“ ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’” (Acts 15:16-18).
God makes decrees. A decree is defined as a ruling, an announcement, or a declaration. It can also be an order, law or command. The decrees of God are His purposes regarding the future along with His commands regarding the present.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines the decrees of God as follows. “The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”
Theologian and author Arthur Pink writes, “The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: whatever is done in time was foreordained before time began. God’s purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil, although with reference to the latter we must be careful to state that while God is the Orderer and Controller of sin, He is not the Author of it in the same way He is the Author of good. Sin could not proceed from a holy God by positive and direct creation, but only by decretive permission and negative action. God’s decree is as comprehensive as His government, extending to all creatures and events. It was concerned about our life and death; about our state in time, and our state in eternity. As God works all things after the counsel of His own will, we learn from His works what His counsel is (was), as we judge of an architect’s plan by inspecting the building which was erected under his directions.”
We witness the decrees of God in the life of the Old Testament Patriarch, Joseph. Joseph’s life, (Genesis 37-50), is the embodiment of Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”Joseph understood the decree of God in four specific ways.
First, Joseph saw his life as ordered and controlled by God. In speaking to his brothers concerning the events which led all of them to Egypt, Genesis 45:7-8 says, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors.”
Twice Joseph says “God sent me before you to preserve life.” Joseph recognized that God’s sovereign decree is carried out by human instruments.
Second, Joseph understood that all which happened to him was pre-determined by God and not the reaction by God to circumstances beyond either His or Joseph’s control. Joseph said in Genesis 50:20, “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.”
Thirdly, Joseph asserted that God was even in control of the bad things which happened to him. This perspective parallels Job’s own assertions to his critical wife. Job 2:7-10 says, “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”
Finally, Joseph understood that it wasn’t just for his benefit God worked in and through Joseph, but for many people including his family. Circumstances which break our hearts sometimes blind us to the truth that God knows exactly what is best for us.
God is in control of everything: even to smallest detail. That is pretty awesome to consider and humbling when understood. Take the time to read Genesis 37-50.
Soli deo Gloria!