“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5 NIV)
I’ve always loved books and movies where it seems like the villain has outsmarted the hero and then all of a sudden, the tables turn, and the hero was really a step ahead the whole time. As the “how” is revealed, it turns out that lots of little things I hadn’t even noticed or that seemed insignificant at the time turn out to be crucially important when they all come together at the end.
As we were wrapping up the book of Joshua a few weeks ago, my mind was drawn to the way that God works in our lives and throughout history to take things that look like they’re headed for disaster and ultimately turn them into something amazing. As I was thinking about this, my mind was drawn to the life of Joseph as one of the earliest examples (Genesis 37-50).
The story begins with Joseph as a teenager who is hated by his brothers, to the point that they consider murdering him before eventually deciding to sell him as a slave instead. While a slave, he works his way up to running the house of his master in Egypt, until he’s falsely accused of something and thrown into prison. At this point things look pretty bleak: Joseph is a betrayed brother and former slave, confined to jail in a foreign country.
However, God wasn’t done, and that was only the middle of the story. God gives Joseph the ability to interpret dreams, which leads him out of jail and culminates with him ruling all Egypt. His status as ruler in turn enables him to save the lives of his entire family many years later. The verse quoted above (Genesis 45:5) is from the scene where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, who are now terrified of him taking revenge, as he now has the power to throw them in jail or even execute them.
Instead of exacting revenge, however, Joseph sees that God was working through the entire situation. While his brothers intended something evil (getting rid of the brother they didn’t like), God used that and all the other bad things that happened along the way to put Joseph into a position to save the lives of his family.
So, when God promises us, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV), we can take that to the bank. There will likely be times where things don’t look very good, and we can’t see why or how God is going to turn it around, but we can rest assured that he eventually will, as Joseph (and so many others in the Bible) have shown us.
Andrew can be reached by email here. The image is a still from Joseph: King of Dreams, from DreamWorks Animation.