4 So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
Which is ultimate, God’s sovereignty or man’s freedom? If we believe that Joseph knows what he is talking about, the answer is that God’s will is ultimate. Mysteriously, this is not to say that God’s will does not involve human freedom. However, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, God is sovereign and man, even man’s freedom, is subject to the decree of the Lord.
You know the story of Joseph. His brothers sold him as a slave and shipped him off to Egypt. Everything in that account would show us that his brothers acted of their own accord, in concert with their freedom. The brothers would have had no way of recognizing the sovereign hand of God at work. They did what they wanted to do.
Yet, when they stand before Joseph, God pulls back the curtain. Yes, they acted freely, but God was the one at work. The brothers cannot receive any of the credit for the outcome of their actions. In fact, their actions were sinful; and, in fact, the brothers bear personal moral responsibility for those actions. Yet, if the scene can be understood by us mere mortals, we understand that, somehow, God was the ultimate actor from start to finish, though God is in no way guilty of sin.
Can your view of God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom handle the words of the Scripture here? Can you see that, while the brothers acted freely, it was ultimately God who was in control? Can you handle that, even though hard things were done, God drove all the circumstances to work out his will for his glory? Can you live with the fact that we are free, but that our freedom is limited by God’s sovereignty and not the other way around?
It is wonderful to know that God is sovereign. It is glorious to know that his will is always going to be ultimately accomplished. God will not be eternally wishing that things had turned out differently. God will never be defeated. God’s plan will never be thwarted. He will use man, even the sinful free choices of men, to accomplish his perfect plan; all the while God will never be guilty of sin in any form. God will move in our desires to help us accomplish his plan, but we will never know that it was his hand moving our desires until he shows us that in eternity. God is magnificent, and worthy of our fear, our awe, our love, and our praise.