The Providence of God

Joseph Before Pharaoh | Genesis 41


The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1 ESV)

Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” (Genesis 41:16 ESV)


Genesis is the introduction to the Bible. The first eleven chapters reveal how the world became like it is by describing creation, our fall into sin, the great flood, and the scattering at Babel. The rest of the book concerns how God begins working through one family to repair the effects of sin, the family of Abra-ham. But Abraham did not save us from our sins nor did his son Isaac or grandson Jacob.

Thus, now we come to the story of Jacob’s son, Joseph, ready to learn more of God’s plan for salvation. For being in a blessed family, Joseph’s story does not appear to be one of blessing. Although beloved by his father, his brothers despised Joseph, eventually selling him into slavery. In Egypt, Joseph was sold to a captain named Potiphar, and the young man quickly earned the Egyptians favor. Unfortunately, a false accusation from Potiphar’s wife got Joseph cast into prison where he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cup bearer and baker.

Though Joseph is still in prison, his fortune shifts in our present text. After successfully interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, the king of Egypt will place Joseph as his second-in-command over the entire kingdom. In this, we see God’s providence elevating Joseph from his temporary stay in prison to the palace of Pharaoh, and we see Joseph’s faithfulness to trust God through sorrow or joy.


Read chapter 41 and discuss the following.

1. When Pharaoh was distressed by his dreams, he turned to his wise men and magicians for answers, but God alone could provide the peace that Pharaoh sought. What are things you turn to during times of stress, anxiety, fear, confusion, etc? What should we do instead?

2. Joseph’s knowledge of God’s plan for Egypt leads him to almost immediate action. Similarly, how should God’s sovereignty of salvation and missions lead us to bolder evangelism?

3. In some ways, wealth can make following God more difficult since it provides more opportunities for our hearts to stray. How did Joseph remain faithful even when elevated to second-in-command?

4. Though Joseph has been elevated, the story of Genesis is not over because Judah’s descendant, Jesus, is the hero, not Joseph. Joseph must still be used to save Judah from the famine, so that Jesus can be born. Likewise, in what ways does your life reflect that Jesus is the hero of your life story?


Because Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

• What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?

• What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?

• How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?

• Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.


When I Am God

I was quite a metalhead in highschool.

I never dressed the part (just jeans, sneakers, and tshirts for me, thanks), but as far as I was concerned, clean vocals (aka singing) were only reserved for wimps or strategically emotional bridges.

Yes, I was, indeed, hardcore.

Really what drew me most to the screamo/hardcore scene were the lyrics. Words seem so raw and intense whenever they are being screamed along to pounding bass drums.

For me, Oh Sleeper was the chief of this terrain.

Their first album (titled When I Am God) contains one of my favorite song lyrics:

When I am God, this church is unsound.

It’s such a simple statement but also far truer than I am often willing to admit. Thankfully the book of Judges is always ready to remind me again.

Judges is easily one of the darkest books of the Bible. I mean, it describes Israel’s downward spiral into increasingly blatant sinful behavior. While the first sixteen chapters show Israel falling into sin, repenting of sin, and God delivering them with various judges, the final five chapters emphasize how serious Israel’s sin was with tales of wicked idolatry, horrendous sexual immorality and violence, and ultimately a civil war.

It’s far from a light-hearted read. But a twice-used refrain bookends this section:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25 ESV)

Furthermore, both chapters 18 and 19 begin by reminding us that there was no king in those days. Obviously, the author wants us to see Israel’s depravity as a result of their self-imposed morality rather than obeying a king. It was essentially Israel’s wild west phase.

But then we reach another problem. Years later when Samuel is judging Israel, the people demand to have a king. This might seem to be a step in the right direction, but Samuel is grieved by it. After praying, the LORD speaks these words to Samuel:

Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (1 Samuel 8:7 ESV)

Israel’s desire for a physical king was a rejection of God as their king. This means that Judges was not lamenting Israel’s lack of a physical king; rather, it mourns Israel’s refusal to serve God as king. Their decision to do what was right in their own eyes was an act of dethroning God. By rejecting God’s law, they elevated themselves as gods.

But Judges isn’t a story about how sinful Israel was. It’s a story about how sinful we are.

All sin is an attempted usurping of God’s throne. Both great and small sins are an assault on God’s sovereignty and glory. We only sin by rejecting God’s commands and placing ourselves above them. Here’s how R. C. Sproul describes it in The Holiness of God:

Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.

Each act of sin is our declaration that we are our own kings, that we are god. And the end is never pleasant. For the Israelites, it resulted in death, nearly the entire destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. Sin’s paycheck is always death, either in hell eternal or on the cross of Christ. Those are our only options.

We never have a severe enough view of our sin.

Or its consequences.

When Israel lived as its own king, doing what was right in their own eyes, thousands died. They fell whenever they became their own god and king.

The same is true for us.

When we are god, the church is unsound.

The Providence of God

Joseph Sold into Slavery | Genesis 37


Then Midianite traders passed by. And they drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt. (Genesis 37:28 ESV).

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14 ESV)

Genesis is the book of beginnings. It opens with eleven chapters that describe the creation of the world, humanity’s fall into sin, the great flood that only Noah’s family survived, and the scattering of humanity at Babel. In the creation account, we learn that God created the world good and even made humanity in His image. We were not content, however, to be made in God’s likeness. We wanted to be God, and so we disobeyed, bringing sin onto the earth. But even in the midst of our sin, God showed grace beyond measure, proclaiming hope that one day sin would be defeated for good. Indeed, these chapters are essential for properly understanding both the Bible and ourselves.

Beginning with chapter twelve, Genesis takes a significant shift in perspective by focusing upon a man named Abram instead of on humanity in general. Through his faith walk with God, the LORD promises to bless him by giving him a son through his barren wife, blessing all the nations through him, and giving him all the land of Canaan. Abraham then dies, only seeing the first of God’s promises fulfilled. The narrative then follows Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, as he attempts to follow God but repeatedly trusts in his own strength instead.

We now come to the fourth and final section of Genesis, which focuses predominately on Jacob’s son, Joseph. As the eleventh of twelve sons, Joseph could have been the runt of his family but was favorited by his father instead. This favoritism ultimately causes Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery, leading to one of the most well-known stories of the Bible. Unlike the lives of Abraham and Jacob, Joseph’s life is marked by stunning displays of God’s glory; rather, Joseph’s life is saturated in the providence of God. Although he faces abuse, slavery, and prison, God’s plan is present throughout and ultimately leading to Joseph becoming Pharaoh’s right hand. As we dive into Joseph’s story, may we become more aware of the everyday glories of God around us.


Read chapter 37 and discuss the following.

  1. A great benefit of reading narratives in Scripture is that we often are able to become aware of our own sin through reading these ancient sins. Do you presently wrestle with any sins present in this chapter (i.e. Jacob’s favoritism, Judah’s greed, the brothers’ unwillingness to reconcile, etc.)?
  2. How does this chapter serve as a stern warning against the dangers of unrepentant jealousy?
  3. Because no sin is ever committed in isolation, Jacob is grievously impacted by his sons’ sin. Can you recall a time when your sin hurt someone else? How might “secret” sins still harm others?
  4. The chapter ends with a cliffhanger, informing us that Joseph’s story is only beginning and that his visions might still become reality. How might this example of God’s providence provide hope for those suffering?


Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Preach the Word!

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
2 Timothy 4:1-4 ESV

I’m not always a big fan of chapter divisions in the Bible.

Yes, they are helpful for finding passages quickly, but they can sometimes hinder our proper understanding of the Word by causing us to subconsciously separate connected thoughts. The first four verses of 2 Timothy chapter four is one of those cases. Paul did not originally write this letter to Timothy with chapter divisions or verse numbers. He just wrote a letter, and if we read it like a letter, we will quickly realize that he is applying the truths that he stated in verses sixteen and seventeen of the last chapter.

Because all Scripture is inspired, profitable, and sufficient, Paul commands Timothy to preach the Word, but the command is not alone. The apostle prefaces his charge to his disciple by declaring that it is being made in the presence of God and Jesus Christ. He does this to emphasize the divine element of the command. It is not Paul’s idea for Timothy to preach the Word; it is God’s. Paul is simply the messenger.

Because God is driving the command to preach, we must not take preaching lightly. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort should immediately call to mind the profitability of Scripture. Though we can (and should) allow the Scriptures to teach, reprove, correct, and train us individually, the primarily vehicle for profiting from Scripture is through hearing it preached.

The regular, faithful preaching of the Scriptures should be a key focus of all followers of Christ. Since through preaching we are taught the sufficient, profitable, and inspired Bible, we are able to rightly call preaching the Word a means of communal discipleship. By hearing the Word preached, we learn more about the God who authored it, and we learn how to better follow Christ. Preaching makes disciples, and disciples of Christ should love to hear the Word preached.

Unfortunately, many people prefer to “accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” turning away from the truth and chasing after myths. There are many false teachers who improperly use the Bible to tell people what they want to hear, and in many ways, they are judgment of God. We must be careful not to assign the blame entirely to false teachers. They only exist because people want to follow after lies. False teachers give the people what they want, and if we are not wary, we can become our own false teacher. Many claim the name of Christ, but never attend church because they believe that they can read the Bible and know God themselves. Though avoiding community does not guarantee false doctrine, it almost always leads to it. We are not meant to follow Christ alone, and we are not meant to interpret the Bible alone. When we read the Bible entirely apart from other believers, we risk avoiding what we do not want to hear. We, in essence, become our own false teacher. We need to hear the faithful, expository preaching of the Word. We need to be in a congregation with other believers, where we have elders who hold firm to the trustworthy Word, instructing sound doctrine and rebuking false doctrine. (Titus 1:9)

But the work of interpretation is not entirely upon the preacher, the congregation of believers must also hold the him accountable to sound doctrine. In Acts, Luke writes this about the Bereans in this way:

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Notice that Luke was not annoyed or offended that the Bereans fact-checked everything that him and Paul preached to them; instead, he commended them for doing so! A pastor whose heart is to see the congregation grow in their love of God and His Word will likewise rejoice to find the church daily searching the Scriptures to make sure that his preaching is correct.

For these reasons, regular attendance of the Sunday morning worship service is one of the primary expectations of a member at Western Meadows. Because we value the Scriptures as God’s Word and value making disciples as Jesus command to every believer, followers of Jesus Christ should desire to sit often under the proclamation of His Word.

Healthy Members | Ephesian 4:17-32


Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clarmor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:29-32 ESV)


In the Western Meadows Values Series, we have been studying the primary values that we hold as a church. We began with the Great Commission, Jesus’ final command for His disciples to continue making disciples. The great purpose and mission of each Christian and church is, therefore, to make disciples, and we do so because by making more disciples of Jesus we continue to fill the earth with Christ’s image and glory.

Like the Christian walk, making disciples happens on two fronts: individually and corporately. As individuals, we live our lives as a witness for Christ, proclaim His gospel to nonbelievers, and teach other Christians to obey all that He has commanded us. Corporately, we make disciples by devoting ourselves to Scripture (by faithfully preaching and hearing them), prayer (specifically praying for boldness to proclaim the gospel), and community (by loving one another as Christ has loved us).

We now conclude our study of the church’s values by turning to Ephesians 4. In the first half of the chapter, Paul described how to become a healthy church by prioritizing unity and helping one another grow in maturity through our diverse gifts. The second half likewise describes being a healthy church member. Here Paul urges us to put away our previously sinful way of life and to live like Christ. He ends with a volley of quick commands that show practically how we are meant to live around each other in Christ.


Read verses 17-24 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Paul commands us to put off our old, sinful ways of living and to put on our new life in Christ. What aspects of your life before Christ have you put away? What aspects do you still wrestle with? How does this gospel provide us hope even in the midst of our sin?

Read verses 25-32 and discuss the following.

  1. Within these verses, Paul delivers a series of exhortations for how we should live as members of the body of Christ. Which verse is most convicting for you? Why? What practical steps might you take to walk in obedience?


Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Sufficient: completed & equipped by the Scriptures

that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:17 ESV

Though Paul does not use the word, sufficient well describes the message of verse 17. Once we know that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for us, we are now ready to learn that it is sufficient for bringing us to completion and equipping us for every good work. Let us, therefore, examine these two effects of Scripture more closely.

First, all Scripture is sufficient for completing the man of God.

What might Paul mean by becoming complete? His letter to the Philippians might offer us a clue: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) Since day of Jesus Christ is a reference to Jesus’ second coming, Paul encouraged the Philippians that God who first saved them would complete their salvation on the last day. This verse contains allusions to the entirety of the salvation, which occurs on three fronts: past, present, and future. First, our salvation occurs in the past through what is called justification. When justified, God imputes the righteousness of Christ onto us, legally declaring us to be righteous. Our salvation is also occurring in the present through the process of sanctification. Being sanctified means continually growing conformity to the image of Christ, everyday walking closer to Him. Our future salvation is called glorification. Upon our death or Christ’s return, God will give to us a glorified body that is no longer corrupted by sin. Justification destroys the legal power of sin over us, sanctification is our present and continued battle against sin, and glorification is how God grants us final victory over sin. Bringing God’s first work to completion means that God will be faithful to carry us from justification to glorification. And God uses Scripture to do so. It is through God’s Word that the man of God becomes complete, not apart from it. We need His inspired Scriptures to continue forming us into His image.

Second, all Scripture is sufficient for equipping the man of God for every good work.

Though good works do not save us, God still desires for us to be a people of them. The beauty of the gospel ought to produce within us the hunger for good works. For example, elsewhere Paul writes that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) He also claims that God created us “for good works” and ordained for us to walk in them. (Ephesian 2:10) Of course, James also famously stated that “faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26) The point is that good works are still important for God’s people, and the Scriptures are meant to equip us for them.

Paul writes a similar thought about God’s giving of leaders to the church: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12) The work of ministry ultimately belongs to every Christian, and God gives each congregation leaders to equip the saints for their task. Since we know that we have each received the call to make disciples, we also realize that God provides church elders to equip the church by instructing them in the Scriptures. The Word is sufficient for equipping us to make disciples.

What Is the Mark of the Beast?

Revelation is a weird book.

Filled with plagues, dragons, angels, beasts, and a lot of numbers, it is a difficult book to understand.

But Revelation is also necessary. In the final chapter, we find this reminder: “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (22:7) This means that Revelation is not a book that can be ignored or can be treated as unimportant until Christ returns. We need its message to the Church, and we must obey it.

Though there is much we could discuss, I want to focus specifically on the mark of the beast and what it might be.

Here is how the Bible describes it in Revelation 13:11-18:

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Probably the most common interpretation of this passage asserts that this beast (who is later called the False Prophet) is a literal person who will enforce worship of the first beast (called the Beast later and who many believe to be the Antichrist). The False Prophet will, therefore, institute a worldwide religion around the Antichrist, and those who refuse to worship by receiving its mark will be slain.

Proponents of this view typically believe that the mark of the beast will also be a literal branding of some sort. The rise of microchip technology has led many to wonder if the mark will be an implanted chip that is used in much the same way as credit cards.

While such an interpretation may very well come to pass, I would like to make a brief argument for another view.

Instead of viewing Revelation as wholly futuristic, it seems best to view it through the lens of symbolism. After all, Revelation is explicitly a book of prophecy, and God repeatedly called the Old Testament prophets to use symbolism in their prophecies.

In a symbolic view, many interpret the False Prophet to be a representation of all false prophets, who ultimately turn the hearts’ of people away from Christ and toward antichrists. Revelation’s visions of the Antichrist and False Prophet are viewed, therefore, as warnings of the plethora of antichrists and false prophets who will deceive people throughout history.

1 John 4:1-3 seems to complement this view (especially since it is probably the same John who authored Revelation):

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

The spirit of the antichrist was already in the world in John’s day, and false prophets were already directing worship to it. The spirit of the antichrist is anything that opposes Jesus. We either worship Christ, or we worship the antichrist. We worship God, or we worship ourselves. The spirit of the antichrist is worldliness and lawlessness (aka sin). When we sin, we place ourselves against Christ.

But if the False Prophet is symbolic, then what is the mark of the beast?

Notice that the mark of the beast is placed upon the right hand or forehead. This is probably best understood as a reference to the Shema in Deuteronomy. Jews have traditionally prayed the Shema twice a day because they view it as a sort of summary statement for their theology.

But you should read it for yourself:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

In the Shema, God was calling Israel to know Him through His Scriptures. He begins with a statement of who He is, and then commands them to love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength (which Jesus said was the greatest commandment, by the way).

But He didn’t stop there.

He then told them to take His Words with them.

Teach them to your children.

Talk about them in your house, while you travel, when you go to sleep, and when you wake up.

He told them to bind His commands on their hand and place them on their forehead between their eyes.

Write them on every doorpost of every house and gate.

What’s the point?

God wanted His people to be saturated in His Word. Even in the Old Testament, God’s people were to be known by their love for God’s Scriptures because God revealed Himself in them. We should be so steeped in God’s Word that it might as well be marked or branded on our hands and forehead.

So, if the mark of Christ’s followers is their love for one another and the Scriptures, couldn’t the mark of the beast be a sign of us devoting ourselves to anything other than God through His Word?

As we saw John say already, the antichrist is any spirit that does not proclaim Jesus as sent from God, but he continues in his letter to tie the antichrist to worldly thinking:

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:4-6)

God’s people are commanded to speak the Scriptures to one another, but those who follow after the antichrist “speak from the world, and the world listens to them.”

Could it be, therefore, that the mark of the beast is saturating our lives with the things of this world, instead of with God, His Scriptures, and His people?

This interpretation resonates with me because while many Christians watch vigilantly for the latest news of microchips, few saturate themselves in God’s Word, teaching others to obey all that Christ commanded us.

Few watchfully persevere in prayer, praying for boldness to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into marvelous light.

Few fill their lives with the community of their brothers and sisters in Christ, showing the world our love for Christ through our love for His people.

Martyrdom can quickly become a fantasy.

It is easy to look forward to a day when we are called to stand for Christ in the face of martyrdom, but the reality is that our Lord already called us to die to self. Each day is an act of martyrdom as we take up the cross of Christ so that He might live and reign in us. We must not romanticize dying for Jesus if we are not willing to live with Him everyday, saturated in His Word.

Many read the Bible, but few are saturated in it. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes Scripture saturation well.

As people who have been saved by God, do we long to hear from God in His Word?

Do we excitedly speak about it to each other while at home or traveling?

Is God’s Word such a component of our lives that we might as well have it tattooed on our forehead or hand?

Or are we marked by the wisdom of this world, which James calls unspiritual and demonic?

I would argue that if the beast’s mark is a lack of God’s Word, it is far more insidious and deadly than any microchip.