Understanding God’s Mysterious Ways

Yael Eckstein  |  December 17, 2020

So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also. 

Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. — Genesis 42:5-6

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Mikeitz, which means “at the end,” from Genesis 41:1–44:17.

There is a story in Judaism’s oral tradition about a rabbi named Yehoshua who went on a journey with the prophet Elijah in hopes of understanding God’s mysterious ways.

On the first night of the journey, the pair stayed at the rundown home of a kind elderly couple. Much to Yehoshua’s surprise, Elijah prayed that the couple’s cow would die immediately. The next day, the two men approached the home of a wealthy man and asked for some food, but the man refused to give them even a morsel. Yehoshua was surprised again when Elijah prayed that weak foundations of the man’s home never collapse.

The rest of the journey was filled of more of the same; Elijah prayed for good things to happen to bad people and for bad things to happen to good people.

At the end of the journey, Elijah explained the purpose of his prayers to his very perplexed companion. At the home of the elderly couple, Elijah foresaw that the wife would die the next day. He prayed that the couple’s cow be taken instead. At the home of the miserly man, Elijah saw that there was a treasure buried under his home. He prayed that the foundation stay intact so that the man would never find it. Elijah explained all of his prayers similarly. On the surface, none of it made sense, but when Elijah explained the unseen context of each scenario, everything made perfect sense.

God’s Ways Are Mysterious

Elijah taught that the same is true when it comes to how God works in our lives. We don’t see the whole picture, but if we could, we would be able to understand God’s mysterious ways.

In this week’s Torah portion, we learn that all the seemingly terrible things that happened to Joseph in his early life were part of God’s perfect plan. A series of events that didn’t make any sense at the time put Joseph in a position to help his family survive the famine that could have otherwise claimed their lives. God had been at work to save the fledgling nation of Israel the entire time.

God’s ways are mysterious, and much of the time, we cannot understand what happens in life. But we must always remember that God has a perfect plan for us — one that is greater and more magnificent than anything we could ever imagine.

Your Turn:

Can you think of an event in your life that didn’t make sense to you, but ultimately turned out for the best? How does that inspire your faith today?

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