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The Timing of God's Providence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 15, 2020 12:01 am

The Timing of God's Providence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 15, 2020 12:01 am

God is never late in answering our prayers. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his study of the life of Joseph to reflect on the perfect timing of God's unfolding providence.

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Have you ever felt that God was late in answering your prayers? It's easy to get frustrated, isn't it? But today we'll learn about a very patient man and an infinitely faithful God. Renewing Your Mind with our sprawl is next.

There are times when we pray and ask God for something, maybe it's wisdom for a career change. Maybe it's a plea to heal us or deliver us from a difficult situation. And God appears to be silent. That doesn't mean he doesn't care for us or hear us to underline this point. We can turn to a central figure in the Old Testament. Let's continue Dr. Sprawl series on the life of Joseph.

A few moments ago, before the beginning of our message today, I was having a discussion with our audience that is here and told them the story that Jim Boyce told years ago of a mountain climber who was in a precarious situation, trying to scale very difficult peak when suddenly his slip. They lost his footing and he started to fall over the side. And just as he started to plummet 10000 feet to his death, he reached out and grab this weak little branch that was growing out of the side of the mountain and stopped his fall momentarily.

But he could see that the roots were coming loose. And then he would drop in a moment or two anyway. And so he looked to have it and he cried out, is there anybody up there who can help me?

And he heard this voice coming from heaven.

God said, I am God. I can help you. Trust me. Let go of the branch. So the mountain climber looked down at the cavern 10000 feet below him, looked up again to heaven and said, Is there anyone else up there who can help me? I always enjoy that story because it illustrates how weak our confidence is when we are called to put our trust in God, particularly when, for all intents and purposes, everything that the eye can see gives us no reason for confidence or for hope.

And one of the most difficult things for us in life is to have hope. Taken away. Now, we remember Joseph in prison and Joseph speaking to the chief butler, saying to the butler on the occasion of his release. When you get back to the palace, remember me? Tell Pharaoh that I am innocent. And then we read in our last session how that when the butler was restored to the right hand of Pharaoh, he forgot Joseph and Joseph continued to languish in his dungeon. Now what it must have been like. Remember, there's been 11 years since he had been sold by his brothers. And God had not rescued him.

His plight had gone from bad to worse. Now, for the first time, there is a glimmer of hope. He has a messenger to plead his case with Pharaoh, and the man said he would do it.

And don't you think that the the initial days after the butler was released, every time Joseph heard footsteps in the corridor of the prison, his heart would be buoyed up with anticipation and with encouragement that now somebody was coming to release.

Nobody came. Not for a week, not for a month, not for a year.

In fact, two years pass and Joseph doesn't hear a word from the court of Fayre now making it together, 13 years in exile, 13 years away from his family, away from everything that was precious to him. Yet we also remember the words that we've heard that God was with Joseph. But it was sure difficult to see that throughout the life of Joseph. We see beautiful, poignant insights to the providence of God and how God moves so mysteriously to bring about his redemption in ways that we would never anticipate. And always in ways that are reeking with irony. Recently, I was on a tour in what used to be East Germany commemorating the four hundred and fifty fifth anniversary of the death of Martin Luther, who died in fifteen forty six. And the name of this tour was following in the footsteps of Luther. And I had this wonderful opportunity to go to Whittenberg, where Luther nailed the thesis on the church door to see the tower.

There were Luther was converted in the evening hours to go to waterboard Castle, where Luther was in hiding for a year disguised as a monk to go to Ogg's board, where he debated with Cardinal Cagen and got into so much trouble there. And onto Vorm Swear, Luther stood before the M4, before the princes of the church and gave his famous. Here I stand message.

But there were some things that stood out in this trip that screamed of the irony of God's providence. I remember when we went to Wittenberg and right next to the church door there was a poster on the wall and it had a picture of Luther. Next to the picture of a swan. And then there was a plaque that was written in German that gave a quotation from John Haas. And you will recall that John Haas had been burned at the stake a century before Luther. For teaching basically the same things that Luther had been teaching. If you've ever been to Prague, Czechoslovakia or now in the Czech Republic, you'll see in the center of that city a huge monument to John Haas. When we went to vaunts at the end of our trip in the public square was this huge monument to Martin Luther. But at the base of this monument to Luther were four other figures in statue. And they were Wickliffe John Waldo Savonarola from Italy and John Haas. And seemed like everywhere we went, there were remembrances of John Haas. Well, in this inscription by the Castle Church in Wittenberg, there was this statement from John Haas that was written in German with a kind of play on words in it. John Haas would have had his name pronounced Hoose in his day. And whose was the Czech word for Gousse? German, its guns. But Haas was reflecting about his impending execution. He had resigned himself to this judgment and knew he was going to be martyred. And he said, you can cook this goose. We talk about our goose being cooked. John, who's the goose? Said You can cook this goose.

But there is coming a swan who will not be silenced. And so when Luther came a hundred years later, he became known as The Swan, The Swan who fulfilled the prediction of John Haas one hundred years earlier.

But the irony that was involved in this was seen when we went to the church where Luther was ordained into the ministry and there in the church, in the center altar. The person who would be ordained would come and stand before the bishop. And then he would be required to lie down on the floor, face down, extending his arms outward and making his body into the form of the cross. And while being prostrate on the stone floor, he would then be ordained by the bishop. Now, the irony was this, that I had never known before that when we went into this church and saw the very spot where Martin Luther had been ordained to the ministry, that the place where he was forced to lie on the Stones had a grave marker etched into the stone because somebody was buried directly in front of the altar underneath the spot where Martin Luther Lay, who was buried there, the man who executed John. Right. How odd have got this place to ordain the Swan who would fulfill the prediction of the goose? I mean, I saw that sort of thing gave me chills up my spine to see how God in his providence works, ironically. And so it was with with Joseph who waited for God to release him from prison, and the butler forgot him. And that takes us to Chapter 41 of Genesis.

In the first verse, we read this.

Then it came to pass at the end of two full years that Pharaoh had a dream to see how this strain of of irony is running through the life of Joseph at the very beginning. He has a dream and his dream gets him in the jail. Then the next dream is the dream of the butler and of the baker, and how that then makes this transition from the prison to the house of Pharaoh. And now it's Pharaoh himself who has the dream. And let's look what the Scripture says.

Pharaoh had a dream. And behold, he stood by the river and suddenly there came up out of the River Severn cows, fine looking and fat, and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ungainly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river. And then the ugly and the God cows aid up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke.

Now this is a weird dream. So dream a cowboy. I have not Pharaoh Pharaohs dreaming. He's standing by the river. And he said, suddenly sees seven magnificent cows, fat and cows, beautiful, strong cows, and then suddenly see seven more of them come up. Only these are ugly and thin and gaunt pharaoh sleeping. And he sees 14 cows, seven pretty ones, seven ugly ones. And then all of a sudden the skinny got ugly calls. Gobble up the beautiful cows. And we read in classic biblical understatement. And Pharaoh awoke have ever willed yourself to wake up in the middle of a nightmare that was frightening. Didn't know what it meant. And you just sort of almost swimming against the tide and against a current out of the depths of your sleep and trying to rise to the level of consciousness to get away from this nightmare. Well, then what happens? He went back to sleep.

That's what happens. And so he slept and he dreamed a second time. And suddenly seven heads of grain came up on one stock, plump and good. And then behold, seven thin heads blighted by the east when sprang up after them. And the seven thin heads, Devar, the seven plump and four heads. So Pharaoh awoke.

And indeed, it was a dream, another a couple of things about this dream I want to call attention to. First of all, two dreams in one night. But for all intents and purposes, on the surface, seem to have no relationship to each other whatsoever. One's about cows, the other one's about stocks of wheat. But there is something in common. There are fat calves or fat cows and skinny cows, plump wheat and dried wheat. I mean, one doesn't have to be an interpreter of dreams or a magician or a prophet to understand that there is a contrast in both of these dreams where something is appearing. That seems good and something that seems that both of them have this troubling, negative, frightening image. It would not be immediately clear to any psychologist or to any magician. The specific significance of this dream only that the dreams had good news and bad news somehow mixed together.

Now that there were two dreams is significant because we remember in the scripture how the whole phenomenon of repetition brings emphasis. And secondly, how truth is to be confirmed by two witnesses. So Pharaoh has repetition in his dream, and he has the confirmation that this is some kind of troubling message by virtue of the dual witness to it. And so he is troubled. One other point in passing, we were told that in the stocks of wheat that are dry and lifeless and inert have been attacked by the east wind. If you've ever been to Palestine or if you've been a student of the ancient Near East, you know that one of the most devastating natural disasters that occurs to the agriculture of that land happens when the Sirocco appears this fierce wind from the east.

And what is there to the east of Egypt or to the east of Palestine?

But the desert, it is this desert wind that blows across the land. And and it's like the sandstorms that blinds people. And the heat is so scorching that everything that has liquid in it is sucked dry. And people can't even purse their lips when they're caught in the midst of a Sirocco. I remember when I was in seminary listening to a biblical archeologist describe certain events of the power and force of the Sirocco. And all I could think of was I hope I'm never caught outside in that part of the world when the Sirocco comes. And so the Sirocco is mentioned in this dream, or at least that is envisioned by Pharaoh in the dream.

So Pharaoh woke and indeed it was a dream. Verse eight of chapter 41.

Now it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. And Pharaoh told them his dreams.

But there was no one who could interpret them for Pharaoh.

Notice his reaction in the morning is exactly the same as the reaction of the butler in the baker. And when Joseph found them, they were discouraged. They were cast down and he said, Why are you so sad? Well, Pharaoh doesn't have the advantage of having Joseph walking into his bedchamber in the morning to ask him that question. He's terrified by this dream. And he calls for all his magicians and all his interpreters, and none of them can interpret the dream.

But he did have a man in his court who once heard the message. Raised in the form of a question. Is it not God who interprets Dranes and this man whose tongue had been silent for two years, who had failed to do what he said he would do when he promised to tell Pharaoh of Joseph's plight, suddenly remembers Joseph.

Verse nine. Then the chief butler spoke to Faye saying, I remember my faults this day when Fayre was angry with his servants and put me in custody in the house of the captain of the guard.

Both me and the chief baker, we each had a dream.

And one night he and I, each of us dreamed according to the interpretation of his own dream. Now, there was a young Hebrew man with us there. A servant of the captain of the guard. And we told him and he interpreted our dreams for us to each man. He interpreted according to his own dream, and it came to pass just as he interpreted for us. So it happened. He restored me to my office and he hanged him.

Isn't that something. This man had forgotten, Joseph and I speculated, if you'll recall, that this was a sublimation of memory.

How could he forget Joseph? There's no way he can forget Joseph. Joseph had given him the best news I've ever heard in his life. But he conveniently forgot Joseph, because I'm presuming and guessing that he was afraid to mention Joseph to Pharaoh, lest he would be back in the disfavor of Pharaoh, but now the perfect opportunity arises for him to keep his promise. Now, he said, no risk to tell Pharaoh about Joseph. In fact, he can be a hero to Pharaoh because is beside himself. He's distressed by this dream and none of his court magicians can help him out. And so there he is in this desser. And now the Butler Steps surfaces a favor.

I think I can help you. There's a fellow in the prison over there who has the gift. And he remembered Joseph.

Joseph waited and waited and waited for God to remember his plight. He was imprisoned unjustly. But his reaction to the situation is so important for us to notice. Rather than sulking or rebelling. Joseph continued to labor faithfully for the jailer. He worked within God's timeframe. Thank you for joining us for Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday. We have so much to learn from the life of Joseph. And we return to Dr. Arcy sprawl series.

Each week here on the program, if you'd like to continue your study, we'd be happy to send you the full 20 part series. Just contact us today with a donation of any amount. We've put together a several full teaching series, including Knowing Christ, Knowing Scripture, The Parables of Jesus series on Ecclesiastes D and Galatians. And we've called it the RC Sprawl Teaching Collection. You can request it with your gift of any amount. By going to Renewing Your Mind dot org. Or when you call us at 800 four three five, 43, 43.

We don't like to have our lives disrupted by difficulty, in fact, in America. Unfortunately, there are those who have wrapped their theology around health and wealth and comfort while in the life of Joseph. We see that sometimes God's perfect timing includes suffering and waiting on the Lord. This is a valuable lesson for us to learn during these difficult days that we face.

I hope you'll contact us and request the RC Sprawled Teaching Collection eight full teaching series, including The Life of Joseph. Our phone number again is 800 four, three, five, four, three, four, three.

And our Web address, Renewing Your Mind, dot org. And thank you for your financial donation. If you'd like to learn more about waiting patiently on the Lord's timing, you'll find a wealth of articles and devotionals on the subject at Table Talk magazine dot com. There's an ever expanding library of back issues there. Plus, subscribers have access to each monthly print edition. You can begin your subscription when you go to Table Talk magazine dot com. And before we go today, here's Zazi with a final thought.

We've seen today that the invisible hand of divine providence works in mysterious ways and in ways that are replete with irony. Every one of us has something in our lives in our past that haunts us. That grieves us. That pains us. Pains for which we pray and hope for vindication. That somehow God will redeem. And we asked for God to deliver us. And it doesn't happen. And we have to wait and wait and wait. Just yesterday, my wife received a letter from one of her classmates from high school announcing a high school reunion. And in addition to the high school reunion where there were several school districts coming together for that high school, there was going to be a special reunion for the students from our hometown when we all graduated in eighth grade together. And we looked at the lists of the names that were on that piece of paper, of all of those who were invited. And I started thinking about it. Why is it that it's our childhood friends that we remember most vividly through our lifetime? If I would take any eight year period of my life and mention all the people I met during that eight year period, none of them would have such a lasting impact upon me as my companions from first grade through eighth grade. And as I thought about it, I thought, I wonder how many womb's. We're all carrying to this day. That we imposed upon each other as children. The healing that God brings to his people often terrace. But the scripture says, though, tarries, wait for it, for it will surely come to pass.

Joseph waited a long time for his injustice to be righted. But once it was, his life changed drastically. We hope you'll join us next week for the message titled From Prison to Prominence Here on Renewing Your Mind.

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