Meant for Evil, Turned to Good
I’ve mulled over the life of Joseph for quite some time now, thinking of the man who was severely loved and severely hated, favored and abused. The narrative of Joseph’s life, while it happens over just a few pages of Genesis, is lengthy and drawn out, carried by decades of downfall and rescue. Joseph began as an inward-focused dreamer, the favorite son of his father, Jacob. Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph earned him the hatred of his brothers, who eventually plotted to murder him but settled on selling him into Egyptian slavery. Joseph experienced rejection, hatred, humiliation, and agony at the hand of those who should have loved him most. And, despite being a good, honorable man, Joseph became the victim of someone else’s evil and suffered unjust consequences. For decades, Joseph was hated, abused, framed, and forgotten. By the time he rose to power in Egypt, he was battered and bruised by the evils of fallen humanity. The good news here is that the tragedies of Joseph’s life only make up half of the story.
After every pitfall, there is a beacon of hope and a triumphal end. If every decline in Joseph’s life happens because of humanity’s evil, then every rise happens because of God’s blessing. Every corner turned, every plot uplifted, every light at the end of the tunnel is because of God’s favor and goodness. When Joseph is sold into slavery, he ends up serving a man who recognizes that the favor of God is upon him. Rather than enduring what could have been brutal enslavement, Joseph is lifted up into leadership and respect. When Joseph is wrongly prosecuted by Potiphar’s wife, he again experiences the blessings of God, earning him yet another time of fruitful leadership in prison. If that weren’t enough, Joseph interprets the dreams of one man who, in recalling his wisdom, gets him a spot on Pharaoh’s staff, which later puts him in a perfect position to save all of Egypt. Without God, Joseph’s story would have gone much, much worse.
And that’s not all. Every downfall, every escalation, every twist and turn plays into one of the single most significant storylines of Genesis. From Joseph’s brothers abducting him and selling him into slavery, to being wrongfully imprisoned, to interpreting the dreams of Pharaoh, all that happens in Joseph’s life leads up to the ultimate salvation of his very own family, the ancestors of Jesus Christ.
“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve your life.” Genesis 45:5
Two things are happening here. First, God is faithfully interacting with one man, redeeming him and blessing him. Second, God is using every piece of Joseph’s life for Joseph’s good, for the good of Joseph’s family, and for the ultimate good of the world. God doesn’t waste anything. He uses the good and the bad to further His plan of redemption for all people. Because of God’s blessing, Joseph is able to reconcile with his brothers, reunite with his beloved father, and aid in the plan of redemption. And, in redeeming Joseph’s life, God redeemed the sons of Israel and preserved the line of the Messiah. What does this tell us about ourselves? It tells us our stories won’t be wasted. It tells us that God is doing something big and very good, even if we don’t see it from our vantage point.
Joseph’s story is about God. In it, we find out that God is kind, generous, and able to change the tides of tragedy. We see a God who is more than willing to work suffering out for our good, a God who is unafraid and unashamed of our sin and bad luck. We also see a God who, from the beginning of time, has been painstakingly paving the way for His Son, Jesus Christ. This is a God who is committed on a deeply personal level as well as on a global level. From this, we can be sure that God is leaning in, investing in our lives, walking through our pitfalls as well our successes. He is, indeed, the God who sees us and knows us. He is the God who uses our story for the deepest good. And, He is the God who has weaved and continues to weave every story together in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.