top of page
  • Chad Werkhoven

Genesis 45:1-8 - Pro-vide-o

Providence simply means 'to see beforehand.'


Genesis 45:1–8 (NIV)

CONTEXT: Joseph, who had been sold into slavery by his brothers, only to ascend to the second most powerful man in Egypt, crosses paths with his brothers again as they look for food, and they're terrified that he'll take revenge.

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.

3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.

4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.


Listen to passage & devotional:


Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

We believe that this good God,

after he created all things,

did not abandon them to chance or fortune

but leads and governs them

according to his holy will,

in such a way that nothing happens in this world

without his orderly arrangement.

Yet God is not the author of,

nor can he be charged with,

the sin that occurs.

For his power and goodness

are so great and incomprehensible

that he arranges and does his work very well and justly

even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire

with undue curiosity

into what he does that surpasses human understanding

and is beyond our ability to comprehend.

But in all humility and reverence

we adore the just judgments of God,

which are hidden from us,

being content to be Christ’s disciples,

so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word,

without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort

since it teaches us

that nothing can happen to us by chance

but only by the arrangement of our gracious

heavenly Father.

He watches over us with fatherly care,

keeping all creatures under his control,

so that not one of the hairs on our heads

(for they are all numbered)

nor even a little bird

can fall to the ground

without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest,

knowing that he holds in check

the devils and all our enemies,

who cannot hurt us

without his permission and will.

For that reason we reject

the damnable error of the Epicureans,

who say that God involves himself in nothing

and leaves everything to chance.



It's hard to tell what Joseph was thinking as the emotions he'd suppressed for decades finally escape in a cry so loud that the entire palace heard it. He'd been through so much: estranged from his father by his own brothers, who chose the 'merciful' option of selling him as a slave in a far off land rather than killing him outright; he'd worked his way to the top of wherever he ended up, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath him on multiple occasions.

And now here stand the very men who'd sent him down this uncharted path nearly a lifetime ago. They didn't recognize him; why would they? They'd sold him into slavery, and slaves were quickly worked to death and replaced. Besides, they'd staged his gory death to trick their father, and in the process they likely convinced themselves that they'd never see their arrogant little brother again.

But there he stood dressed in the finest clothes as the administrator of one of the most sophisticated cultures in history, and there they stood with their hats in their hands, hoping for just enough food to survive. Certainly they'd be getting what they deserved, which wasn't food, so they were properly terrified.

But rather than revenge they had coming, they got a lesson in theology.

"It was not you who sent me here, but God," Joseph told them. "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Dig Deeper

RC Sproul explains the concept of God's providence much better than I can (then again, Dr. Sproul explains nearly everything much better than I can!).

Sproul breaks down the word providence into its core components. It begins with the the prefix pro, which means "in front of" or "before." The root of the word is vide, which you probably don't recognize until you add the vowel o to the end of it: video. So the word providence literally means to see beforehand.

What a perfect way to remember what God's providence is! He who sees all things beforehand sovereignly orders the things He sees to correspond with and fulfill His will. God saw beforehand the years of famine that would be coming, and He sovereignly put his servant Joseph in the right place at the right time to meet the needs of not just God's covenant people, but the entire world!

So it's hard to imagine the depth of Joseph's emotions as he cried out before his brothers, finally understanding the often mysterious doctrine of God's providence. You may not be able to see how it is that your present situation is part of God's plan, but you can take comfort in His providence knowing that He has seen beforehand and is working out all things for your salvation.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who providentially controls all things;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that just like Joseph's brothers you will let go of your fear and learn to trust in God's providence;



Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 1


Questions or comments?

Recent Posts:

bottom of page