God's Compassion in Joseph's Trials
And Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also.” Genesis 48:11
This verse may seem so inconsequential and maybe a little random at first glance; however, it caught my eye last December as I was reading through Genesis 48. As I read these words, the Holy Spirit catapulted my mind back to an RC Sproul sermon I had heard almost a year earlier, about Israel (not the nation but the man, Jacob, from whom the nation would come – see Genesis 32:22-32 for the story of his re-naming by God). RC was preaching through Genesis 42, noting that Israel (Jacob) thought that everything was against him, for he was living in the midst of a severe famine, he thought that his son Joseph was dead, and he thought he was about to lose another two sons as well! But, what he does not know is that Joseph is alive, he will not lose another son, and they will all be delivered from the famine. Not only that, but he will see the grandsons that he never even thought would come into existence! He did not through eyes of faith remember and believe the compassionate and merciful heart of His God, but through eyes of flesh saw his suffering and believed that everything was working against him.
For us, it is easy to see God’s compassion and mercy in Israel’s trial. We know that this suffering that he experienced was the very means that God used to bring about his deliverance, and that God was indeed working all these things for his good (as God promises to His people in Romans 8:28). We see that God’s heart towards Israel was filled with compassion and mercy – allowing him even to see Joseph’s sons! And yet it is often difficult for us to see and believe God’s compassion and mercy in our own suffering. James 5:10-11 has been a constant and necessary reminder for me of the truth of God’s character in my trials. “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” Job suffered so greatly and God restored him with greater fortune than he had before. Israel suffered and it turned out for his deliverance. And we suffer, knowing that as we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also attain the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 4:10-11). We must look at our trials through faith-filled and not fleshly eyes, trusting the compassionate and merciful heart God has towards us! God is working all things for our eternal good in Christ! We have seen His purpose, and we know that He is compassionate and merciful as “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” (2 Corinthians 4:17).