Genesis 41: Does God Ever Cause Bad Things To Happen?

My study today highlighted the fact that, in Genesis 41, the famine that was predicted in Pharaoh’s dreams and that came about later on was planned out and caused by the actions of God.  Joseph tells Pharaoh as he is interpreting his dreams that “God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do” (v. 28), and that “the reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon” (v. 32).  So it is obvious from these verses that the 7 years of famine (as well as the 7 years of plenty) were directly caused by the powerful hand of God.This isn’t the only example of when God caused things to happen that might seem questionable in our minds, and God Himself even admits to doing it!  In Haggai 1:9 God says “you expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away.”  He is talking here about the homes that the people were building – He actually made ruin of the hard work that they were putting in to building their homes! In verse 11 He says “I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.” And in the next chapter He says to them “I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail…” (Haggai 2:17a), again acknowledging that He had a direct hand in the destruction of their hard work.  Why would our God do such a thing?

People have often cried “foul” over stuff like this and have questioned why God would allow something like this happen, much less actually cause it to happen.  My study discussed how often times, people only know one side of God – either the side of God that is merciful and slow to anger, or the side that is vengeful and full of wrath. The truth is, our God is all of these and more.  In an earlier post (see here), I discussed the fact that God is holy.  The best way I could sum that post up is that God is just not like us.  He is different, set apart, high and lifted up. He is so different than us that He can’t even be near us – like oil and water, or similar poles on a magnet, He is repelled by our sinful natures. And there are many other ways we could describe God – eternal, infinite, everywhere, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Not one of these attributes can be used to describe any one of us.  So what this really comes down to is whether we are able to understand God. I propose that we cannot fully understand God, and therefore we are not in a good position to question His motives.  But, I also believe that God is patient, kind, and understanding, so when we do question his motives, He is able to handle it. So before we cry “foul” let’s look at the whole story and try to get a better idea of who God is and why He might send curses on us instead of the blessings we would rather have.

In the situation in Haggai 1, the Israelites have returned from their captivity in Babylon (which is a whole other story on blessings and curses). When they return, instead of taking it upon themselves to rebuild the temple, they build themselves nice new homes. In v. 4 God asks “is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” Because the people had neglected the Lord, He withheld his blessing from them. And to get their attention, He even provided the curses of blowing away their hard work and causing a drought on the land.  I believe God does curse us at times by allowing our circumstances to be difficult, but I also believe that His motive is love. If you continue reading the story, in chapter 2, God reminds them of what he has allowed to happen (as I quoted v. 17 above), but because they have responded to Him in obedience, he restores His blessing upon them, saying “from this day on I will bless you.”

As a parent, sometimes there are situations where I understand the circumstances much better than my daughter. And when she gets out of line, I try to be quick to get her attention and remind her of where she should be.  Why would it be different with God? He knows more than we do!  In His wisdom, He may find it necessary to get our attention with difficulties in our lives. We should ask ourselves and ask Him if there is something we’re doing wrong when these kinds of things happen.  If so, a quick turn-around may solve everything. If we don’t feel we have done anything wrong, perhaps it’s a just a test of our faith, or we’re just tangled up in someone else’s issues. And I’m not saying that this is the reason why God sent the famine to the land of Egypt in Genesis 41 (He had other plans for that – like putting Joseph in the position to bless his family later on). But we should understand that in His love, God may allow or even cause things to happen that don’t seem very loving at the time.

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