There’s nothing like being the youngest in a large family. I speak from experience. My older siblings often made sport of picking on me. They never sold me to a band of traveling gypsies—but that’s only because no bands of traveling gypsies happened through our neighborhood.
Joseph’s brothers did. And it wasn’t a joking matter. Their jealousies of Joseph led them to conspire to rid themselves of their younger brother. You can read the details in Genesis 37. While you’re at it, flip through chapters 38 thru 50 and experience the gamut of Joseph’s saga.
Picture the scene at the end of chapter 50 for a moment. His brothers are worried that, since their father has died, perhaps now Joseph will exact his revenge. They throw themselves at his feet and beg that he would simply treat them as slaves. But Joseph (and, note the but there in verse 19 to help paint the contrast) assures them not to worry. If there is any judgment to come, it is God’s place to deal with them.
Joseph’s story ends on a conspicuous note. He uses a big but in verse 20 to set the entire matter into context: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.
Shocking! Could his brothers have heard that any other way?
Let’s see: Hated by your brothers? Sold into slavery? Deprived of your home and family for years? Wrongly accused? Unjustly punished? Forgotten? Neglected? Suffering after suffering? And the conclusion he has come to is this: it was all meant to harm me, but God had something else in mind.
If ever there was a scene that depicted the declaration of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Rome, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him,” this is it.
This is a tremendous statement of God’s sovereignty—all the while, God was in control.
There is no trace of good to be found in each of Joseph’s grueling experiences when considered separately. But the sum of them all was good. Someone wiser than me once illustrated this conclusion by offering the many ingredients that make up a cake individually. Have a cup or two of flour. Maybe a few tablespoons of oil? Baking powder? How about a couple of raw eggs? Pretty nasty individually. But the sum of them given the right amount of heat and time… you get the picture.
Heat and time. We could spend a significant amount of time, and generate some heat, talking about those two ingredients. Another post, perhaps.
So, how about a happy ending? My older siblings: They don’t whip me with towels around the swimming pool anymore. It’s been years since they’ve called me Derwood, Dagwood, or Dirtbag. I can’t remember the last time they flicked my ears or gave me a wedgie. Come to think of it, they treat me pretty good, now. I suppose it could just be legitimate fear that, as a preacher and a writer, I could turn them into sermon or lesson illustrations. I wouldn’t do that. Would I? I could just point them to this passage of scripture—or, in other words, show them my but: You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.