Wednesday, 1 June 2016

God Meant It For Good

It is remarkable that these words come at the conclusion of Genesis.

Humanity has completely messed up and chosen rebellion and self-rule over the kind provision of a loving Creator over and over and over again ever since Chapter Three.

In Chapter 50 we find Joseph, who has suffered for years because of his own sin and the sins of others-  under burdens of his own pride, his brother's jealousy, his father's foolishness, an adulteress's lust, a boss's fury; he's endured pits and prisons, heartache and homelessness, he's been betrayed and forgotten- and yet, at the end of all this, he is able to look back and say: God meant it for good.

Sometimes I think that God "does good" in the same way that Roger Federer does tennis. As in, he's really, really talented at it, and does it quite a lot, but it's essentially a kind of hobby or habit.

This is not how God does good.

God is good. And in all things, he intends good.

In sickness, in betrayals, in our sins and our sorrows, in our heartbreaks and our imprisonments- God's intention is for good. Whatever evil the world, the flesh or the devil intends, God intends good. And he does all he pleases; even when the former three get their way- even then, God still intends good. God still will triumph.

Over and over again, throughout Joseph's story, we see the LORD has been at work to rescue, to redeem and to bring about wider scale blessing than anyone could have believed to be anything more than a pride-fuelled dream at the beginning of the story.

But it was as Joseph was rejected by his brothers, as he was forced to resist intense temptation, as he was falsely accused, imprisoned, despised, rejected- the LORD was bringing about good. Through these circumstances the LORD worked so that not only Joseph blessed, but his family, Israel, Egypt and the nations all found food and provision and hope in him. Read Genesis chapters's remarkable!

And of course this sounds familiar to us! The LORD bringing about good through the most horrendous anguish? The suffering of one man bringing about blessing and hope for all the nations!? A life poured out and then given a place with the strong, dividing his victory spoils with the many!?

Jesus! Yes!

And the grace of Joseph in blessing and forgiving his brothers with the assurance of these five words is a faint foreshadowing of the loving-kindness of Jesus when he meets his friends again, after he's risen from the dead.

Jesus, even more so than Joseph has all the power in the relationship as he meets the disciples again. He has endured their false promises, their rejection, their denials, he has suffered mightily because of their sin and here he is before them, having defeated death, Risen, Conquering Son. All the power is his! And yet...

Joseph says to his brothers, "do not fear, you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good."

And Jesus says to his brothers, "peace be with you." He becomes, in Himself the guarantee that in all things God is working for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to his purpose.

* * * 

Just as a sort of postscript, I think it's worth saying that "God meant it for good" is a weighty statement to apply to our own lives.

Even Joseph as he said it probably felt the weight of the bruises of countless years of loneliness, of cycles of hope and disappointment, of perplexity, if not always despair. There are a number of seasons in my past and events in my life that I find hard to understand. I can't always conceive of how God could have meant them for good- they feel like ugly, unnecessary scars that have slowed me down (or are still doing so!)- and I can't see how they could possibly be a gateway to any kind of blessing. Sometimes I can see how, but sometimes the scars still weigh heavy.

It gives me great hope to remember Jesus, who still bears the scars of his suffering, and who sits enthroned in the centre of reality as an everlasting testament to redemption. If the One who sustains the universe could suffer such great evil that brought about such great good, surely there is hope for me, if I am in Him. And he sits enthroned looking like a Lamb that has been slain.

Those public, permanent scars on his hands? Well, the world, the flesh, the devil: they meant it for harm: for rebellion, for humiliation, for selfishness, for violence, for hatred, for the utter destruction of God himself.

But God?

God meant it for eternal, glorious, warm, nation-changing, hope-bringing everlasting good.

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