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
God can use anything for good. It will not only be to help you in your life, but it will be for the good of those around us too. It will give you an experience by which you can relate to fellow humans and help them as well. However, the context of this story and what Joseph had to go through to get to this revelation was… 13 years of extreme hardship.
Let’s think about Joseph’s life. Genesis 37:3 shows us that, because Joseph was loved dearly by their father Jacob, his brothers hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. In the middle of this dysfunction, Joseph — who is all of 17 at this time — has a dream.
“Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’ His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.”
You’d think by now Joseph would have learnt to tone it down. Nope! Because he’s 17, you don’t know what you don’t know. So, he plows right on in verse 9:
“…‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’ When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.”
God can use anything for good — and it will be for the good of those around us too
Soon, we see an instance where Jacob sends Joseph to check on the brothers. As you can imagine, when his siblings spot him from a distance, they’re hardly keen to throw a welcome reception. In fact, v.18 says “they plotted to kill him”! The brothers eventually sold Joseph to Midianite merchants for 20 shekels of silver.
We cannot miss the humanity of the experience Joseph is having. In the midst of a difficult situation, all we tend to see is what’s in front of us. But in difficult, painful, life-altering situations, there will always be what we see, and then, there’s what God is doing.
No doubt, all Joseph could see at the time was the rejection of his brothers. But the dual reality — of what we see and what God is doing — wasn’t just operating in Joseph’s life; it is ever true in our lives too. Where God is concerned, there’s always scope for a ‘meanwhile’!
What Joseph saw as a rejection, God saw as a protection of the calling on Joseph’s life. Remember, God had earlier given Joseph a dream that he was to become a leader. It was God’s will to take him out of a situation where he would not have been able to fulfil his calling and put him in a situation where he could practise leadership. God was more interested in developing Joseph’s character to match his calling than in comforting him or granting him a ‘quick escape’.
I am sure that as Joseph was being bound and led away by these foreigners into a strange land, he was probably begging God: “Don’t let this happen. Let my brothers feel bad for what they’ve done. Let them come and get me. Please let my father see the truth that I’m not really dead.” But all the while, God was loving Joseph too much to answer his prayer request. We must not miss this. This is one of the complex realities of God. We serve a God who will allow hurt — but also One who will use that hurt for good.
God was more interested in developing Joseph’s character to match his calling than in granting him a ‘quick escape’
Joseph couldn’t see that at the time. One of the blessings of reading his story today is that we have the gift of hindsight. Think about a situation where someone has really wronged you. Could it be that what you felt was a terrible rejection was God using the situation as a protection of a calling He has in your life? You may not feel it; you may not see it — and you probably do not want to live through it. However, Joseph’s story gives us so much encouragement today.
The next instance of Joseph’s life we will look at is from Genesis 40:14 during his interaction with the cupbearer: “But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.” Alas, the cupbearer does not remember Joseph for two full years! Genesis 41:1 says, “When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: He was standing by the Nile.”
Let’s think about something important. Joseph had to stay there for two more years to wait for Pharaoh to have a dream. When Pharaoh was unable to find anyone to interpret the dream, that’s when the cupbearer remembered Joseph. God loves us too much to answer our prayer at any other time but the right time.
Finally, Joseph was about to have an audience with the Pharaoh — which is crucial because his calling was to be a leader. Joseph not only interprets Pharaoh’s dream — about seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine — he presents a system by which Pharaoh can ensure the safety of the people. Now, where could Joseph have learned to take a dream and turn it into leadership systems that would work to help people? At Potiphar’s house — where he was in charge of his master’s affairs — and in prison. Joseph went from prison to power in an instant, because it was God’s right time.
God loves us too much to answer our prayer at any other time but the right time
When the predicted famine brings Joseph’s brothers around to Egypt in search of food, he recognises them — even though they don’t recognise him. But look at where Joseph lands. He lands on Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Whatever your situation today, take a step back so that you’re free to see what the Lord is doing. It will always be for good. We may not feel good, but from Joseph’s story, we know that we can rest in the truth that God is good.
Prayer: Father God, thank You that You do not leave us where we are. We thank You that You allow us to step into freedom and forgiveness with Your help. We ask that we would pause and see how faithful You’ve been in the past, and be able to recognise your faithfulness in the present, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.
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