February 9 – Eternal
“You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” – Genesis 50:20
We typically try to understand God’s eternal nature by means of comparison. There was a time before you and I existed, but God has always existed. Our lives are like lines, with beginnings and ends, but God is like a circle, with neither beginning nor end. In so doing we reveal the inadequacy of our comprehension; we start with the finite and try to work up to the infinite. But God isn’t just above time, as if its rules don’t apply to him. He created time. And he is in all times. He’s as present in Ancient Egypt and the American Revolution as he is with you right this second. He’s above time and controls all time; nothing has ever surprised him, and he’s never been in a rush. This is something we simply can’t understand by comparison.
In grappling with God’s eternal nature, we’ll puzzle over how a being could have no beginning. Just the other day my friend was asked by a kid, “If God created everything, then who created God?” Good question; as creatures ourselves we struggle to understand anything as not created. And as we continue to grapple with God’s eternal nature we’ll inevitably come up against an age-old question: “If God knows the future, why did he let ____ happen?” We talked about this a little bit last week with God’s omniscience. If God knew that American slavery and the Holocaust and the Crusades were all going to happen, why didn’t he stop them? Now, some of us are legitimately concerned over these things. Others of us use this as a shadow argument, under which we wonder “Why did he let _____ happen to me?” A sudden death in the family, inexplicable loneliness, all that we’ve wanted to happen that hasn’t or didn’t want to happen that did. The question under the question is really, “Can I really trust God?” Note how quickly we can make God’s eternal nature all about us.
Here in Genesis 45 we see a remarkable exchange between Joseph, who had been sold into slavery some 20ish years prior, and his brothers, who had done the selling. Joseph had risen all the way from being a household slave in Egypt to being Prime Minister over all of Egypt. In this position he wielded the very power of Pharoah himself; he easily could’ve had his brothers executed, or exacted his vengeance in any number of ways. He didn’t. If you read back over chapters 37-44 he easily could have bemoaned his being sold into slavery, or getting thrown in jail for 2 years, or any of the various twists and tragedies in his life story. He didn’t. So we just need to be more like Joseph, right?
Yes and no. Out of all the other Biblical characters, Joseph is pretty far up on the list of guys you might want to try to be like. His belief in the Lord in the pit of despair (he was literally in a pit a few times) and his forgiveness of his brothers should show us that it’s at least possible to trust God radically and be transformed by his love. But our conversation around trusting the Lord with our past, present, and future simply can’t center on ourselves and our efforts to try to be more of anything. We’ll wrap up our conversation with Matthew 6, where Jesus reminds us that we needn’t worry because God is in control and we are precious to him. He is infinitely powerful and infinitely loving towards you. This is the foundational vantage point, the kernel of truth, that can help us dare to trust God, whether we’re Prime Minister or still in the pit.
Questions for Discussion
• Can someone read Genesis 45:4-15 for us?
• What’s going on here in this passage?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How would you describe Joseph’s attitude towards his life’s trajectory?
• How does God being an eternal being affect the way you relate to him?
• Specifically thinking about the future, how do you typically feel about God’s control over your future?
• Let’s turn to Matthew 6:25-34. Could someone read that for us?
• Why do you think God invites us to trust him with our future?