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Darkness to Light - Vol. XIII, No. 3
Darkness to Light
Volume XIII, Number 3
Light Web site
Director: Gary F. Zeolla
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This book is for the person struggling in life and for the person struggling with how God sovereignly works in people’s lives. It goes through the Bible more or less in order. Along the way, I relate examples of how I believe the sovereignty of God has been operating in my life, in hopes that my experiences will help the reader to apply the principles to your life. It also addresses the question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty to the human will or volition. It is now available in a variety of hardcopy and eBook formats.
Paperback: 653 pages. $18.25. Order from the publisher via their Web site: Lulu Publishing. Also available from Amazon (forthcoming).
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Table of Contents
[Page numbers refer to the hardcopy versions]
Dedication – 4
Preface – 5
Background to this Book – 6
Viewpoints – 7
Analytical–Literal Translation – 8
Abbreviations – 9
The Old Testament:
The Torah – 15
1 – The Book of Genesis – 17
2 – The Life of Joseph – 61
3 – The Exodus – 103
4 – The Rest of the Torah – 131
The Historical Books – 157
5 – The Early Years of Israel – 159
6 – The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah – 201
7 – The Life of David – 247
8 – Later Jewish History – 269
The Poetic and Prophetic Books – 297
9 – Old Testament Poetry – 299
10 – The Book of Isaiah – 347
11 – The Writings of Jeremiah – 375
12 – The Book of Ezekiel – 413
13 – The Book of Daniel – 437
14 – The Minor Prophets – 459
The New Testament – 503
15 – The Messiah’s Death and Resurrection – 505
16 – The Book of Acts – 533
17 – The Pauline Epistles – 555
18 – Elsewhere in the New Testament – 589
Miscellaneous – 613
19 – Opposing Viewpoints – 615
20 – Conclusion– 633
Appendixes – 635
1 – Bibliography – 637
2 – Books by the Author – 641
3 – Author’s Websites, Newsletters, and Social Sites/ Contacting the Author – 651
I became a Christian in the mid–1980s in my mid–20s. At that time I was having many personal problems. When I began studying the Bible, one thing that really struck me was how emphatic the Bible is about the sovereignty of God. Throughout the historical portions of the Bible are many instances of the LORD working in people’s lives. Either the Bible specifically says God does something or situations happen that simply cannot be explained by mere co–incidence or chance. Then in the didactic portions of Scripture, the sovereignty of God is directly asserted in many different ways.
Looking at my life back in my 20s and much more so now in my 50s, I can definitely see the hand of God working throughout my life. And whenever yet another thing goes wrong in my life, I will say to myself, “The LORD has it under control.” I can then rest in confidence knowing that what is happening to me is not due to mere chance but is under the sovereignty of God and that somehow He will work things out for good.
The reason I can be so confident the LORD has it under control is because of the Bible’s unequivocal teaching about the absolute sovereignty of God. In this book I will present this Biblical evidence, so the reader can have the same confidence that the LORD has it under control in your life as well.
As such, this book is for the person struggling in life and for the person struggling with how God sovereignly works in people’s lives. It goes through the Bible more or less in order, from the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of The Revelation. It discusses both general principles and specific issues. Along the way, I relate examples of how I believe the sovereignty of God has been operating in my life, in hopes my experiences will help the reader apply the principles to your life. This book also addresses the question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty to the human will or volition.
Along the way, I occasionally give “side notes.” These are interesting aspects of a Bible passage that are not related to the sovereignty of God but which I just cannot resist pointing out.
Background to this Book
This book is an expansion of “Scripture Study #22: The Sovereignty of God” in this writer’s Scripture Workbook: Second Edition. In that chapter, hundreds of Scripture verses are referenced demonstrating the absolute sovereignty of God over all areas of life. But the verses are only indicated by the book, chapter, and verse(s) (e.g., Genesis 37:5–11). They are not quoted. As such, the reader needs to study the book with the Scripture Workbook in one hand and a Bible in the other. That is why it is called a “Workbook.” There are then just short comments on the referenced Bible passages, usually just short headings to each section.
That format is very useful for the person who is able to self–study the Bible. But common comments I have received about that book is it can be tedious to have to look up every passage and that sometimes it is hard to understand the import of the referenced verses. As such, this book quotes all of those verses in full, with the contexts as needed. Then there is commentary upon the verses, interpreting them in their Biblical context. Then that material is applied to this writer’s own life, and/ or I give my thoughts on how the reader can apply it to your life.
The reader is encouraged to carefully and prayerfully consider my comments on the verses, but then to decide for yourself if my commentary is a correct interpretation of the verses and how it applies to your own life. That is the attitude that should always be used when someone is teaching and quoting from the Bible. As Luke writes about the Bereans:
11Now these were more noble–minded [than] the [ones] in Thessalonica, who received the word with all [fig., great] eagerness, every day examining the Scriptures [to see] if these things might be so. 12Therefore, many of them indeed believed, also of the prominent Greek women, and not a few [fig., and a large number] of men (Acts 17:11,12).
If this book is well–received, then I might write additional books expanding upon other “Scripture Studies” in my Scripture Workbook (see Appendix Two).
When used in regards to a ruler, the word “sovereignty” means, “Supreme authority over all things” (YourDictionary.com). The term "sovereignty of God" refers to “God’s rule and authority over all things” (Erickson, Concise, p. 157), while “providence” means, “the wisdom, care, and guidance believed to be provided by God” (Encarta). Most Christians agree these general points are true of the God of the Bible.
However, there are three professedly Christian viewpoints regarding the exact nature of God’s sovereignty in relationship to the human will or volition. The latter means, “the act of using your will to make a conscious decision” (YourDictionary.com):
Reformed Theology (Calvinism):
God can and does control the human will. As such, God is absolute Lord over human history in general and individual destinies.
God could control the human will but chooses not to do so. God is Lord over human history in general, but the destiny of any particular person is determined by the exercise of that person’s own “free will.”
Pelagianism, Process Theology:
God is incapable of controlling the human will. As such, He is not Lord over human history or personal destinies. Human “free–will” or “chance” are the ultimate determining factors. But God is doing the best He can to bring about good in the world.
Studying the verses in this book will help the reader to decide for yourself which viewpoint is the Biblical position. Whatever viewpoint is taken, one thing should become clear—the concept of the sovereignty of God pervades the Scriptures; that is why this book is over 650 pages long in hardcopy format.
Much of this book consists of extended Scripture quotations. These have not been put in block quotes (indented) as is normally done for extended quotes due to the length and number of them, as to do so would have made this book even longer than it already is in hardcopy formats and difficult to read in electronic formats. But the quotes are always introduced by bolded Scripture references, and the superscript verse numbers are retained, so they are easily identified.
Abbreviations for Bible Versions
ALT – Analytical-Literal Translation.
KJV – King James Version.
NKJV – New King James Version.
NASB – New American Standard Bible.
NIV – New International Version.
ESV – English Standard Version.
NRSV – New Revised Standard Version.
NLT – New Living Translation.
These are the eight Bible versions that will be quoted in this book. The first is the author’s own version and will be the default version throughout. The other seven are among the most popular English Bible versions, so they are the ones most likely to be familiar to readers of this book. They are listed in the order in which they will be quoted in this book.
The KJV is first, as it is the oldest, best known, and a very reliable Bible version. The NKJV and NASB are next as they are this writer’s preferred versions (next to my own), as I consider them to be very reliable Bible versions.
I consider the NIV and ESV to be less reliable, the NRSV even less so, and the NLT to be rather unreliable. But given their popularity, the readings in these four versions need to be considered. For details in this regard, see my book Differences Between Bible Versions (see Appendix Two).
The Book of Genesis
The Book of Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible. It is also foundational to this study on the sovereignty of God, so we will start at the beginning.
1In [the] beginning God made the heaven and the earth. 2But the earth was invisible [fig., unsightly] and unformed, and darkness [was] over the abyss [fig., deep], and [the] Spirit of God was moving over the water. 3And God said, “Let there become light, and there became light.” [2Cor 4:6] 4And God saw the light that [it was] good, and God divided between the light and between the darkness. 5And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night, and there became evening and there became morning, day one.
God is the Creator of the universe. This simple fact is the basis for His sovereignty. A human creator has control over what he creates. In God’s case, He creates not just one item but the whole universe. He is thus sovereign over the entire universe and all aspects of it. And He does not need to do anything to create. He simply speaks the universe into existence. Here on day one He speaks light into existence. On days two through five, He speaks the rest of His creation into existence.
11And God said, “Let the earth produce [or, sprout] vegetation, grass sowing [fig., bearing] seed according to [its] kind and according to [its] likeness, and the fruit–bearing tree be making fruit whose seed [is] in it, according to [its] kind on the earth,” and it became so.
21And God made the great sea creatures and every soul [or, breath] of living creatures of reptiles [or, quadruped], which the waters brought forth according to their kinds, and every bird [or, winged creature] according to [its] kind, and God saw that [it was] good.
The important point in these two verses is God created each “kind” of plant and animal. From these kinds, all of the varieties of plants and animals would develop. Thus God planned from the beginning how life would develop on the earth. Then on day six He creates humanity.
26And God said, “Let Us make humanity according to Our image and according to [Our] likeness, and let them be ruling [over] the fish of the sea and [over] the birds [or, flying creatures] of heaven and over the livestock and all the earth, and [over] all the reptiles [or, quadrupeds], the ones walking upon the earth.” 27And God made humanity, according to [the] image of God, He made him, male and female He made them. [cp. Matt 19:4] 28And God blessed them, saying, “Be increasing, and be being multiplied, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule [over] the fish of the seas and the birds [or, flying creatures] of heaven and all the livestock and all of the earth and all the reptiles [or, quadrupeds] walking upon the earth.”
The creation of humanity is special. God sets us apart from the rest of creation and gives us control over it. We are to multiply and fill the earth. He can delegate such sovereignty to us because He is the ultimate Sovereign.
29And God said, “Behold I have given to you* every seed–sowing [fig., bearing] vegetation sowing seed which is upon all of the earth and every tree which has in itself [the] fruit of seed [that is] sown, to you* it will be for food. 30And to all the wild beasts of the earth and to all the birds [or, flying creatures] of heaven and to every reptile [or, quadruped] walking upon the earth, which has in itself breath of life, every green plant for food;” and [it was] so. 31And God saw all, as many [things] as He made, and behold, [it was] very good. And there became evening and there became morning, [the] sixth day.
God does not leave His creation alone to fend for itself, but He provides for it. To all the animals and to humanity He gives all types of plant foods for nourishment. And His creation is very good.
The Life of Joseph
The life of Joseph is very instructive in regards to the sovereignty of God. Joseph’s story is told in Genesis chapters 37–50. This chapter will quote the most salient portions from those chapters which show how the sovereignty of God was active in the life of Joseph.
1Now Jacob had dwelt in the land where his father lived as a stranger, in [the] land of Canaan. 2Now these [are] the generations of Jacob. And Joseph was seventeen years [old], feeding the sheep with his brothers, being young; with the sons of Bilhah and with the sons of Zilpah, the wives of his father. But Joseph brought a bad report to Israel their father. 3Now Jacob loved Joseph more than all his sons, because he was to him the son of old age; so he made for him a varicolored tunic. 4But his brothers having seen that his father affectionately loved him out of [or, more than] all his sons, hated him and were not able to be speaking anything peaceable to him.
Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons. Right there, you know there are going to be problems. A parent should never favor one child over another as it will inevitably cause problems. In this case, this favoritism of Jacob towards Joseph caused Joseph’s brothers to hate him. But it didn’t help that Joseph “brought a bad report” about his brothers to Jacob.
The text doesn’t mention God, but we can get an idea of God’s thoughts on these actions of Jacob, Joseph, and the brothers by looking elsewhere in Scripture. If you go back in the text, you will see the reason Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons was Joseph was the son of his beloved wife Rachael, while his other sons were the children of his other, less loved wife Leah or of their female servants (Gen 29:30–30:24). I discuss in my book The Bible and Sexual Relationship Issues (see Appendix Two) that polygamy is not God’s ideal just for this reason; the very real possibility of the favoritism of one wife and her children over the others. And having sex with someone not your spouse is definitely a sin against God and can lead to many problems, as discussed that book.
As for Joseph “tattle–tailing” on his brothers, the Bible says, “By many words you will not escape sin; but refraining [your] lips, you will be thoughtful” and “Who[ever] refrains to utter a hard word [is] discreet, and a patient man [is] wise” (Proverbs 10:19; 17:27).
As for the brothers, John writes, “Everyone not practicing righteousness is not from God, and the one not loving his brother” and “… this [is] the commandment we have from Him, that the one loving God should also be loving his brother” (1John 3:10; 4:21).
As such, it would appear the whole family had serious issues. Whatever one’s view is on the sovereignty of God, human reasonability can never be discounted, and these ungodly actions of each person in this family led to great tension in the family.
5Now Joseph having dreamt a dream, he reported it to his brothers. 6And he said to them, “Hear this dream which I dreamt. 7I was supposing we are binding sheaves in the middle of the field, and my sheaf stood up and was set upright, but your* sheaves turned around and prostrated themselves in reverence to my sheaf.” 8But his brothers said to him, “You will not reigning reign [fig., indeed reign] over us, or you will not lording lord [fig., indeed be lord] over us, will you?” And they added to [and] yet more [were] hating him on account of his dreams and on account of his words.
9Then he saw another dream, and he related it fully to his father and to his brothers, and he said, “Behold, I dreamt another dream; as it were the sun and the moon and the eleven stars prostrated themselves in reverence to me.” 10And his father rebuked him and said to him, “What [is] this dream which you dreamt? Having come up, will I come up, indeed both I and your mother, and your brothers, [and] prostrate ourselves in reverence to you upon the ground?”
11So his brothers envied him, but his father observed the saying.
Were these dreams given to Joseph by God? The text does not say so specifically, but that seems to be the import. And there are a few other instances of God speaking to people via dreams in the Bible. One of these appears earlier in Genesis in 28:10–15, and a couple will be discussed later.
The meaning of Joseph’s dreams is very clear to Joseph’s father and brothers. They all understood Joseph’s dreams to mean they would all one day bow down to him. Needless to say, this greatly angered his already irate brothers, leading them to hate him even more and even to envy him.
In relating these dreams, Joseph seems to have believed they would come true. But for Joseph to attain lordship over his brothers seemed very unlikely given that Joseph was the second youngest of Jacob’s twelve sons, while at that time, authority over the family usually would fall to the elder son upon the father’s death. But Joseph most likely had a strong faith in the LORD that He would somehow being about the events.
But the real question is: should Joseph have told his father and brothers his dreams? Was it arrogance on his part to do so, knowing the import of the dreams? Or was it just youthful ignorance of how his brothers would react? The text does not specifically give God’s thoughts on the mater, but again, see the verses previously quoted from Proverbs. However, one thing will become clear: it was Joseph’s telling his brothers his dreams that eventually brought about the fulfillment of those dreams, though in a manner which no one could have predicted.
12Then his brothers went to be feeding the sheep of their father in Shechem. 13And Israel said to Joseph, “Your brothers are feeding [their flock] in Shechem, are they not? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Behold, I [am here].” 14Then Israel said to him, “Having gone, see if your brothers and the sheep are well, and report to me.”
15And a man found him wandering in the field, and the man asked him, saying, “What are you seeking?” 16So he said, “I am seeking my brothers; tell me where they are feeding [their flocks]. 17Then the man said to him, “They have departed from here, for I heard them saying, ‘Let us go to Dothan [LXX, Dothaim].’” And Joseph went after his brothers, and he found them in Dothan.
Jacob sends Joseph to check on his brothers. Given the recent ill–will between them, this probably was not very wise. But it sets up all that follows. Joseph does not find them immediately since they moved where they were pasturing their flocks, but he eventually finds them in Dothan.
18But they [Joseph’s brothers] saw him [Joseph] from a distance before he came near to them, and they acted wickedly [and plotted] to kill him. 19And each said to his brother, “Behold, that dreamer comes. 20Now then come, let us kill him and cast him into one of the pits. And we will say, ‘An evil wild beast devoured him.’ And we will see what will be[come] of his dreams!”
It should be noted that Joseph’s brothers refer to him as “that dreamer.” And they want to kill him so his dreams will not come true. This verifies what was just said; it was Joseph telling his dreams to his brothers that brought about the subsequent events.
21But Reuben having heard, rescued him out of their hands and said, “Let us not strike him to [the] life [fig., kill him].” 22Then Reuben said to them, “You* should not be pouring out blood; cast him into this pit in the wilderness, but you* should not afflict him;” that he should rescue him out of their hands and restore him to his father.
Most of Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him, but the eldest brother Reuben steps in and stops them from doing so. If they had killed Joseph, all that follows would not have happened. So the question is, was this action of Reuben out of his own initiative or was God somehow working in him to stop the murder of Joseph? The text does not say, but his actions are commendable.
23So it happened, when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped Joseph of his varicolored tunic, the one around him. 24And having taken him, they cast [him] into the pit; but the pit [was] empty, it was not having water.
Joseph comes to his brothers not suspecting anything. But they take off the tunic that was the sign of their father’s favoritism of Joseph, and they cast him into a pit. At this point, Joseph probably felt at a complete lost, not knowing what his brothers were up to or why they were so angry at him. As he sat in that pit, he was probably afraid and bewildered. And even he might have been wondering what had become of his dreams. This was probably a low point in his life, but little did he know he was not even close to hitting rock bottom.
25Then they sat down to eat bread; and having looked up with their eyes they saw, and behold, Ishmaelites travelers were coming from Gilead [LXX, Galaad], and their camels were filled [or, heavily loaded] with spices [or, incense] and resin and oil of myrrh; and they were going to bring [them] to Egypt.
After throwing Joseph into the pit, his brothers seem to have no care for him as they start to eat their lunch. This seems rather cold of them, but maybe they were using the time to contemplate what to do with Joseph.
But whatever the case with them, we have now come to the pivotal event of the story, but it is a seemingly random event. Ishmaelites travelers “just happen” to pass by just at that very moment, just as the brothers are eating but before they harm Joseph, and those travelers “just happen” to be going to Egypt.
The main issues here are timing and location. If Joseph’s brothers had stayed in Shechem, they would not have seen the travelers. If those travelers had passed by an hour earlier, Joseph would not have been with his brothers yet. If they had come an hour later, his brothers might have already killed him. Moreover, Joseph was there just at that moment due to Jacob sending him out when he did. And if Joseph had not been delayed finding them, he would have arrived sooner; if he had been delayed longer, the travelers would have already passed by.
So we have two individuals and two groups of people that all had to do things at just the right moment for Joseph and the travelers to have been in Dothan at that exact moment. Without all of those events happening in just the right manner, this fateful event would not have occurred. Before continuing with Joseph’s story, let me digress with one of my own.
This issue of timing is something I have been very cognizant of ever since July 28, 1999. On that date, I was in a very serious bicycle accident. I was traveling south along the right–hand side of a very busy four–lane highway. As I went through an intersection, a 75–year old lady traveling north made a left–hand turn towards a side street, cutting me off.
I slammed into her car with my right side, flipped over the roof, and landed flat on my back on the other side, smack dab in the middle of the busy highway. In the process, I fractured my right clavicle and scapular and cracked the shoulder socket, collapsed my right lung, sustained a hairline fracture in my left elbow, a concussion, and numerous cuts and bruises, including a gash just under my right eye.
If I wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet, I probably would have been killed or at least left brain damaged. My situation also would have been much worse if someone had run over me as I lay in the middle of the highway or if I hadn’t gotten help right away. But a policeman “just happened” to drive by a few seconds after the accident. He called for help and directed traffic around me until the ambulance arrived.
As I lay in the hospital for the next week, I asked a question that many would probably ask in such a situation: where was God? As I thought over what had happened, I realized it took a myriad of circumstances for both me and the old lady to be at that intersection at that exact moment. If I or her had been just a few seconds earlier or later, the accident wouldn’t have happened. And as I looked over the events during the day prior to the accident, many things could have caused such a slight change in timing.
For instance, I usually took a water bottle with me on my bike rides. And I had been in the habit of stopping while riding through a public park for a short break and to get a drink. In the 80 degree plus weather we were having that summer, such a break was helpful. But on that day, for some reason, I forgot my water bottle. So I didn’t bother to stop at the park. But if I had ... well, you get the idea. And that’s just one event in my life. And the same could be said for the old lady and for the policeman.
Anyone who has been in a bicycle, car, or other such accident has probably also asked “Where was God?” and maybe even wondered about the “co–incidental” timing that led to it. I will come back to this story later and look into those questions. But for now, let us return to Joseph’s story.
26So Judah said to his brothers, “What profit [is it] if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? 27Come, let us sell him to these Ishmaelites, but stop letting our hands be upon him, because he is our brother and our flesh.” Now his brothers heard [or, listened to] [him]. 28And the men, the merchants of Madian, were themselves passing by, and they [i.e., Joseph’s brothers] drew and lifted Joseph out of the pit and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of gold [Heb., silver]; and they brought Joseph down into Egypt.
Don’t get confused here. The “Ishmaelites travelers” and the “Mdian merchants” are references to the same group of people. There were probably both in the caravan. But the point is; Joseph is sold into slavery. That was better than being killed, but not much.
Slavery is repugnant to people today, but it was a fact of life at this time, but not a good life. And not only was Joseph to be a slave, but he was being taken to a far away, foreign land, so Joseph was probably completely dejected, feeling betrayed by his own brothers.
This was an even lower point in Joseph’s life. The text does not tell us where Joseph’s faith in the LORD was at this point, but anyone who has felt like you’ve hit rock–bottom would probably attest that it is very easy to start crying out “why me, God?” and to feel angry at and abandoned by God. I know there have been times when I have felt that way in my life.
But maybe Joseph didn’t question God. Maybe he had faith that the LORD had it under control. That is the attitude that has enabled me to get through many rough times in my life.
29Then Reuben returned to the pit, and he does not see Joseph in the pit; and he tore his clothes. 30And he returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is not; and I, where am I myself yet to go?” 31Then having taken the tunic of Joseph, they slaughtered a young goat of [the] goats and stained the tunic with the blood. 32And they sent the varicolored tunic, and they brought [it] to their father and said, “This we found. Do you know if it is the tunic of your son or not?” 33And he recognized it and said, “It is [the] tunic of my son! An evil wild beast has devoured him; a wild beast carried off Joseph!”
34Then Jacob tore his clothes and put on himself sackcloth on his waist, and he was mourning for his son many days. 35So all his sons and his daughters were gathered together, and they came to comfort him; and he was not willing to be being comforted, saying, “I will go down to my son mourning to the realm of the dead [Gr., hades].” And his father wept [for] him.
It appears Rueben was not told about what had happened, so he was left to wonder what became of Joseph. But all of the brothers concoct a ruse to let their father think Joseph had been killed. With Joseph on his way to far away Egypt, none of them expected to see him again. That is an important point for what happens later in the story.
36Now the Midianites [LXX, Madianites] sold Joseph into Egypt; to Potiphar [LXX, Petephres], the eunuch of Pharaoh, captain of the guard.
This seemingly trivial piece of information is another pivotal event in the story. As already stated, slavery was a fact of life at this time. In fact, far more people were slaves than free people, while most free people owned slaves. That means Joseph could have been sold to any one of the multitude of free people in Egypt, but he “just happened” to be sold to an official in Pharaoh’s court. If Joseph had been sold to anyone outside of the royal court, then the rest of the story would not have happened. He probably would have lived and died in obscurity.
Genesis 38 is an interlude from the story of Joseph, possibly to give a sense of the passage of time. Joseph’s story picks up again in chapter 39.
1Now Joseph was brought down into Egypt; and Potiphar the eunuch of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard [or, the chief cook], an Egyptian man, bought him for himself from [the] hands of the Ishmaelites, the ones having brought him down there. 2And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was an obtaining [fig., a prosperous] man; and he became in the house with his lord [or, master, and throughout chapter] the Egyptian. 3Now his lord knew that the LORD [was] with him, and as many [things] as he should do, the LORD prospers in his hands. 4And Joseph found grace in the presence of his lord and was well–pleasing to him. And he set him over his house, and all, as many [things] as to him, he gave into [the] hand of Joseph.
Joseph might have begun to feel that there was a reason why he was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery. Because of the blessing of the LORD upon him, Joseph prospered in his slavery and was in charge of all in the house of his master.
This is an important point. When we are in a seemingly difficult circumstance, it makes it much easier to handle if we can find a purpose behind it and can accomplish something worthwhile in spite of or even because of our seemingly adverse circumstance.
Health Problems and Loneliness:
In my own life, I have suffered from numerous and rare health problems. Partly as a result, I never got married nor had children; and directly because of my health situation, I live a mostly home–bound life. I could let this isolation and resultant loneliness get me down, and to be honest, at times it has. But I have learned to accept it as my lot in life. And I have used this isolation to accomplish much in my life.
Since I cannot work outside of my home, I set up a home office and use it every day. As a result, I have accomplished much for the LORD and have helped many through my writings. See Appendix Two for a list and short descriptions of my two dozen books, and see Appendix Three for a discussion of my Christian and fitness websites and newsletters.
As much as I hate to admit it, if I had gotten married and had children like I just assumed I would when I was younger, I probably would not have three well–trafficked websites with over 1,500 pages total on them and would never have written so many books. My health is such that I could not invest the time and energy necessary to make a marriage work and to raise children and do all of this writing.
If my health had not taken a downturn many years ago, I probably would have pursued my original life plans of being a gym owner, personal trainer, and powerlifting coach. Back then, I would have shuddered at the thought of holding a “sit–down” job, especially one that entailed being isolated from people. Now maybe I would have accomplished much in those planned pursuits, but maybe not. What I do know is what I have accomplished given my life situation.
And having mentioned powerlifting, that was another plan, to compete in powerlifting throughout my life. But my health derailed those plans, at least through most of my 20s and all of my 30s, but then in my early 40s I began to compete again and to do so very successfully. I initially worked out at commercial gyms. But shortly thereafter, my health deteriorated to such a state that I could not go to commercial gyms anymore.
I could have easily given up on training at that point, but instead I set up a home gym and continued to train and compete through most of my 40s. I could only enter one or two contests a year, but that was enough to get my name near or at the top of various ranking lists and in various record books. But then in my late 40s, my health once again took a downturn, and I was unable to compete for the next six years. But I kept working out as best as I could, and eventually I was able to work out harder and to finally compete again, now being in my 50s.
The point is, when my health soured and my original life plans were ruined, I was dejected for quite some time, with little direction in life. But then with much prayer and trust in the providence of the LORD, I took what steps were necessary to use my circumstances to accomplish what I might not have otherwise.
And that seems to have been the attitude of Joseph. He could have just given up on life, done the bare minimum he needed to do as a slave to get by and lived in obscurity. But with full trust in the LORD, he seems to have adopted the attitude Paul would express over two millennia later.
22The slaves, be obeying with respect to all [things] your* masters according to [the] flesh, not in eye–service as people–pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23And every[thing], whatever you* shall be doing, be working from [your*] soul [fig., heartily] as to the Lord and not to people, 24knowing that from [the] Lord you* will receive the recompense of the inheritance, for to the Lord Christ you* are serving as a slave (Col 3:22–24).
This needs to be attitude of anyone stuck in a situation that you did not want nor plan on. Rather than just sticking it out, trust in the LORD that He has a purpose for your being in that situation. Find out what it is, and do it heartily, and the LORD will bless your efforts.
5Now it happened after he was set over his house and over all, as many things as was to him, and the LORD blessed the house of the Egyptian because of Joseph; and it happened [the] blessing of the LORD was on all the [things] existing to him [fig., all his possessions] in the house and in the field. 6And he committed all, as many [things] as were to him, into [the] hands of Joseph; and he did not know the [things] according to himself, nothing [fig., of anything that belonged to him], except the bread which he was eating. And Joseph was good [or, handsome] in form and exceedingly beautiful in face [or, appearance].
This paragraph repeats the idea of the previous one. But the repetition is important. It emphasizes what a good state Joseph was in despite his circumstances and how much the LORD had blessed him and his master because of his faithfulness. But the last sentence sets up the snag that would come Joseph’s way.
The Early Years of Israel
With this chapter, we will begin studying the Historical Books of the Old Testament, starting with the early years of the nation of Israel. This is the time period from the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land to before the anointing of the first king of Israel.
1And it happened after the death of Moses [Heb., +the servant of the LORD], the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun [LXX, Naue], the assistant of Moses, saying, 2“Moses My servant has died; now then having arisen, cross over the Jordan [River], you and all this people, into the land which I give to them. 3Every place on which you* shall tread with the step of your* feet I will give it to you*, [in] which manner I have spoken to Moses. 4[From] the wilderness and Antilibanus [Heb., Lebanon] as far as the great river, [the] river Euphrates, and as far as the extremity of the sea, from [the] setting of [the] sun [fig., the west], will be your* borders. 5Not a person will stand before [or, resist] you* all [the] days of your life; and just as I was being with Moses, thus will I also be with you, and I will not forsake you or neglect you.
Moses’ death is record in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. But Joshua is still alive, just as the LORD promised. Now the mantel has passed to him to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. The LORD renews the promise He made with Moses to Joshua; He will give the land to the Israelites. There will be much war throughout the Book of Joshua in possessing the land, but ultimately it is the LORD who is giving it to them.
The LORD promises no one will stand before Joshua. The reason being, the LORD will be with him. That is a comforting promise all Christians have; the LORD will always be with us. That is why we can face any adversities that might come our way.
6“Be being strong and be acting like a man [fig., be courageous], for you will divide the land to this people, which I swore an oath to your* fathers to give to them. 7Be being strong, therefore, and be acting like a man [fig., be courageous] to be observing and to be doing as Moses My servant commanded you, and you will not turn from them to [the] right or to [the] left that you shall be wise [Heb., prosper] in all which you shall be performing. 8And the Scroll of this Law shall not depart from your mouth, and you will meditate in it day and night that you shall understand to be doing all the [things] having been written [in it]; then you will be prospered, and your ways will prosper, and then you will understand. 9Behold, I have commanded you! Be being strong and be acting like a man [fig., be courageous]; you shall not be cowardly nor fearful, for the LORD your God [is] with you in all [places] wherever you shall be going.”
The LORD commands Joshua to be continually strong and courageous, as he will lead the people into the Promised Land and divide it among them. This will be the fulfilment of the LORD’s promise. When the LORD promises something, we can have faith it will come to pass, as He is sovereign, and His will cannot be thwarted.
But Joshua has a part; he must meditate in the Law day and night and obey what it says. The Law would be the Torah that we studied in the first four chapters. Whether you agreed with all of this writer’s commentary or not in those chapters is not the most important point; the most important point is that by reading those chapters you were studying the Law, and by reading the rest of this book, you will be studying the rest of the Bible. If you mediate on what is said and apply it to your life, you will be blessed.
10And Joshua commanded the scribes of the people, saying, 11“Go into the midst of the camp of the people, and command the people, saying, ‘Be preparing provisions, for yet three days, and you* are crossing over this Jordan, having entered in to possess the land which the LORD, the God of your* fathers, is giving to you*.’”
Joshua commands the people to be prepared to carry out what the LORD has promised. By doing so, he demonstrates his faith that the LORD will bring about what He has promised. And Joshua repeats that it is ultimately the LORD who will give the land to the Israelites.
Joshua then sends two men to spy out the city of Jericho. Rahab the prostitute gives them shelter and even lies to messengers of the king to protect the spies. The narrative continues:
8And it happened as the ones pursuing after them went out, but before they [i.e., the spies] laid down to sleep, that [lit., and, and elsewhere in book] she [Rahab] came up on the housetop to them. 9And she said to them, “I know that the LORD has given you* the land, for the fear of you* has fallen upon us. 10For we have heard that the LORD God dried up the Red Sea from your* face [fig., before you*] when you* were coming out of [the] land of Egypt, and as many [things] as He did to the two kings of the Amorites, who were beyond the Jordan, to Seon and Og, whom you* utterly destroyed them. 11And having heard, we were amazed in our heart, and there did not stand a spirit yet in none of us from your* face [fig., there was no longer any courage in any of us because of you*], for the LORD your* God [is] God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath.
The reason Rahab protected the spies is because she had heard all that the LORD had done for Israel, and she has apparently placed her faith in the LORD. Rahab knows the LORD has given her homeland to the Israelites. She says it was the LORD who dried up the Red Sea and who defeated kings Seon and Og, even though it was the Israelites who actually destroyed them. As a result, her people have lost their courage, as the God of the Hebrews is the God of heaven and earth. This is an incredible expression of faith in in the sovereignty of the LORD by a pagan prostitute. Oh that we who know and believe in the LORD would have such strong faith!
23And the two young men returned and came down out of the mountain, and they went over to Joshua son of Nun and told him all the [things] having happened to them. 24And they said to Joshua, “The LORD has delivered all the land into our hand, and all the ones inhabiting of that land have cowered because of us.”
The two spies now express their faith that the LORD has delivered the land to the Israelites. And note the past tense, “has delivered” not future tense, “will deliver.” They are so sure of what the LORD will do they express it as if it has already happened.
18And for many days Joshua made [fig, waged] war with these kings. 19And there was no city which Israel did not take; they took all in war. 20For through the LORD their hearts became overpowered to be meeting in war against Israel, that they should be utterly destroyed, in order that mercy should not be given to them, but that they should be utterly destroyed, [in] which manner the LORD said to Moses.
This is a very important passage, but many pass by it without considering its implications. It is a summary statement of Joshua’s victories over various kings. But the reason Joshua was so victorious is because the LORD overpowered their hearts. This probably refers to the kings attacking Israel rather than making a peace treaty with them like the Gideonites did. But the reason they did not attempt to make a peace treaty is because the LORD wanted to destroy them.
Be sure to note the three occurrences of “that” – “that they should be utterly destroyed, in order that mercy should not be given to them, but that they should be utterly destroyed.” This verse is so important it will be quoted from the other seven versions.
For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses (KJV).
For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the LORD had commanded Moses (NKJV).
For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses (NASB).
For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses (NIV).
For it was the LORD's doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses (ESV).
For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the LORD had commanded Moses (NRSV).
For the LORD hardened their hearts and caused them to fight the Israelites instead of asking for peace. So they were completely and mercilessly destroyed, as the LORD had commanded Moses (NLT).
Some of these versions do not use “that” three times, but the sense is still the same in all seven. The LORD caused the kings to attack Israel so that He could use Israel to bring His punishment upon them. Only the NLT lessens the force of this verse by not only omitting the “that” before the final clause but by turning it into a new sentence. But the “that” appears in the Hebrew and Greek texts, and the verse is one sentence, so the NLT is inaccurate in these regards.
What this means is the LORD can and does control people’s wills. He can and does cause people to do things so that His will is accomplished. He can and does punish people by causing them to act in certain manners. I know this goes against peoples’ feelings in this regard, but if you are a Christian who claims to believe the Bible, then you need to base your beliefs on the Bible not on your feelings.
6And the sons [and daughters] of Judah came to Joshua in Galgal, and Caleb [LXX, Chaleb] the [son] of Jephunneh [LXX, Jephone] the Kenezite said to him, “You know the word which the LORD spoke to Moses [the] man of God concerning me and you in Kadesh Barnea [LXX, Cades Barne]. 7For I was forty years old when Moses the servant of GOD sent me out of Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I answered him a word according to his mind. 8But my brothers having gone up with me turned away the heart of the people, but I was added to follow the LORD my God. 9And Moses swore an oath on that day, saying, ‘The land on which you set foot, it will be to you for an inheritance and to your children into the age [fig., forever], because you were added to follow after the LORD our God.’
10“And now the LORD has kept me alive [in] which manner He said; this [is] the forty–fifth year from when the LORD spoke that word to Moses, and Israel journeyed in the wilderness; and now, behold, I [am] this day eighty–five years old. 11I am still strong this day, as when Moses sent me; likewise [I am] strong now to go out and to come in for war. 12And now I ask you, [give me] this mountain, just as the LORD said in that day, for you have heard this word on that day; but now the Anakim are there, cities great and strong; if then the LORD should be with me, I will utterly destroy them, [in] which manner the LORD said to me.”
13And Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb, son of Jephunneh, son of Kenez for an inheritance. 14Because of this, Hebron became for an inheritance to Caleb the [son] of Jephunneh the Kenezite until this day, because he followed the commandment of the LORD God of Israel.
Joshua and Caleb were two of the twelve men Moses had sent to spy out the Promised Land. The other ten spies brought back a discouraging report, but Joshua and Caleb had faith that the LORD would deliver the land into their hands. The people were discouraged by the report of the ten and did not have faith to take the Promised Land, hence the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. But the LORD made promises to Joshua and Caleb due to their faithfulness. Joshua was to be Moses’s successor, and Caleb would inherit choice land. Here Caleb is asking for that promise to be fulfilled.
Faith, Health, and Longevity:
That is the background to these paragraphs. But for the purposes of this book, Caleb says it is the LORD who has kept him alive for the 45 years since he spied out the Promised Land. He is now 85 years old and is still as strong as he was back then. Thus a long and vigorous life is under the control of the LORD. This not to say there are not steps we can take to attain a long and healthy life; there are many healthy habits we can follow that will help in this regard, but ultimately, without the LORD’s blessing upon us, all of those healthy habits will be futile.
Even from a secular viewpoint this makes sense. A strong faith in the providence of the LORD will help to reduce stress. People get stressed out when they feel things are out of control in their lives, but if you have faith the LORD is in control, then stress will be reduced, and stress is a known contributor to various health problems.
I know this to be true. My health had been very poor for many years, but it really took a downturn in the summer of 2009, starting shortly before my final powerlifting contest in my 40s in June of that year. That contest did not go well, and my health decayed from that time on. As it did, my faith in the LORD began to go downhill as well, and things seemed to snowball downward. As my health deteriorated, my faith deteriorated, which led to me being further unable to deal with my decaying health, which led to further deterioration of my health and loss of faith, etc.
But then in October of 2013, something changed. I really cannot explain it. My health did not improve, but my attitude towards it did. I began to trust that somehow unbeknown to me, the LORD had it all under His control. And with that assurance, I was able to very gradually make changes in my life in regards to my physical, mental, and spiritual state. Now, a year and a half later, my health is still poor, but I am dealing with it much better, to the point of being able to compete in powerlifting again. And my emotional and spiritual states are much better. And that turnaround all began by reaffirming my faith in the sovereignty of God.
On a side note, my book God–given Foods Eating Plan and various articles on my fitness website will be of much aid to the reader who desires to take care of your physical self, and the two–part article Healthy Habits and the Christian posted on my Christian website provides reasoning as to why Christians should do so (see Appendixes Two and Three).
But back to Caleb; with his strong faith in the providence of God, he knows he will be able to conquer the lands that were promised to him, which he then does so and remains long upon that land. Similarly, with faith the LORD has our lives under control, we can accomplish amazing things.
43So the LORD gave to Israel all the land which He swore an oath to give to their fathers, and they inherited it and dwelt in it. 44And the LORD gave them rest round about, just as He swore an oath to their fathers. Not one from all their enemies stood up against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hands. 45There did not fail from all the good words which the LORD spoke to the sons [and daughters] of Israel; all came to pass.
This is an incredibly comforting passage of Scripture. All that the LORD promised came to pass.
The LORD’s Promises:
The land promise was first given by the LORD to Abraham many centuries before, then to Isaac, then to Jacob, then to Moses, then to Joshua, so it took a long time through many generations, but it was finally fulfilled.
There appeared to be many insurmountable obstacles in the way of the fulfillment of this promise. Abraham and his wife Sarah were old and without any children, so Abraham did not have any heirs to inherit the land. But the LORD miraculously provided a son to them in their old age.
The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for centuries. But the LORD brought them out with a strong hand. The Promised Land was occupied by strong peoples, so much so that the Israelites initially did not have faith that the LORD would deliver it into their hands, so they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.
Then after all of that time, the LORD raised up Joshua to lead them into the Promised Land. But it was still occupied by those same strong peoples, but the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Israelites. And now, after all of that, Israel is now in control of the land, and the LORD has fully fulfilled His promises.
When we pray and feel the LORD has promised something, there are often many obstacles to those promises being fulfilled. But if the promise is truly from God and if there is not sin in lives hindering the fulfillment of the promise, the LORD will fulfill it. But it may take a long time, and there will probably be many twists and turns along the way. But that is where faith comes in. No matter our circumstances, we can always be assured the LORD has it under control.
This book took me about six months to write and publish. Given that it is the longest book I have ever written, that is rather quick, and I believe it shows God’s enabling as I wrote this book. To Him be the glory. May He bless those who read this book.
The LORD Has It Under Control: What the Bible Teaches About the Sovereignty of God - This book is for the person struggling in life and for the person struggling with how God sovereignly works in people’s lives. It goes through the Bible more or less in order. Along the way, I relate examples of how I believe the sovereignty of God has been operating in my life, in hopes that my experiences will help the reader to apply the principles to your life. It also addresses the question of the relationship of God’s sovereignty to the human will or volition. It will be soon be available in a variety of hardcopy and eBook formats.
New on Darkness to Light Web SiteAD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episodes One and Two and AD: The Bible Continues - Review of Episode Three are new articles. This miniseries would better be called AD: The Biblical Novel Continues, as that is what it is, a fictional novel with just a smattering of Biblical events. These ongoing reviews detail this claim.
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