Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Ironies of God

Rabbi Telushkin, in the section of Jewish Literacy on “Albert Einstein (1879-1955),” writes:
There is a certain delicious irony in the fact that Nazi antisemitism—responsible for chasing both Einstein, Meitner, and hundreds of thousands of other Jews out of Germany—also guaranteed that the Axis would lose the Second World War. If not for Nazi antisemitism, Germany would likely have been the first nation to develop the atom bomb, and the history of the world would have been radically different.
Is the hand of God in this "irony" of history? Sometimes it is dangerous to read theology into history—there is always someone who is sure the latest catastrophe is God's judgment. Yet in Genesis, the Joseph story recounts how Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery. There, Joseph became known to Pharaoh as the only one who could correctly interpret Pharaoh's dreams. As a result, Joseph was elevated to the second highest position in Egypt. By divinely given foresight, Joseph knew that the entire area would be devastated by famine within a few years, and so devised a plan to store grain. When the famine finally came, Joseph was enabled to save his family by selling them some of the grain which had been set aside. As Joseph remarks to his family in chapter 50, verse 2: "And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."

Irony? Yes. God's hand? Yes. It's dicey to read off divine intervention from the headlines, but the Joseph story assures us that God can take tragedy and turn it into something that results in good. Maybe we can't trust our interpretations of the lastest disaster, but we can certainly trust God.

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