The world is witnessing the largest refugee crisis since the horrors of World War II. Today, there are close to 60 million refugees worldwide, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In one sense, all men are refugees; we have all been forcibly displaced. Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and we, as their descendants, continue to search for a safe place where our souls can rest. Ephesians 2:19 eludes to the fact that those outside of God’s household are strangers and aliens.
The Bible recounts the stories of men and women, groups and nations who were displaced by natural disaster, famine, persecution, war, human trafficking and more. We can become so familiar with these old stories that we miss seeing them in terms of today’s social injustices.
Noah and his family were displaced by the flood. Abraham and Sarah were driven to another land by famine. Jacob fled to another land because his brother threatened to kill him. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had to flee to Egypt due to political persecution. *
During his 3-year ministry, Jesus was a homeless refugee. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said to the Scribe, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” As his followers, we must consider what holds our heart’s affections. Am I willing to give up my home and side with the homeless to follow him?
Syria has over twenty million citizens made up of eighteen different people groups. Around 4.8 million of these people have become refugees and another 6.5 million have become displaced within Syria and are seeking refuge. Christian missionaries have spent years praying, strategizing, and risking everything to go to these people with the gospel. After raising tens of thousands of dollars, undergoing extensive training, leaving everything familiar, and going through the long process of learning a foreign language – only then, could missionaries reach these people. The paradigm has shifted!
We serve a God who scatters. Through scattering, God places His people where they need to be to have an impact on communities, peoples, and nations. When we see that people are being scattered, the believers response needs to be “What is God doing?” and “How can I serve?”
A living example of Romans 8:28.
Lesson 32 from The HOPE Study Guide
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
– Genesis 50:20
Jacob had twelve sons, but there was one son named Joseph whom he loved very much. And Joseph’s brothers were very jealous of him. So they seized Joseph and threw him in a pit. Then they sold Joseph to some traders who were going to a land called Egypt. The brothers dipped Joseph’s clothing in blood, and told their father that Joseph had been eaten by a wild beast.
Joseph entered the land of Egypt as a slave. But in Egypt, God placed Joseph in the service of powerful people. And in time, Joseph was summoned to appear before the ruler of all Egypt, who was called the Pharaoh. Joseph was asked to interpret a dream. God gave Joseph the correct interpretation concerning a great famine that would come upon the earth. The Pharaoh was pleased with Joseph, and so it was that he placed Joseph in authority over the land of Egypt.
Now when the famine came over the earth, Joseph’s family suffered greatly in the land of Canaan. But in Egypt Joseph had filled the storehouses. And even though Joseph had been betrayed by his brothers, he still had a deep love for his family. Because of the position God had given Joseph, his entire family was permitted to come and live in Egypt, escaping starvation. And so it was that a people through whom God promised to bless the nations came to dwell in a land that was not their own.
– The HOPE, Chapter 6
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Many Bible students believe that Joseph’s life foreshadows God’s promised Deliverer, who we will soon study in upcoming chapters of The HOPE. In fact, the similarities between Joseph and the promised Deliverer are truly amazing.
Consider that both Joseph and the promised Deliverer …1
were sent by their fathers to their brothers – Joseph’s brothers hated him and sought to kill him, and the Deliverer’s own kinsmen rejected Him and sought to kill Him (see Genesis 37:13, John 7:3, Luke 20:47).
As we study the lives of Joseph and the promised Deliverer, we see another similarity, one that allowed all the similarities listed above to be manifested. Both Joseph and the promised Deliverer were submitted to a purpose that was not their own doing. They understood that their lives were part of a greater plan, and they co–operated with that plan. In John 6:38, the words of the promised Deliverer are recorded, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
In Joseph we recognize the evidence of a purposeful divine influence guiding the events of his life. Like a leaf that has fallen into a great river, Joseph’s life was moved by the powerful flow of a divine current. And with each event that came into his life (even the difficult ones), Joseph submitted to that flow rather than resisting it. God used Joseph’s life to accomplish exactly what He had planned beforehand, bringing good to Joseph and to others, and glory to Himself.
ASK & REFLECT
From Joseph’s life, what can we learn about God and about our relationship with Him?
Why do you think God would orchestrate Joseph’s life to have so many similarities with the life of God’s promised Deliverer?
God creates every person with a purpose (Ephesians 2:10). In retrospect it is not difficult for us to recognize the purpose of Joseph’s life, but what about Joseph himself? Do you think that Joseph always understood the purpose of his life, or the reason for the events that came into his life?
DECIDE & DO
You may not yet know the purpose of your life or the things that come into your life, but you can know the One who gives purpose to your life. And like Joseph, in every circumstance you can submit to the flow of His divine current in your life.
Do you know God like Joseph knew Him? Are you confident of His guiding presence? If not, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study guide.
Has God brought a difficult circumstance into your life? If so, follow the example of Joseph. See it as an opportunity for God to work in and through you, bringing good to you and others and glory to Himself. For “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).