“You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” Genesis 50:20
What a difference it would make if all Christians had this attitude toward people who acted in an evil way toward them! Most of Joseph’s brothers had wanted to kill him but they ended up selling him into slavery. By God’s grace, as a slave, Joseph rose to the highest position he could in Potiphar’s house before being falsely accused and placed in prison indefinitely. Again, by God’s grace he rose to the highest position in the prison and then in Egypt under Pharaoh.
There is no doubt his brothers did mean evil against him and they were held to account but Joseph was not looking at their deed. He was looking at God’s sovereign and providential hand over the events in his life that brought him to this place. The outcome was that he did not judge his brothers. When the brothers sought forgiveness they discovered that it had already been given long before they asked.
Joseph had previously expressed to his brothers that he held no grudge (45:5) but with the death of their father, Jacob, the brothers thought that Joseph might now seek revenge. Joseph’s eyes were not on them or on their evil deed. His eyes were on the Lord who had placed him, through both the evil and the good situations, so that he could save those who had conducted this evil against him. Joseph, in hindsight, recognised God’s plan and purpose even though there was evil intent on the part of his brothers.
Undoubtedly we have all suffered at the hands of someone who wittingly or unwittingly perpetrated some evil against us. In the light of Joseph’s testimony to us how might we respond? Will we seek revenge?
How we respond will depend on where our eyes are focussed. If we are looking at those who hurt us then we will seek an opportunity for revenge. If our eyes are on the Lord we will see His sovereign and providential hand working good for His people even though events may have been with evil intent.
Joseph could have enslaved his brothers or he could have refused to help them during the famine. Because he saw the Lord’s hand working through their evil deed and he was surrendered to the Lord, all his family, including those who acted in an evil manner toward him, were saved. In God’s grace there was a further earthly reward for Joseph; he was able to cuddle his great-grandchildren before he went to his heavenly reward (50:23).
These words of Joseph have their parallel in Christ’s words when He was on the cross. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). The apostle Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).