At the LCMS Bible study, the pastor talked about the story of Joseph. Here are some items:
A. The Egyptians thought highly of themselves. Of course, the Pharaoh
believed that he was a god, but, according to the pastor, the people in
the Egyptian hierarchy saw themselves as semidivine. The Egyptians saw
themselves as above other nations, so the Egyptians would not eat with
the Hebrews. Joseph asks the Egyptian staff to leave the room before he
reveals he is Joseph to his brothers because he does not want those
Egyptians to know he actually is Hebrew.
B. At this stage, there was not as clear of a definition of what
being an Israelite meant. We are not yet in the Book of Leviticus, where
God sets forth stipulations that set Israel apart from the other
nations. Joseph has some conception that the God of Israel is opposed to
adultery, which is why he refuses the advances from Potiphar’s wife,
but he later marries an Egyptian, even more, the daughter of a priest.
Joseph becomes absorbed in Egyptian culture.
C. A student read a note from her study Bible that said that seven
years of famine, one on top of another, would have crumbled the Egyptian
empire, had God not intervened.
D. The pastor said that he does not believe that God caused the
famine but foreknew it and prepared the Egyptians (and the world) for
it; God does not cause evil but brings good out of it. We got some into
theodicy. Calvin elevated God’s sovereignty, whereas Luther saw divine
mercy as more important: God’s sovereignty informs and shapes his
sovereignty. Whereas Calvin believed that God somehow caused Adam and
Eve to sin, Luther held that Adam and Eve sinned by their own free will,
but God foresaw their sin and thus planned to send Christ. A student
asked if God knows we will sin but hopes we will not. The pastor replied
that God sees the whole movie in advance but his heart still breaks
over human sin.
I asked about Genesis 41:25, 28, and 32, which appear to suggest that
God indeed did cause the famine. The pastor referred to Luther’s idea
of three kingdoms. The Kingdom of Power includes God’s jurisdiction over
nature. The Kingdom of Grace is God dealing with us according to God’s
promises. The Kingdom of Glory is heaven. How the pastor addressed my
question may need to be unpacked, a bit. The pastor seemed to suggest
that God rules nature but often allows nature to unfold itself. The
pastor may have been implying that, when Joseph says that the famine is
something that God is about to do, he means that God, in his rule over
nature, is permitting the famine to take place. The pastor also said
that the New Testament focuses on God’s mercy more than God’s power,
whereas God’s power was stressed in the Old Testament. Yet, the pastor
noted exceptions, such as the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira and the
Book of Revelation, commenting that, just when you think you have God
figured out, something in the Bible trips you up.
1 hour ago