God intends it for good

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.(Genesis 50:20)

It is undoubtedly an imprecise endeavor to try to understand things from God’s perspective, but the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis seems to invite us to try to do precisely that. In fact, when Joseph finally reveals his identity to the brothers who sold him into slavery, he tells them that while they may have been trying to harm him (as were others along his life’s journey), God was behind the scenes working all things together for good, in order to save the lives of Joseph’s family and preserve the lineage that would eventually culminate in the Messiah.

On one level, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see what God was up to. A famine was coming, and the Israelite family needed to survive so that the Messiah could eventually come and save the people from their sins. In order for the family to survive, God had determined to get Joseph into the position of second-in-command over all of Egypt, the most powerful country in the world at the time, so that he could provide for his family and save them. But on another level, clearly God could have used many different means to bring this about. Indeed, given that it was Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream that eventually led to his promotion, God could have orchestrated events so that Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dream without him first being sold into slavery by his brothers, betrayed by Potiphar’s wife, and forgotten in the dungeon by the cupbearer and the chief baker.

This is where I may be just guessing in my attempt to see things from God’s perspective, but it does seem that God was simultaneously causing (at least) two things to occur. First, he was moving Joseph from Canaan to Egypt and allowing events to unfold so that he would end up second to only Pharaoh, in a position to save his family. But secondly, he was also allowing events to unfold in such a way that Joseph would be humbled and develop the character he would need in order to fulfill his lofty position. Remember that at the beginning of his story, Joseph is his father’s favorite son, hated by his brothers, and having dreams about the other members of his family bowing down to him. While the text does not explicitly say this, it is very likely that the favoritism and dreams caused Joseph to be a proud and arrogant young man. Perhaps if God has simply given Joseph the ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream without allowing him to endure such terrible rejection, abandonment, and heartache, then he would have ended up as an arrogant leader over Egypt who lacked the wisdom and humility to fulfill God’s purposes. But instead, God allowed circumstances to unfold that would humble Joseph, so that when his time came, his character had been appropriately formed.

We would be wise to take this aspect of God’s plan to heart. His goal is not simply to orchestrate events, but to mold character, to sanctify us so that we would be like Christ. God allowed Joseph to endure appalling abuse and neglect at the hands of people close to him every step of the way, but through it all, He was working everything together for good. And when Pharaoh elevated Joseph to his lofty position, he was ready to lead in the humility and wisdom of God.

Can I encourage you to trust that if God is not orchestrating events according to what you believe should happen, that perhaps He is still working on your character? Ask Him to reveal to you if there is anything you need to repent of or submit to Him, so that when the time finally comes, you will be ready to lead in God’s humility and wisdom.

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