Miracle On The Hudson Or Joseph In Prison: God Moves In Mysterious Ways

William Cowper wrote the song “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” to comfort people, much like himself, who had suffered tragedy, heartache and disappointment in life. This song was first published in 1779 and has brought comfort to those enduring the storms of life for over 200 years. This song is here musically arranged by Kelly Coppage and beautifully sung by Heather Williams. This song inspired Framework Productions to create this music video as a stunning example of God’s providence at work. For those on Flight 1549 it was certainly a comfort to know that God was with them and guiding the actions of Captain Chesley Sullenberger as he landed his plane in the Hudson River that miraculous day. Amazingly, everyone aboard the flight survived.

A great example from the Bible about God’s mysterious ways and workings is found in the story of Joseph from the Book of Genesis. Joseph was a good man who wanted to do what was right and please his father and brothers. However, his brothers, jealous of him, sold him into slavery. Next, Joseph was falsely accused to his master in Egypt and cast into prison. There he served faithfully and interpreted the dreams of two fellow prisoners. One was executed and the other was restored to his former position, but forgot about Joseph for two years. Finally, Joseph was brought before Pharaoh, correctly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream and, as a result, was made second in command over all the land of Egypt.

Pastor Terry Covey does a great job of expounding on the mysterious ways God worked in Joseph’s life in the sermon below:

Joseph – God Moves in a Mysterious Way

by Pastor Terry Covey
Sunday Sermon: August 21, 2011
Twin Oaks Baptist Church, Ferrum, VA

Sermon Audio

Many years ago there was a man by the name of William Cowper who wrote many great hymns. I’m sure that some of you are familiar with these words –

There is a fountain fill’d with blood
Drawn from EMMANUEL’s veins;
And sinners, plung’d beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

It is reported that he suffered with deep depression all his life. At one point he had a mental breakdown and tried to take his own life. Yet the Lord was with him and as one resource says in a short biography of his life – “Even in our blackest moments, God watches over us.” (www.cyberhymnal.org)

The last known hymn of William Cowper is entitled – ‘God Moves in a Mysterious Way.’

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Click Here To View All The Verses And Words To This Song.

Although there are many things about God and how He works in our lives that we do not understand, we can rest with confidence that He is always with us and that He always cares.Today I would like to share with you three principles concerning God’s mysterious movement in our lives. Hopefully these principles will help you gain a better perspective on how God may currently be working in your life.

1) God Works in Mysterious Ways His Wonders to Perform
2) God Works in Miraculous Ways His Glory to Declare
3) God Works in Meaningful Ways His Will to Accomplish

I. God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform

A. The Mystery of Pain and Sorrow

I suppose that one of the greatest mysteries about God and His movement is that He often works through pain and sorrow. That God would allow one of His children to suffer seems so contrary to what we know and believe about Him. Our tendency is to think that God’s children should be immune from difficulty. We reason that there should be a hedge of protection put around us that keeps us from all harm. Yet scripture teaches us over and over again that suffering is sometimes a part of God’s will for our lives.

The book of Isaiah tells us something very special about God’s feelings towards His children who are suffering:

Isaiah 57:15 For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

Perhaps there are few moments in our Christian life when we are closer to God than when we are suffering.

Thus far we have seen much suffering in the life of Joseph. Here we get a rare glimpse into his heart.

Genesis 40:14 But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house: 15 For indeed I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews: and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.

Joseph has not been indifferent to his suffering. It has affected him deeply. “I was stolen away out of the land of the Hebrews.” In other words – “I was torn away from my loving father. I was betrayed by my own brothers. I was brutally sold as a slave.”

“And here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon.” “I was falsely accused of a crime I didn’t commit. I am completely innocent and do not deserve to be in this place.”

Joseph poured out his heart to the man, but to no avail. A few verses later we read –

23 Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

Then we read:

Genesis 41:1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years…

Rather than immediately being delivered out of prison, Joseph had to wait another two full years. Why?

B. The Ministry of Pain and Sorrow

‘Why?’ is always one of the first questions we ask whenever we are made to suffer. ‘Why God are You allowing this to happen? What good can come from this?’

I have spent a great deal of time this week thinking about what might have happened during those two years in Joseph’s life. Based upon my own personal experience with difficulty, I believe that possibly Joseph went through four stages during this time.

1. Rejoicing

Perhaps at first there was a sense of rejoicing. Believing that any moment he might be released, Joseph probably waited eagerly to hear someone call his name. Every time the cell door opened, he probably wondered if this was the moment.

But eventually the season of rejoicing began to fade away and Joseph found himself entering into a darker stage of his life.

2. Resentment

Whenever we lose something we experience a form of grief. One of the stages of grief is anger or resentment.

As moments turned into days and days into weeks and weeks into months and months into years, somewhere along the way a horrible sense of reality began to set in. Joseph began to realize that it wasn’t going to happen. The door wasn’t going to swing open for him.

Perhaps he began to feel a sense of resentment. He probably was tempted to resent the butler for forgetting him. With that resentment, old emotions concerning his brothers began to resurface and no doubt, over and over again he had to work his way through it. Maybe he was even tempted to resent God for allowing all of this to happen.

3. Refinement

But as time passed by and Joseph began to work his way through his feelings of resentment, a process of spiritual refinement began to take place.

Spiritual refinement is a process. Peter gives a good description of how this process occurs –

1 Peter 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

Gold is refined in the fire. As the gold is melted, any impurities that are mingled in with it separate from the gold and come to the surface. The refiner then skims off these impurities, making the gold a little more pure. It has been said that in ancient times the refiner would repeat this process over and over again until all he could see on the surface would be his own reflection.

Peter refers to the ‘trial of our faith.’ Within most of us there are spiritual impurities, often so well hidden, that not even we ourselves are fully aware of them. Spiritual impurities such as pride, greed, anger, selfishness, worry, doubt and fear. These impurities are in direct conflict with our walk with God. They contaminate our relationship with Him. Therefore, in order for us to mature spiritually, God has to cause these impurities to surface so that they might be exposed and extracted. According to Peter, the way God does this is through the ‘trial of our faith.’

Like each of us, Joseph had certain spiritual impurities that needed to be removed. Most likely it was during those two years that many of these impurities were revealed and Joseph’s relationship with God was refined.

4. Rest

God did a great work in Joseph’s life while he was in prison. How do I know that? Why am I putting so much emphasis on those two years when scripture says little about them? Jump ahead with me in the story and consider something that Joseph later said.

Genesis 41:50 And unto Joseph were born two sons before the years of famine came, which Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On bare unto him.

Joseph is eventually going to be released and given an Egyptian woman to become his wife. Joseph is then going to father two sons.

51 And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house. 52 And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.

Chuck Swindoll, in his book on the life of Joseph, defines these names to mean – ‘God has removed the sting from my memory… and He has blessed me beyond measure in a place that once seemed to bring only suffering.’ (Joseph, A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness, pg. 82)

The names of Joseph’s two sons bear testimony to the value of God’s refining process.

I. God Moves in a Mysterious Way His Wonders to Perform

II. God Moves in a Miraculous Way His Glory to Declare

Genesis 41:1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river. 2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven well favoured kine and fat fleshed; and they fed in a meadow. 3 And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and lean fleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river. 4 And the ill favoured and lean fleshed kine did eat up the seven well favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.

5 And he slept and dreamed the second time: and, behold, seven ears of corn came up upon one stalk, rank and good. 6 And, behold, seven thin ears and blasted with the east wind sprung up after them. 7 And the seven thin ears devoured the seven rank and full ears. And Pharaoh awoke, and, behold, it was a dream.

A. Miracle of a Special Dream

God gave two special dreams to Pharaoh. Both of the dreams had the same meaning, yet Pharaoh didn’t know what they meant.

B. Miracle of a Sudden Deliverance

8 And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh. 9 Then spake the chief butler unto Pharaoh, saying, I do remember my faults this day: 10 Pharaoh was wroth with his servants, and put me in ward in the captain of the guard’s house, both me and the chief baker: 11 And we dreamed a dream in one night, I and he; we dreamed each man according to the interpretation of his dream. 12 And there was there with us a young man, an Hebrew, servant to the captain of the guard; and we told him, and he interpreted to us our dreams; to each man according to his dream he did interpret. 13 And it came to pass, as he interpreted to us, so it was; me he restored unto mine office, and him he hanged.

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.

In 1991, we moved from Chattanooga, TN, to Lynchburg, VA where I started attending the seminary at Liberty. It was a difficult time for us. We were broke, tired, and unsure of what the future might hold. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to move forward, every door was slammed shut in my face. One day I broke. I fussed at God and said, “Why won’t You let me do Your will?” To which the Holy Spirit replied – “You don’t want to do My will. You want Me to do Your will. Don’t you think that I am God and that I can do whatever I please?”

As I thought about what the Spirit had said, I knew that He was right. The problem was that I had it all planned out and I was upset because God wasn’t working according to my plan. Then I said to the Lord, “If the last five years in Bible college was only to change me and my family; that’s ok. Thank You so much for what You’ve done in our lives. I will be content with whatever You do with me. I will be content if I never become a pastor.”

Over the next few days I sensed that the Spirit wanted me to send out some more resumes, and so I did, not knowing if anything would come from it. One night while I was still at work, Tammy called me and told me that a pastor from Lima, OH had received one of my resumes and wanted me to call. I did and the next weekend we traveled to Ohio for me to interview for a position as an associate pastor. The next weekend we were asked to come back. The next weekend they voted to call us and within a few weeks we were living in Lima.

The story is very similar when God brought us to Twin Oaks. The Lord placed in my heart the desire to pastor a church, yet no matter how many resumes I sent out, the door remained shut. One day the Spirit spoke to me and told me that the time was very near. He instructed me to go back to a resource I have often searched and to look once again. I obeyed and low and behold, there was a church named Twin Oaks that seemed to fit me exactly. The rest is history. I will say this – once it was God’s time, the door seemed to open so widely and the process was so easy that there is no doubt that God was in it.

During the many times I have been discouraged, Tammy has often said to me – “The Lord never forgot Joseph. He always knew exactly where he was.”

14 Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.

III. God Works in Meaningful Ways His Will to Accomplish

Genesis 41:15 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I have dreamed a dream, and there is none that can interpret it: and I have heard say of thee, that thou canst understand a dream to interpret it. 16 And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.

As we will see next week, Pharaoh’s dreams revealed what was about to happen to Egypt. They would go through seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine.

Genesis 41:37 And the thing was good in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of all his servants. 38 And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is? 39 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: 40 Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. 41 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. 42 And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; 43 And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. 44 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.


How should we respond when to God’s mysterious movement in our lives? For me personally, I have found that these are times when we should strive to draw very close to God. We should spend quiet time, alone with God, thinking and meditating upon His Word. We should listen for His still small voice to speak. We should pray with an honest and open heart. When we can’t trace His hand, we must trust His heart. Though it may seem mysterious at the time, God does many mighty and miraculous things in such times. Job was a man who went through such a season in his life. Consider his words:

Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Original Words To “God Moves In A Mysterious Way”

by William Cowper in the year 1774
Music: Dun­dee, Scot­tish Psal­ter, 1615

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Chorus Added By Kelly J. Coppage In Her Musical Arrangement Of “God Moves In A Mysterious Way”