Week 4 January 21-
As a German monk who later sparked the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther once proclaimed, "God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick."
Luther's quote is often used to illustrate how God can produce righteous fruit from the lives of redeemed sinners. But throughout the storyline of Scripture, a more accurate application of Luther's words might be that God can take our evil intentions and work them out for His greater good.
The pinnacle of this principle is found in the final chapters of Genesis, where God sovereignly draws straight lines from the crooked sticks handed to the persecuted Joseph.
Born as the favorite son of Jacob's old age, Joseph was blessed with a robe of many colors and also cursed with a family of many jealous brothers. This sibling rivalry later leads to a string of crooked sticks dealt to Joseph. However, the end of Genesis reveals one continuous straight line that was being secretly drawn by the hand of God the entire time.
Jacob's sons handed Joseph the crooked stick of being sold into Egyptian slavery; God drew a straight line that would prosper Joseph as the overseer for a respected officer named Potiphar. Potiphar's wife handed Joseph the crooked stick of being framed for rape; God drew a straight line that put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners he was incarcerated with. Finally, the chief cupbearer of Pharaoh handed Joseph the crooked stick of a broken promise to mention him to Pharaoh; God drew a straight line that enabled Joseph to interpret Pharaoh's dream two years later and then immediately be installed as a ruler of Egypt.
Throughout decades worth of pain and persecution in Joseph's life, we can look back and see God drawing straight lines that would take him from being a slave rejected by his family, to a ruler who enabled thousands to survive a severe famine. That is why when Joseph's brothers finally apologize to him in Egypt for their wicked schemes, Joseph simply replied, "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).
Is life handing you crooked sticks today? Does it seem like all your efforts to please God end in persecution instead of prosperity? Those who truly love and serve God will suffer backlash from a broken world. But take comfort from the life of Joseph. His struggle reminds us that behind every crooked stick the world hands you, God is drawing a straight line that is molding and shaping you into the image of Jesus Christ.
Straight Lines & Crooked Sticks
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Next week's readings will take us through the first few chapters of the book of Exodus. Although these vivid stories of horrible plagues and parted seas remind us of Charlton Heston's famous role in The Ten Commandments, notice instead how the narrative of Exodus points to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Exodus, Moses frees God's people from the bondage of Egyptian slavery and sacrificially leads them to a new land where the abiding presence of God dwells. In the four gospels, we see Jesus free God's people from the bondage of sin as He sacrificially leads them back to the Kingdom of God where the eternal presence of God dwells. The entire book of Exodus is a foreshadowing of what is later accomplished through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
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