Divine Appointments (Lessons from the Life of Joseph of Arimathea)
And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.
Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.
Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.o there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews' Preparation [Day,] for the tomb was nearby. (John 19:38-42)
Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus.
This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him.
When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed. (Matt 27:57-60)
The story of Joseph of Arimathea teaches us many things about God's plan for a person's life.
1. DIVINE DESIGN
700 years before Joseph was born, there was already a prophecy about Jesus by Isaiah which said:
And they made His grave with the wicked -- But with the rich at His death (Isa. 53:9)
When the rich Joseph went and requested Jesus' body from Pilate, to bury it in his own tomb, little might have he known that he was actually literally fulfilling a prophecy about Jesus that He would make His grave with the rich at His death.
Joseph was not one of those visible disciples who roamed with Jesus and went about preaching the Kingdom of God. He was a secret disciple. However, that didn't mean that God didn't have a divine design for his life. Even before he was born, God has a plan. God has a plan for the whole world in general; but, He also has a plan for the individual in specific.
2. DIVINE PLACEMENT
I believe it was by God's design that Joseph was placed where he was. That Esther should be in Susan to save the Jews, that the Widow of Zarapeth should be in Zarapeth to host Elijah, that Philip should be on the way where he could run and meet the Eunuch from Ethiopia, and that Joseph should be in Jerusalem to request Jesus' body when all the disciples went into hiding, was not by accident. Joseph was divinely placed; so are you wherever you are today, you have received a divine placement by God. Several times, we may find our places not very significant; but, when the time comes, then we realize that we were where we were for a reason.
3. DIVINE TIMING
Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything. There is a season for every fruit; and there is a time for the fruit to ripen and fall to the ground. There is a time for the chick to break its egg shell and come out of it. There is also a time when the soldier in an army becomes more important than anyone else in the country - in times of war.
A soldier may look useless to the whole world in any other times. But, he is being trained for a special time. Paul spoke of "when the time had fully come". Every person in God's design has a time. Everything under the heaven has its time. For instance, it would only be damaging to try to break the shell of an egg to bring a chick out before its time. Similarly, we are placed where we are at a divinely chosen point of time. Esther was placed by God for a special time; she recognized it and is today known in the history of Israel. We need to be working for God all the time in general. But, there will one day also come the time when we will need to do the very thing that God has separated us for.
Joseph's use might not have been known earlier, but when the time came, it was God's time for him...
4. DIVINE OPPORTUNITIES
In the book of Revelation, Jesus spoke about an open door that no man can shut. Each one of us not only has a divine design, placement, and timing, but also is given divine opportunities that we must recognize and accept. We must enter when the door is open. There is a possibility that we miss the door. Joseph didn't miss. He saw the divine opportunity of his life to be useful for Jesus. At any other time, his use was not specifically recognizable perhaps. Perhaps, he was not a good speaker like some of the disciples, nor was he perhaps as aggressive as some of them; but, when they all went into hiding and there wasn't anybody around, Joseph recognized that this is what he was there for, to serve Jesus at His death.
5. DIVINE FAVOR
God gave Joseph favor with Pilate. No one else among the disciples perhaps could have it. When God chooses us for a task, and when the time comes; we will begin to see God's favor over our lives. In the Old Testament, we know of Nehemiah who was placed near the king. It was a divine placement. But, he was also given special favor by God before the king, so that whatever he asked, the king granted to him. Nehemiah could always testify that the hand of the Lord was upon him.
Also, we need to understand that for God's purposes to be fulfilled, we don't need the favor of everybody. Not everybody would appreciate Joseph's actions. The Jews would have certainly not. But, Joseph didn't need the favor of the Jews. We don't need favor of everybody, but God will give favor with somebody whom He chooses to assist us to fulfill His task on earth.
6. DIVINE PROVISION
Joseph was not only very rich; he had what Jesus needed at that time, his own tomb that he had newly hewn... He realizes it was not for his own, but for the Master. Do we have something that Jesus needs today? Or do we hold our possessions selfishly for ourselves? Are we willing to give up what He gave us to be used for His glory and purposes?
7. DIVINE CONNECTIONS
But, that is not the end of the story. The Bible tells us that Joseph was met by Nicodemus, another secret disciple of Jesus. Se how their routes converge in the divine design and timing. It teaches us that God will bring people into our life in the right time... When the time was come, God sent Aaron into Moses' life; there was the Baruch in Jeremiah's life. God establishes divine connections in our life. Never ignore and undervalue divine connections. People are there in our lives by God's design. God brings together people with different talents and gifts in order to use them together for His special historical purposes.
It is interesting that while Joseph fulfilled his role of requesting Jesus' body and burying it in his own tomb, the burial could not have happened without Nicodemus who came with the spices, about a hundred pounds. Perhaps, the other disciples might not have earlier appreciated these secret disciples remaining secret; however, are we to judge people in areas that our Lord doesn't judge them? The story of Joseph of Arimathea helps us to understand a little bit more about the ways and purposes of our Lord. Joseph and Nicodemus were disciples who were willing to give their most precious things to God; Joseph parted with his own newly hewn tomb and Nicodemus brought a load of spices (perhaps, in today's value costing over USD 10,000). They had a divine design, a divine placement, a divine timing, a divine opportunity, divine favor, divine provisions, and were now together at the tomb through a divine connection.
God also has a purpose and a design for your life. Just love Him and be loyal to Him, even if you seem to be a secret disciple!