Joseph was from a classic dysfunctional family. Joseph had 3 step-mothers, 10 step-brothers, and 1 full brother all living in the same house at the same time. Joseph was his daddy’s favorite – a daddy’s boy. The brothers were jealous because of a dream Joseph had that they would one day bow down to him. One day, when the brothers were away taking care of the family business, the daddy sent Joseph out to take them some food. The brothers saw him coming and schemed to kill Joseph. But one of the brothers came up with a plan to sell Joseph to a band of traders headed to Egypt. They told their daddy that Joseph was dead.
Joseph became a household slave and then was falsely accused of rape. He was thrown into prison and then forgotten. Forsaken. Framed. Forgotten. From the age17 until the age of 30. 13 years. No one would have blamed Joseph for becoming angry, bitter, and filled with revenge.
But God had plans for Joseph. The king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, has a dream. He finds out that Joseph gets insight from God to interpret dreams. There will be 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. Josephs advises the Pharaoh to store the excess during the years of plenty to have enough for the famine. He hears, “Great idea. You’re in charge.” So, Joseph finds himself second in command of all of Egypt.
The famine hit other lands besides Egypt. And Joseph’s long lost family lived in one of those areas. They needed food. Joseph’s daddy had been informed that there was extra food in Egypt. So, he sent 10 of the brothers to ask for some food to take back home to their family. Jacob wouldn’t allow Joseph’s full brother, Benjamin, to go because now Benjamin is his favored son.
The 10 find themselves face-to-face with Joseph, the governor of Egypt. They didn’t recognize Joseph. He was 22 years older. He looked and sounded like a powerful Egyptian ruler. How could these brothers expect their little brother to have become “the man” in all the land? And the Bible says, “They bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” They fulfilled Joseph’s early dreams.
Joseph was forsaken, framed, and forgotten. But in and through it all, Joseph saw God. When he finally saw his brothers after all these years, he said, “God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5b). Joseph believed that the evil of his brothers was actually a part of God’s plan. He trusted God.
We have to trust God, too. God intends to use the hurts we’ve suffered for some higher end. We are only going to move beyond our past pain when we embrace it as part of God’s plan.
Joseph understood a truth called the “providence of God.” God is in charge of our ups and downs, of our hurts and healings, of our demotions and promotions, of our friends and family. God is at work in and through the people and circumstances in our lives.
The Providence of God can be defined this way: God in eternity past, in the counsel of His own will, ordained everything that will happen; yet in no sense is God the author of sin; nor is human responsibility removed.
He works through what theologians call “secondary causes.” But He is the primary cause. Later in the story, after Joseph’s dad has died and the brothers are afraid that Joseph will now get revenge, Joseph comforts them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph saw the secondary cause, that his brothers sold him into slavery. But he also saw the primary cause. Even when he was in the pit and the prison, God was working the whole time to place him in a position of power that would save the family from starvation during the famine.
What hurts have happened to you? Someone has wronged you. But you can’t see beyond that hurt. You’re bitter, perhaps, because you are fixated on the secondary cause. And you’re missing the primary cause. You’re missing God.
God will use that evil for good. How? I am not sure. But you can trust Him. “And we know that for those who love God all things work togetherfor good, forthose who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Forgiveness comes a whole lot easier when we understand that God will use the hurts for your own good and for His own glory.