Friday, January 23, 2009

God Playing God, Part 1

Is there a reason for everything that happens? Is it all part of God's plan? These are interesting questions to ponder as a believer. There are four primary schools of Christian thought on this matter: 1) everything is controlled by God, 2) God orchestrates natural events (i.e. earthquakes, tornadoes, etc.) and human interactions as necessary, 3) God orchestrates human interactions as necessary, but lets nature take its course for the most part, 4) God used to interact, now He just watches the show. In this study, we see a natural event which, reportedly, God did orchestrate.

The setting is Egypt. The major characters are the Pharaoh, Joseph, and, of course, God. Joseph is one of Jacob's/Israel's sons. Joseph's brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. He did so well in his slave duties to Potiphar that he was quickly promoted. But Potiphar's wife took an unrequited lustful interest in Joseph. Angry that her affection is not returned, Potiphar's wife accuses Joseph of trying to rape her, so he is put in prison. Thanks to God, Joseph accurately interprets dreams for his fellow prisoners, one of which was the Pharoah's cup bearer. The cup bearer gets restored to his former position as per his dream. That's where we enter this heart-chilling tale.

God Playing God, Part 1
There was a popular video game in 1989 called SimCity. In it, you tried to construct an efficiently running city that kept its residents safe and happy. One really neat feature of the game was the ability to use god powers. You could unleash a tornado or erupt a volcano, at will, to destroy part of the city and revel in the destruction. It was a bit of harmless, capricious wickedness that made the game that much more fun. It gave you the chance to exercise your kid-instincts; the digital equivalent to taking a magnifying glass to an ant hill. The great thing was that no living creature actually got hurt for no reason by SimCity. You can't say the same thing about God.

Today we study Genesis 41, where God displays more of His awesome, destructive power. Is it for a reason? Is it a pointed and precise punishment? Is it all part of God's plan? Let's find out.

This is somewhat of a popular Old Testament tale, though some details are too often downplayed or glossed over. Pharaoh has a dream where seven gaunt cows eat seven fat cows, followed by another dream where seven plump wheat grains are eaten by shriveled wheat grains. None of the Pharaoh's people can interpret his dream.

Pharaoh's cup bearer remembers how Joseph had interpreted his dream, so he tells Pharaoh. Pharaoh summons Joseph and tells the dreams to him. Joseph said God had revealed to Pharaoh what was about to happen; that there would be seven years of great abundance followed by seven years of famine. Joseph advised Pharaoh to stock one fifth of the produce for each of the next seven years in order to have provisions for the famine years.

Pharaoh liked the suggestion and put Joseph in charge of the preparations. For the seven years of abundance, Joseph stores local grain according to plan. Then the famine came on all lands, but Egypt still had food. Joseph began selling the stored grain to the Egyptians. All of the other nations came to buy grain from Joseph too, because they also were experiencing famine. That's the end of Part 1.

There are a few very important details to highlight in Part 1. The first answers the question of the origin of the famine. Consulting Genesis 41:32, we find:
The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon. NIV
God had firmly decided to make this famine occur. It was not a matter of forecasting the weather. God chose to bring the famine to the land. Note that there is no enlightenment about the cause for this action. No reason. No motive. No way to avoid it. No call to repent. God's just going to make it happen. God played God the way a teenager would play SimCity. Throw a famine out there and watch the denizens react.

Moving on, we close out the chapter with the next two highlights. In Genesis 41:56-57, we see:
When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. And all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world. NIV
Note how Joseph sold the grain, to Egyptians and the other countries alike. This will play a significant role in a later part of this study.

The final highlight of for this part of the story is that “all the countries” “in all the world” were both affected by the famine and sent people to Egypt to buy grain. That would have been quite a feat for the Inca's and the Native Americans, don't you think? This is a blatant contradiction with historical reality.

Per the story, God chose to apply the famine to everyone in the world, showing no favoritism or specific focus, just like the Flood. Unlike the Flood, there was no reason, no purpose given for this famine. And with such a widespread famine, what are the chances that everyone was able to get enough food to survive from Egypt? How is it possible that a loving, Heavenly Father would starve His beloved children to death? It makes God a hypocrite when you read what Jesus said in Luke 12:24:
Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! NIV
So, was it all part of God's plan? If so, what was that plan? Turn to the next part of this thrilling study!

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