We usually think of irrationality as something that does not make sense — something that does not conform to a normal or reasonable way of thinking or acting. When we can’t make sense of someone’s actions, we say they are acting irrationally. But from a mathematical perspective, irrationality is the inability to express a number as a ratio of any two numbers. For example, the number “pi”, so important in geometry and trigonometry cannot be expressed as a fraction. While people revel in their ability to memorize “pi” to some number of decimal places, they can never trace it out to the end. Being irrational, there is no end of decimal places for “pi.” It is what we call irreducible.
In the same way many kind and well-meaning people will attempt to reduce the tragic or the happy providences of God in our lives to one specific purpose. When we experience some profound sorrow, they will quote Romans 8:28 and proceed to conjecture as to what particular purpose God had in bringing that sorrow into our lives. While there may be a grain of truth to their attempt at comfort, it is for most, cold comfort.
But God’s providences in our lives are like irrational numbers. They are irreducible. God is doing a million things in every one thing he ordains and brings to pass. Some of those things are for us. And some are for others. Some of his purposes may be clearly understood, but many will remain hidden to us. Consider Job. He never knew why God brought him through the trials he faced. If Job had known, how satisfied do you think he would have been? Yet Job’s faith was strengthened, Satan humiliated, and we are given hope to endure in the midst of a world that seems turned upside down. The purposes of God in Job’s life will continue to unfold until the end of time. You see, the providences of God are irreducible to some simple ratio or formula of understanding. Mathematically speaking, God’s works are irrational, irreducible.
The reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 43 – 45 is an example of this. This story unfolds much more to God’s work through Joseph than just a plan to save Egypt from famine. Through nearly twenty years of trial and tragedy in Egypt, the brash young Joseph has become the wise, discerning and yet, humble, older Joseph. God has been shaping him through adversity to come to a time of great need in the life of the ancient near East. Yet that is only a fraction of what God was doing. God was bringing comfort to an aging father, providing protective care for the future generations of the covenant family, working faith and repentance in Jacob’s wicked sons, instructing us in patient endurance, and setting before us a picture of the kindness of God through our savior’s suffering and redeeming work. And this is by no means an exhaustive list. For every work of God unfolds purposes beyond our lives, our times, and our understanding.
Join us this Lord’s Day, May 27, as we as we examine the continuing story of Joseph and his brothers as God unfolds more in their lives than they ever imagined and consider how God does the same in our lives. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.