Thursday, April 19, 2012

Joseph The Potential Judge, Responds - Genesis 50:18-21


Then his brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”  But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?  And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.  So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.”  So he confronted them and spoke kindly to them.

You will remember in the passage before this one, the Bible says the brothers “sent a message” to Joseph concerning their newly resurfaced fear.  We do not know whether that was through a chosen brother to represent them all, or through someone else.  But here it is clear that all the brothers came to see Joseph, either at his request, or on their own, at some point after he had received the original message.

And when they went, they went humbly.  They bowed down before Joseph and simply acknowledged that they were in his hands and were there as his servants to do as he wished.  I see a picture here that somehow resembles our relationship to God and His Son.  Man has sinned against God and fears for his own wellbeing.  He recognizes his errant ways and realizes his need for a Savior.  He approaches the Almighty with all humility and agrees to serve Him.  And like Joseph, God accepts us as members of His family.  The parallelism is striking.

This short passage of Scripture also contains one of the most quoted lines of the Old Testament – “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”  Put another way, God used sinful man (the brothers) to pursue evil ends (the elimination of Joseph) to achieve His desired ends (Joseph ending up leader in Egypt) for the purpose of saving the lives of many (the Israelites in Egypt).  Something that struck me odd here is the use of the phrase “God meant it”.  In my current thinking I would have found it much more conducive to my theological exposure if the text had said “but God allowed it”.  Some of us have always found it hard to accept the idea that God orchestrates “bad things to happen to good people”.  But perhaps this verse is suggesting otherwise.  If so, I am okay with this.  After all, God is God and He can do whatever He wants to.  I believe that is the most crucial admission that any man or woman or child can make whether one is a Christian or not.   The non-Christian may not like it.  The Christian will soon find that it is the only way he or she can accept what is going on in the world today.

Joseph is telling his brothers that because it was God that not only was involved in, but also was the One Who was in control of, the situation, they should not be afraid.  His job is to forgive them and to provide for them and their families like a loving older brother or father.  And the Bible says the brothers were faced with those facts and were spoken to kindly.

As I thought about this at the time of writing, I wondered how I could apply the lesson of this passage to my own life.  What was I particularly concerned about, even to the point of fear?  Well, to be totally honest with you – it is the march of radical non-tolerant Islam across the face of earth.  I see it coming like a twister tornado at full speed and I am distraught, to say the least, as to why not only our western politicians but also our own Christian leaders are doing nothing about it.  And if not that, why nothing significant is being done about the treatment of Christians in countries where Muslims already make up 51% or more of the population?

If I take my own advice, I have to realize that God is indeed involved.  In fact, He is in control.  Maybe I think this world movement is meant for my evil but maybe God intends it to be for not only my good, but as a means to bring out about the salvation of many, both Muslims and others.  What I have to do is “therefore, not be afraid” and know that God will provide for “me and my little ones”.  I must admit that is a very hard place to get to, at least for me.

You probably have your own fear or two.  Together we must find within us the means by which we get to that place.  For the Christian, that means is the indwelling of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Secondly, we must realize His presence within us provides us the means by which we can remain there.

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