“God is on my side.” Consider for a moment the arrogance of that statement. We’ve all said it, and probably didn’t mean to infer anything by it. But the implication is that we have a position, a plan for victory, and that God chooses to support our position. The truth is, we don’t even have a side.
Of all the children in a large family, Joseph was the favorite of his father Jacob. (As in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, also known as Israel.) Joseph was also favored by God. When his brothers plotted to kill him, a band of merchants just happened by and one suggested there was no profit in killing him but he could be sold as a slave. That would get rid of him and they could make a little something on the side. Joseph was carried down to Egypt, which was of course all part of God’s plan. Perhaps that traveling merchant caravan didn’t just “happen by” after all.
All the way back in Genesis 15, before Isaac had even been born, God shared his plans for the future with Abraham. Gen. 15:6 is a well known verse because of Abraham’s faith being equated with righteousness. But look at verse 13: Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. While God does not call Egypt by name, the four hundred years of captivity was prophesied to Abraham three generations before Joseph’s birth. The nation of Israel growing while in Egypt wasn’t some problem that God had to work out in order to get his plan back on track; that was God’s plan. He explained to Abraham that all he could see in every direction would belong to his descendants, but the current inhabitants had not yet committed all the iniquity for which they would be punished. When the time was right, and Israel had grown in strength and number, God would bring them out of captivity and back to this place to wipe it clean.
Joseph was favored by God. Not only was he given the gift of interpretation, but all that he laid his hand to prospered. This would eventually lead to his being placed second in command over all of Egypt. By the end of Genesis the family has been reunited and Jacob has died a happy old man. In response to his brothers anxiety (for their lives) Joseph explained to them that everything happened according to God’s plan. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” -Gen 50:20 Joseph was a willing and faithful part of a much larger plan that God had not only for his life but for the entire nation of Israel.
Consider this well known, oft quoted passed from Jeremiah:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
First, notice that it’s God’s plan. Jeremiah isn’t making plans that God decides to get on board with. Secondly, we often take this verse out of context. God is speaking through Jeremiah to the entire nation of Israel. His speech begins at verse 10 and goes through verse 23. Before their fortunes and land are restored, they will be taken by Babylon into captivity for 70 years. Verse 11 is not a promise made to an individual but to a nation, and it’s all part of fulfilling God’s plan for Israel.
“As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” Very well known verse, Joshua 24:15. But again, that’s only a very small passage at the end of a verse of scripture. “My house will serve the Lord” is Joshua’s response to “Choose this day whom you will serve,” a challenge to the nation of Israel. They could choose between the God that brought them out of Egypt and gave them the promised land, or they could return to the gods they had served in Egypt. Joshua was the leader God put over them, but Joshua didn’t have “a side.”
Jesus is our Emmanuel, “God with us.” The skies were filled with the heavenly host on the night of his birth, and the sky darkened and the earth shook at the time of his death. He defeated death, hell and the grave and will one day return as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But look again at how he himself prayed: Nevertheless not my will, Father, but yours be done. Jesus prayed for the Father’s will. He was a humble and obedient servant. Jesus’ example to us is one of humility. God is on my side? Please.