“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 NIV
For those of you that don’t know, my daughter is adopted. We fostered her for two years before her adoption became final. In those two years, my eyes were opened, and my heart was broken as I witnessed first-hand, the trauma that ensues just before the beautiful gift that adoption is. My daughter asks me about her birth mom, and her birth brothers and sisters, and wonders why we have to live so far away from them. She loves them so much. The feelings of abandonment, the pain of knowing that there is a family out there that she doesn’t get to grow up with, is hard for her to understand. My daughter’s story is a story of rescue, and redemption. We can see the Lord looking out for her before she was even born. His hand was over her life from the very beginning.
When I read the story of Joseph, I see the story of an abused child, mistreated, sold into slavery, wrongly accused, and yet, the Lord’s hand was over his life and through all of the hardship that he endured, all of the wrong that was done to him, all of the things that the enemy intended for harm, the Lord allowed for good. It’s hard to understand why bad things happen to good people, to innocent children, why He doesn’t swoop in and rescue us. But then, at some point, like Joseph, we can look back and see how the Lord turned that ugliness into something great, something beautiful.
In the story of Genesis, when Joseph sees his brothers after so many years, and they are coming to him asking for help because of the Famine, he had two choices: 1) to repay them for all the terrible things that they had done to him, to let them starve, and to call it justice. After all, they were the ones that had abused him, beaten him, and sold him into slavery. And as a result, he was thrown into jail for many years for a crime that he didn’t commit. They were the cause of all of his heartache and pain. 2) he could show them mercy. He could offer forgiveness, and choose to see how God moved in spite of that horrible situation. After all, if he had not been sold into slavery, he would never been a servant in Potiphar’s house, he would have never been thrown in jail, and never would have been elevated in rank to Pharaoh’s right hand man. And because Joseph was Pharaoh’s right hand man, he was able to advise Pharaoh to store up grain in preparation for the Famine…the Famine that brought Joseph’s family knocking at his door.
When face to face with his brothers, all Joseph wanted was reconciliation with his father, and his brothers. Genesis 45:1-11 says,” Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 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. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.[a]
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. 9 Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’”
Wow. In spite of all the wrong that had been done to him, God was in the midst of all of it. He never left Joseph, but instead went with him, to jail and eventually to the palace. Because God was with Joseph, Israel (and all his son’s, which became the twelve tribes of Israel) were saved; and not only saved, but were given the most fertile land in all of Egypt. Wow. Look what God did!
The story continues, in Genesis 50:15-21, after Israel has been buried and Joseph’s brothers are wondering what will happen to them now. It says, “15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Can you imagine what Joseph must have been thinking? I get teary eyed every time I read this. This is grace at its fullest. I will be honest that I have been struggling with forgiveness of a certain person in my life. And when I think of Joseph and how he was mistreated, I can’t help but he humbled by his overwhelming forgiveness and grace. He didn’t want justice, he only wanted reconciliation. Perhaps we can’t truly understand the height, the width, the length and the depth of God’s grace unless we are broken.
I’ll leave you with this reminder, that whatever you are going through, the enemy intends this to harm you, but God in his infinite wisdom and grace, intends is for good. He is faithful and He will deliver you through this trial. Romans 8:28 confirms this, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”