“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20)
This is a very common verse that we routinely draw amazing encouragement from. However, I believe that we also routinely overlook what Joseph’s words are implying. We like to use this verse to tell ourselves that God will use our situations and turn them into good. We say, “Joseph’s brothers sold him away and created a crazy life for him, but God saw it and flipped the script. God used it for good.” Take another look at the wording of the verse.
“God meant it for good,” Joseph said. God did not use it for good after the fact; God meant it for good. It was His plan. The brothers did not ruin God’s plan for Joseph when they decided to turn on their brother. Joseph being sold away was God’s plan from the start. So God puts His people in seemingly “bad” situations? Absolutely. At least from our limited, human perspective. Why? For His ultimate purposes. God planned for Joseph to be sold away so that through him many people would be kept alive through a famine.
Let’s examine Joseph’s journey to get to God’s ultimate plan. His brothers were jealous of him so they made a plan to kill him. They decided to simply sell him into slavery when one brother spoke up against the plan of murder. Joseph ended up in Egypt in the house of the captain of the guard. He was then falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison. He was forgotten there. Two years later, Joseph was released from prison after interpreting dreams for Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Not quite a routine life. A life full of God’s purpose, however.
Joseph lived a life that many of us would curse God for. Why would God allow him to be sold, falsely accused, and left in prison? The better question is this: why would God plan for all these things to happen? We expect God to give us a cupcake life. He is not interested in that. God gives us what is best for us and what brings Him the most glory. You must know that what is best for us is not always an easy life. The best thing for us might be seemingly difficult circumstances. We do not like to hear that, but that is what Genesis 50:20 shows us.
Joseph had a clear view of God’s hand on his life when he stood back and saw the big picture. After his prison sentence, Joseph was placed in charge of food storage and distribution in preparation for the famine that God warned Pharaoh of in a dream. Joseph was the only one who could interpret the dream. If Joseph had not been sold away, no one would have interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and the famine would have killed thousands of people. God knows what He’s doing! The same brothers who sold Joseph away eventually came to Egypt for food. When Joseph revealed himself to them, he clearly knew God had a purpose. Two other statements that Joseph made to his brothers will help us learn what he knew.
“So it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Genesis 45:8)
Joseph was quick to give the credit of his seemingly hurtful circumstances to God. Some of us need to come to terms with this reality. We do not run our own lives. God is in complete control and will do what He wills. It is shocking how many Christians do not like this truth. In fact, many reject it even when they see it in Scripture. God holds the world in His hands like a peanut. He spoke it into existence and all of creation reacts to the sound of His voice. We want the power. The power is not ours, whether we like that or not.
If the boxes that we have put God in would crumble, I believe the Christian witness in the world would greatly expand. We want God to bless us, without Him ruining the plans we are making for ourselves. Joseph is telling us in love today, “God is in control. God makes the plans and He means them for good. No matter how good or bad they seem on the surface.” Expand your thinking today. We only see our circumstances, while God is doing so much more. Joseph told his brothers, “You did not send me here. God did!” We are not in control. God is and this is great news.
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?'” (Genesis 50:19)
The brothers of Joseph were afraid of what he would do to them as payback. Joseph calmed their nerves by telling them, “Do not be afraid. I am not God.” Joseph knew that he could not be mad at his brothers because it was not ultimately the brothers who created his rollercoaster life. God did it. God had a plan. And Joseph knew that God’s ways were much higher than his ways. What a difference a knowledge of that truth makes!
Joseph had no intention of cursing God for what he went through. He trusted in a holy and sovereign God who had bigger plans. Will you? Will you surrender to the truth that life is not about us? Even when our circumstances seem to reflect anything but a good plan of God, it is solely because our thinking is misguided. God did so much in Joseph’s life, in the middle of what seemed to be horrible circumstances. Joseph was placed in charge of storing up food in order to feed starving people in the famine. God used Joseph to spread His name. God was showing His power. God was saving people.
So what are your circumstances telling you today? Do they look like evil is prevailing or that God is distant? Take Joseph’s life to heart today! God is in control. This is far better than you controlling your life. He is the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep well. He doesn’t lead us along the easy path, but He does always lead us along the best path. God is reconciling a broken world to Himself, and He is using us as a means to that end. Therefore, nothing is meaningless. We can look at our lives, the ups and the downs, and say, “God meant it all for good.”