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The Timing of God’s Providence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 15, 2024 12:01 am

The Timing of God’s Providence

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 15, 2024 12:01 am

Have you ever felt that God was late in answering your prayers? Today, R.C. Sproul offers counsel from the life of Joseph for those who are waiting on the Lord.

Get R.C. Sproul's New Hardcover Book 'Joseph: From Dreamer to Deliverer' and Teaching Series 'The Life of Joseph' for Your Gift of Any Amount:

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R.C. Sproul (1939-2017) was known for his ability to winsomely and clearly communicate deep, practical truths from God's Word. He was founder of Ligonier Ministries, first minister of preaching and teaching at Saint Andrew's Chapel, first president of Reformation Bible College, and executive editor of Tabletalk magazine.

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Nathan W. Bingham is vice president of ministry engagement for Ligonier Ministries, executive producer and host of Renewing Your Mind, host of the Ask Ligonier podcast, and a graduate of Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan joined Ligonier in 2012 and lives in Central Florida with his wife and four children.

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Joseph continued to languish in his dungeon. 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 don't you think that in 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 him. 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 Pharaoh. It can sometimes be difficult to wait upon the Lord, waiting for a wrong to be made right, waiting for a prayer to be answered. But as we remember that our God is sovereign, we remember that his timing is never late. Welcome to another week of Renewing Your Mind. I'm your host, Nathan W. Bingham. We see an example of one who waited and the incredible providence of God when we consider the life of Joseph.

And that's what we'll be doing all week as you hear messages from R.C. Sproul's 20-part series, The Life of Joseph. You can request access to this complete series along with the newly released hardcover book from Dr. Sproul titled Joseph from Dreamer to Deliverer.

You can give a donation of any amount at At this point in the story, Joseph has already been sold by his brothers and is now in prison. Here's Dr. Sproul, the founder of Ligonier Ministries, on the timing of God's providence. 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 a very difficult peak when suddenly he slipped, he lost his footing, and he started to fall over the side. And just as he started to plummet 10,000 feet to his death, he reached out and grabbed 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 heaven 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 10,000 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. 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, it has 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 in 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 him.

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 Pharaoh, 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. Now, 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 450th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther, who died in 1546. And the name of this tour was Following in the Footsteps of Luther. And I had this wonderful opportunity to go to Wittenberg where Luther nailed the theses on the church door, to see the tower there where Luther was converted in the evening hours, to go to Wartburg Castle where Luther was in hiding for a year disguised as a monk, to go to Augsburg where he debated with Cardinal Cajun and got into so much trouble there, and on to Wormst where Luther stood before the emperor and 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 poster and then there was a plaque that was written in German that gave a quotation from John Huss. And you will recall that John Huss 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, we're now in the Czech Republic, you'll see in the center of that city a huge monument to John Huss.

When we went to Wormst 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 Wycliffe, John Waldo, Savonarola from Italy, and John Huss. And it seemed like everywhere we went there were remembrances of John Huss. Well, in this inscription by the Castle Church in Wittenberg, there was this statement from John Huss that was written in German with a kind of play on words in it. John Huss would have had his name pronounced Huss in his day, and Huss was the Czech word for goose.

In German it's gonce. But Huss 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 Huss, 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 Huss a 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, 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 Huss. I mean, how odd of God to pick this place to ordain the swan who would fulfill the prediction of the goose. I mean, when 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 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 strand 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 prison. 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 seven cows, fine looking and fat, and they fed in the meadow. Then behold, seven other cows came up after them out of the river, ugly and gaunt, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the river.

And then the ugly and the gaunt cows ate up the seven fine looking and fat cows. So Pharaoh awoke. Now this is a weird dream. It's a dream a cowboy might have, not Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is dreaming. He's standing by the river, and he suddenly sees seven magnificent cows, fatted cows, beautiful cows, strong cows. And then suddenly sees seven more of them come up, only these are ugly and thin and gaunt. Pharaoh's sleeping, and he sees fourteen cows, seven pretty ones, seven ugly ones.

And then all of a sudden the skinny, gaunt, ugly cows gobble up the beautiful cows. And we read in classic biblical understatement, and Pharaoh awoke. Have you ever willed yourself to wake up in the middle of a nightmare that was frightening, you didn't know what it meant, and you're just sort of almost swimming against the tide and against the 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 stalk, plump and good. And then behold seven thin heads blighted by the east wind sprang up after them.

And the seven thin heads devoured the seven plump and full heads. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed it was a dream. Now there are a couple of things about this dream I want to call attention to.

First of all, two dreams in one night that 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 stalks of wheat. But there is something in common.

There's 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 bad. 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 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 are told that in the stalks 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 Scirocco 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 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 Scirocco. I remember when I was in seminary listening to a biblical archaeologist describe certain events of the power and force of the Scirocco, and all I could think of was, I hope I'm never caught outside in that part of the world when the Scirocco comes. And so the Scirocco is mentioned in this dream, or at least it is envisioned by Pharaoh in the dream. So Pharaoh awoke, and indeed it was a dream. Verse 8 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 and 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 dreams? 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 9, Then the chief butler spoke to Pharaoh, saying, I remember my faults this day. When Pharaoh 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 in 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.

Now, isn't that something? This man had forgotten Joseph, and I speculated, if you recall, that this was a sublimation of memory. How could he forget Joseph?

There's no way he could forget Joseph. Joseph had given him the best news he had 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 his family. He would be back in the disfavor of Pharaoh.

But now, the perfect opportunity arises for him to keep his promise. Now, he's at no risk to tell Pharaoh about Joseph. In fact, he can be a hero to Pharaoh because Pharaoh 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 dither, and now the butler steps up and says, hey Pharaoh, I think I can help you.

There's a fellow in the prison over there who has the gift, and he remembered Joseph. 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, vindication that somehow God will redeem. And we ask 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 list 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 wounds we're all carrying to this day that we imposed upon each other as children. The healing that God brings to His people often tarries, but the Scripture says, though it tarries, wait for it, for it will surely come to pass. There are so many important lessons and truths that we learn from the life of Joseph. Well, better said, from God's work in and through the life of Joseph.

That's why I'm glad that this week on Renewing Your Mind, you're hearing from R.C. Sproul's in-depth series on Joseph and the practical lessons for each of us. This series is 20 messages and formed the basis of the new hardcover book, Joseph from Dreamer to Deliverer. We'll send you this new book and study from Dr. Sproul when you give a gift of any amount at, or when you call us at 800-435-4343.

To thank you for supporting Renewing Your Mind's daily outreach, we'll also give you lifetime streaming access to R.C. Sproul's series on Joseph. Be encouraged as you walk through the life of Joseph. Give your gift and request these resources today at As Joseph waits on the Lord, what happens next? Does he get released from prison? Find out when you join us tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-15 02:48:36 / 2024-04-15 02:56:46 / 8

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