March 30, 2016 • Life for Leaders
Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.
Every time I come upon Genesis 50:20, I am amazed. It captures in a nutshell the superior sovereignty and generous grace of God. It offers encouragement for us in our work and in every part of life. And it calls us to worship the God whose intentions are truly marvelous.
In our life and leadership, after we do our best to seek the Lord in all things, we can act with confidence that God will use our decisions and actions for his great and gracious purposes.
Genesis 50:20 comes near the end of Genesis. Jacob, father of Joseph and his brothers, had recently died (49:33). According to Jacob’s wishes, he was buried in Canaan (50:13). After the burial, Joseph and his brothers returned to Egypt (50:14). But, upon arriving in Egypt, the brothers all of a sudden began to worry that Joseph, without their father’s presence, might treat them poorly because of how they had once treated him (50:15). So, the brothers told Joseph that Jacob had wanted him to forgive them for the wrong they had done and they offered themselves to Joseph as his slaves (50:17-18). But Joseph reassured them, telling them not to be afraid (50:19).
Why should they not be afraid of Joseph and his power to take revenge against them? Joseph offered this explanation: “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today” (50:20). Joseph did not deny the wrong his brothers did to him. But he saw this wrong from a different perspective, not as the victim of injustice, but as one who sees from God’s point of view.
In this passage, Joseph did not get into the theological nuances of God’s sovereignty and our free will. Yet, he clearly affirmed the fact that, in the end, God’s plans won out over and even incorporated the plans of his brothers. God was able to use the evil intentions of the brothers for God’s superlative good.
Genesis 50:20 does not invite us to do whatever we wish, even that which is evil, because we know that, in the end, God will redeem our misdeeds. There is plenty in Scripture that urges us to seek the Lord, his ways and his justice, and turn from evil. Yet, Joseph’s insight into God’s intentions does set us free from fears that can bind us. We don’t have to be afraid that if we mess things up, God cannot make right out of them. We don’t have to worry that God will use and bless us only if we always discern and follow his ways perfectly (as if this were even possible). Rather, in our life and leadership, after we do our best to seek the Lord in all things, we can act with confidence that God will use our decisions and actions for his great and gracious purposes.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of times in your life when God used for good those things human beings intended for evil?
Have you experienced God’s ability to redeem your mistakes and misdeeds?
If you were to think about your work from the perspective of Joseph in Genesis 50:20, what difference might this make?
Gracious and sovereign God, your ways are truly amazing, filled with grace and goodness. Thank you for how you used the evil intentions of Joseph’s brothers for good. Thank you for helping Joseph to see his brothers’ actions from your perspective.
Help me to be like Joseph, Lord. Help me to think your thoughts after you, to see with your eyes, to feel with your heart.
May I always seek to honor you in all that I do. May I also seek your ways. Yet, as I consider your extraordinary power to redeem all things, may I act with freedom and confidence, knowing that you are not bound by my intentions and actions. Indeed, you can and will use for good even that which I intend for evil, as well as my mistakes.
May my confidence in your sovereign grace help me to act boldly as I seek to honor you in everything I do this day, and every day. Amen.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.