But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even
though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to
preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself
will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them,
speaking kindly to them.
I heard about an old Arizona cowboy who applied for life insurance. When the agent asked him if he ever had any accidents, he thought for a moment and said, “Nope, but one mean bucking bronco did break three of my ribs and a rattlesnake bit my leg.” “Wouldn’t you call those accidents?” replied a puzzled agent. “Naw, weren’t accidents at all! Those dang critters did it on purpose!”
The cowboy reminds us that while there are no accidents with God, there are creatures and people who do mean us harm, who do purposely intend to hurt us. In today’s scripture we see Joseph having suffered injustice and abuse at the hands of his flesh and blood.
The ugly backstory to today’s scripture is spelled out in Genesis 37. There we see Joseph’s jealous brothers plotting his death and then scheming to make money by selling him into slavery in Egypt. Joseph’s tragedy continues in Egypt when he is falsely accused of rape and imprisoned for years (Genesis 39). Joseph has lost everything: his home, his family, freedom and good name.
But in time God moves to elevate Joseph to the position of being second to Pharaoh. From that lofty position Joseph saves the lives of many in Egypt and the ancient East facing starvation (Genesis 41:37-42:5). Joseph looks back at his life through the eyes of faith to see that behind all of the evil done to him the hand of God was at work. In today’s scripture Joseph is able to look into his brother’s eyes and, with forgiveness, say to them: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good.” Joseph does not minimize the evil done to him, but sees a sovereign God of love and power working for his good and the good of many.
I often see God’s hand in my many blessings, but I have not been so quick to also see God’s hand at work in those who have hurt me and done me wrong. Thankfully we have a God who as the Paul says, “accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will” (Ephesians 1:11). In all of our ups and downs and our missteps and mistreatment, God has been working all things for His good purpose to make us like Jesus (Romans 8:28). And that means all things! God sees the sparrow that falls to the ground and is moved (Matthew 10:29), and numbers even the hairs of our head (Matthew 10:30). Nothing escapes God’s loving concern. There are no accidents!
We look at the cross of Christ and see God’s wisdom and power to take the very worst people can do and use it for good. So we can look at the hurt done to us and believe God’s power to use it for good. Like Joseph, and like Jesus, we can let go any need to hurt them the way they hurt us. We can live free! God is at work!
Grace and peace,