found in two words: Foreknowledge and Predestination.
(Continued in part 2)