Feasting with God #34
“God Sent Me to Preserve Life”
Text: Genesis 45:4-8
4So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for your many survivors. 8So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.”
This passage is the climax of the familiar story of Joseph and his brothers who sold him into slavery. What began as the selfish and greedy actions of Joseph’s brothers, trying to remove the one who was obviously their father’s favorite, turned into a miraculous working of God’s providence.
A famine was on its way to Egypt when Joseph was sold into slavery. His brothers could not have known this, and neither could Joseph himself. But because of the despicable actions of his brothers, Joseph was placed in just the right place at just the right time. Pharaoh had a dream that he desperately needed interpreted, and Joseph was just within his circle so that he could foretell the seven years of plenty, which would be followed by seven years of famine. It was just in time to put a plan into motion which would provide food for all the land around Egypt during the intense seven-year famine.
So it was by the evil deeds of Joseph’s brothers that God saved countless lives. This is the concept we discover also in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The moral of this history, of course, is that we may trust God, even when the worst happens, to work it for the best.
Before his brothers can even venture to apologize for their sin against him, Joseph tells them, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves.” Essentially, he told them, he has forgiven them, and because he has forgiven them and God worked their evil for good, they should acknowledge themselves forgiven.
This very pattern has continued throughout history. All kinds of evil created by sinful human beings is worked by God for good: think of the greatest evil ever committed, when some power-hungry and jealous Jews and Romans murdered the very Son of God. And yet even that greatest of evils was turned into the very greatest good mankind has ever seen. The death of God himself meant the salvation of all people.
If God can work even evil for such good, then we can be confident that he will provide for us throughout our lives, working everything for good. If God works such horrendous things for the very heights of providence, then when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we can pray it with confidence that he will give us the very nourishment which is most necessary for us. And because he has worked all the evil in the world for our salvation, we should regard ourselves as saved, justified, and forgiven. No, this does not mean that we should “continue in sin that grace may abound” (Rom. 6:1). Rather, in the spirit of our salvation, we can continue rejoicing at God’s providence! Like Joseph’s brothers, embrace your Savior, the one whom God used to bring about your evil for your salvation. Jesus was sent by God, through our evil, in order to preserve our life.
Dear Lord, strengthen our faith in your providence. Lead us to see in our lives how you work evil for good. Lead us especially to see how this was done in the redemptive work of your Son, and in thankfulness to live forgiven and worthy of the name of your Son. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.