No. But, because he cares for us, he chooses to work with us and through us.
I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Gen. 50:24)
As we have reached the end of the life of Joseph in our reading, this statement may not immediately seem like it matters much to your life and mine. But, I think it connects to our lives in a very profound way. I think it shines a light on the way we look at the world; and specifically, how we look at God’s work in the world and in each of our lives.
As we have read through the Bible so far, we notice that God does not tend to act independent of his creation. God uses trees to visually show his standard of life/death and good/evil. He uses water in the flood to bring about judgment to sin. He uses Noah to keep humankind from being wiped completely off of the earth. God uses Abraham to re-establish a covenant relationship between himself and humanity. God uses Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s children to bring about the promises of God. And, of late, we have encountered that God used Joseph to save, not only Egypt, but his family and many other nations from famine.
As often as God uses his creation to bring about his will, it is tempting for us see God as dependent on us to bring about his will and promises. Now, you may at first think, “Not me.” “I never think that way.” But, I would caution you to reflect for a moment. I think when we take a moment and reflect on our relationship with God, we can easily start to recognize times in which we think of ourselves as the key to anything getting done in life. We maybe say to ourselves, “If I don’t keep my kids on the right path, who will?” “If I don’t tell that person they are wrong, who will?” “If I don’t right this wrong, who will?” “If I don’t keep this vision going, who will?”
What I hope you notice here, is not that these statements are inherently evil, but that all of these statements revolve around us (“I”). We think we are the only person who can make things happen in life. Now, I am not trying to say that people have no responsibility in the world; or that we are to be passive and just do nothing in life. What I am trying to have us think about is how we view those responsibilities. Who is at the center of them? Is it us? Or, is it God?
As we reflect on the earlier statement by Joseph to his family, we see that Joseph does not see himself as the center of what is going on in the world. As much as God used him for a pivotal role in saving many lives and bringing about much good, Joseph realized that he is just a part of what is going on in the world. Joseph realizes that what is really going on is that God is at the center of all of life. God is the one directing the destiny of the world. God has broader concerns than just Joseph’s life. It is not that Joseph’s life didn’t matter to God (it clearly did, as the story has shown). But, Joseph realized that his life is not the end-all-be-all. He realizes his life is just one aspect of a bigger reality.
In a sense we encounter Joseph admitting to his family, “I am about to die. But, even though God has done a lot through my life, and my life is about to end — that does not mean God will stop doing many amazing things. He is the Lord of life, not me. God is not dependent on me. I am merely grateful that God has allowed me to be used in the amazing things he has done.” Joseph’s statement here draws out an attitude that we all should strive for: gratitude. We are not the center of everything.
God doesn’t need us for anything. But, because God cares about his creation, he wants to involve us. He has graciously given us roles to play in his mission to bring about the redemption of the world.
Today as you reflect on this line from Joseph’s life, where is your heart today? Is it self-centered? Or, is it grateful — grateful that God has found you valuable to play a role in his mission to redeem the world, whether that is in raising kids, witnessing to the truth, or anything God calls you to do?
For a person in such a high position, Joseph’s life shines as a beacon of gratitude — pointing toward the gracious character of God. It is a beautiful thing to see that God is this gracious and caring.