The issue of Joseph and his brothers raises a crucial point in distinguishing theological perspectives. It is my belief that all non-Reformed systems ultimately reduce God’s sovereignty to a brand of the Arminian foreknowledge view of God looking down the “corridors of time” -God is passively sovereign to the wills of creaturely decisions. These systems ultimately eliminate Unconditional Election and God’s positive decree of his sovereign will.
Genesis 45:4-8, and 50:20 do not support this, and any non-Reformed system of thought has to factor this Biblical information into their theology.
4And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. 5“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6“For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. 7“And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8“So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
God did not force Joseph’s brothers to sin. God did not have a gun in the backs of poor- innocent Joseph’s brothers forcing them to do what they did. They did exactly what depraved people intend to. However, God did actively decree that this situation was going to occur. In fact, since God created time, and all that is within our world, he in fact chose to create a world in which this situation had to happen, and he ordered the events that had to occur. It could not have been otherwise. Joseph says that God was responsible for the situation:
-God sent me before you to preserve life
-God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth
-God sent me before you….to save your lives by a great deliverance
-So now 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 a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.
- God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
The Reformed insist that one must not apply philosophical categories of human logic to the Scriptures. Non-Reformed views do this. They insist “If God has decreed everything, then man can’t be responsible, and everything is fatalism.” But the Scriptures say otherwise. They say that Joseph’s brothers are responsible, and that God was the working force behind all the events in Joseph’s life, causing them to happen. Or perhaps Joseph was wrong when he said “God sent me before you to preserve life…so it was not you who sent me here but God.” I simply am forced by sola scriptura to believe Joseph. The non-Calvinist position does not solve the dilemma by saying “God simply saw what Joseph's brothers were going to freely do and came up with plan B.”
But how is then is freedom possible? I admit, I can't square the infinite with the finite. But one must realize, those systems that attempt to downplay God's sovereignty are stuck with the same exact problem that Calvinism has on this issue: As I wrote one time to some Arminian friends:
“God exists eternally- God creates "something" out of nothing - that "something" is this universe. -This universe is chosen by God rather than some other universe. And when God chooses between the possibilities of universes, he sees them all from start to finish. He sees that he could create a universe very similar to this one if he wanted to. -How is it that God is not ultimately responsible for everything? If at one time there was nothing, and now there is something, and the choice of this something was chosen instead of another “something,” we are the complete result of the divine “chooser.”
The Scriptures also say that God has decreed the free acts of men, and yet that men are still responsible, and consequently are still free in their acts (Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27,28). We never can fully understand how the infinite God acts upon the finite man. It is still our duty to believe. The Scriptures say that God is completely sovereign over History. The same decree by God which, makes an event in history certain, also determines the mode by which it shall be brought about. God ordains the means as well as the ends, the situations as well as the results.
Reformed theology is not fatalism. Examine the word in its literal sense. Fatalism literally means that the affairs of men are controlled either by whimsical sub-deities (the Fates) or by the impersonal forces of chance. This is not a Christian (or Reformed) concept, so I strongly object to the term being applied to Calvinism.
These verses present a real dilemma for non-reformed systems:
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.
2 Samuel 12:11-12
11“Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12‘For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ ”
2 Samuel 12:15-17
And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became ill. 16David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead.
“Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation. 6 I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.7 Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.
2 Thes. 2:11
11And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
17“For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.