Thy Will Be Done – Aug 17, 08
Everyday we pray, ‘Thy will be done.’ Yet most of us have no foggy notion of what we are praying for. That may be surprising to hear, especially since we can get on the Net and find at least a million people who are positive they know the will of God. They will have a million different answers, but each one is positive that he or she is right. That’s why we have a thousand different denominations – we can’t agree on what God’s will is.
And yet! And yet! Knowing God’s will is surely a crucial issue for the Christian Faith.
Are the answers in the bible? Well! Today’s Bible reading should help clear up that question.
Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers to a passing caravan, who took him to Egypt. There he prospered in the service of the Pharaoh, eventually becoming second in command.
Then there was a famine in the land of Canaan, and the brothers went down to Egypt, in order to get food. We pick up the story as Joseph greets his treacherous brothers.
Listen for the word of God:
Gen.45.  And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph; is my father still alive?" But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.
4] So Joseph said to his brothers, "Come near to me, I pray you." And they came near. And he said, "I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt.
 And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.
 So 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 ruler over all the land of Egypt.
 And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Here ends the reading of the holy Scripture.
The Will of God
Our first impression is that this story is teaching forgiveness. But then, as we look closer, we see that the basic background premise is that everything that happens is God’s will. Joseph says, in verse 8, “it was not you who sent me here, but God.” We don’t know how long it took for people to question whether or not it was God’s will that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. Some people still believe that it was.
What is important for us today is to see that Joseph didn’t forgive because forgiveness was God’s will; he forgave because he believed that what his brothers had done was God’s will.
Let’s look at some of the other early stories in Genesis, and see if we can get a clue as to the will of God.
In Gen 22.1, we read, ‘After these things God tested Abraham. He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Mori'ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."
Even though this story has a happy ending, it appears to us to have been pure luck. If there had been no ram caught by the horns, then Isaac would have been history. Abraham would have murdered his son, believing that it was God’s will.
Was it even God’s will that the ram be sacrificed?
In Gen 25.29, we have the story of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage – a vegetable soup. The focus of the story was on Esau, but it is Jacob who should be center-stage. It is Jacob who becomes the father of all Israel. He should be the hero – the role-model for the nation. So! What does Jacob do when his brother asks him for a bowel of soup? He demands that Esau first give him everything that he owns. Is this the way brothers treat each other? Was this the will of God?
In Gen 29.15-31, we have the story of Jacob’s relationship with is father-in-law to be, Laban. Jacob cheats Laban, and Laban cheats Jacob. Is this the basis on which the nation of Israel is founded? Is it going to thrive? Is God happy that these two men devote their whole lives to cheating each other?
In Gen 27.1-45, we have the elaborate story of how Jacob, and his mother Rebekah, cheat Esau out of the blessing of the dying Isaac. Such a blessing, may seem of no consequence to us, but it was important to Esau, and apparently also to Rebekah, and to Jacob. The word ‘cheat’ doesn’t appear in the KJV, and only four times in the RSV, three of which are in this story. Does this paucity of use mean that God is indifferent to cheating?
Today, we are in the midst of a holy war. We, the United States, are defending Israel in its effort to get back Palestine, which it claims, God promised to them. The question is: Was this whole business of the Promised Land, God’s will?
Well! It says in Genesis 12 .6 -At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, "To your descendants I will give this land."
For ‘Canaanites’ read ‘Palestinians’; and you see the big picture. And you hear the big question. Did God give to Israel a land which was already occupied? And if it was God’s will that Israel have the land of Canaan why was there so much opposition from the Canaanites?
We read in Joshua, that (Joshua 4.12) The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manas'seh crossed over, armed before the people of Israel, as Moses had bidden them;  about forty thousand ready armed for war passed over before the LORD for battle, to the plains of Jericho.
Remember, we are searching for God’s will.
Did the Canaanites give up their land peacefully?
 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal.  And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-hor'on, and smote them as far as Aze'kah and Makke'dah.
Was it the God of Jesus, who loves all of his people, who ‘threw them into a panic before Israel, who slew them with a great slaughter’?
I think not then – and certainly not today. Remember that Israel wrote the book. They could put anything in it that they wanted to. I have no doubt that they believed – sincerely believed – what they wrote, but that doesn’t make it so. Enter "Wishing doesn't make it so" in Google, and you get 1000 hits, which tells me that there are still many, many people out there who still believe that ‘Wishing does make it so’.
And finally friends, the most liberal of today’s theologians, are asking this question? Was it God’s will that his Son Jesus, should be tortured to death by the people he loved?
The argument against liberalism, conservatives say, is that the Bible is the only revealed word of God – nothing should be added, nothing removed. They are saying, if I hear them right, that God has not spoken another word to the human race since he spoke to Paul. This I do not believe. If we believe in prayer, we surely believe that God speaks to us. I believe that there are holy persons alive today, who are very close to God, and who receive the Word as surely as those early Christians did.
I believe that there are situations that exist today that did not exist in bible times. Certainly, the Atomic bomb is a weapon that should change forever our concept of war. I think it is an evil, beyond anything the biblical writers could conceive of. Certainly one evil that we can barely conceive of, is to kill one man with a sword; but the concept of vaporizing a whole city, men, women, children, pets, and domestic animals with a single burst of atomic energy, just boggles our imagination. Remember that God had said about Neenway, “And should not I pity Neenway, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?"
Terrorism, then, as today, is the only defense weakness has against power. The Hebrews have always considered themselves as weak; pitted against a powerful foe. Thus terrorism was an acceptable tactic for defense. This tactic is illustrated very well in the stories of Tamar, and of Ehud – both stories of treachery.
And Jesus, as a Jew teaching Jews, always sought to get the Jews to change their ways: Repent, and seek for, and obey God’s will.
And we are suspicious that Jesus’ enemies, who considered him a subversive, were the ones who told the Romans that Jesus wanted to restore the Kingdom to Israel. They thus implied that he was an enemy of Roman rule.
Of course, Jesus was nobodies’ enemy. It was his conviction that It was God’s will that we “Make friends with our accusers quickly.” Settle your differences quickly. Jesus was an expert on how to avoid conflict – Don’t even let yourselves get angry, he said.
Jesus said that conflict was not God’s will – Shalom – Peace – Behold, how good, and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity. Ps 133
But peace wasn’t his only message!
Isa 61.1 – “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, he said, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
“The Lord has anointed me to bring good-tidings to life’s losers.”
There is at least one bible story that spells out God’s will loud and clear.
Matt25. "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.  Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,  and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.  Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;  for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?  And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?  And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'
 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you sinners  for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.'
 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?'  Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.'
So! If we want to add another line to our new Creedo: Let’s say, “I believe that, whatever I do to one of the least of these, God’s children, I do also to our Lord Jesus.” May his name be praised. Amen
[This is an unusual pericope. None of my reference books think so, but I can see it. If I was still into bible study, I would pursue it further.]
Let’s enter a third item into my proposed Creedo: I believe that Jesus said, ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
As an aside we could say, ‘ I do not believe that Jesus said, And the ones who did nothing for me will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Jesus was not a vindictive man.
[Jesus’ teaching makes some assumptions that are not valid today. Consider only two facts: Today, we perform medical miracles that would have amazed even Jesus. Yet, the cost of these miracles continues to amaze us. It is common for certain illnesses to cost over a million dollars for one person. Fact two: We are in a life boat that will carry a limited number of people. We have already over-extended the population beyond the earth’s carrying capacity. Christian morality must weigh these two facts as it makes the moral decisions of the future.]