I once played the starring role in a church production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”. I know the story inside-out and can sing the songs in my sleep, but when I read the end of Genesis again this week, one verse jumped out at me because it encapsulates the whole account of Joseph and how God used him, and the parallel with the salvation that we have through Jesus.
In the last chapter of Genesis, Joseph’s father Jacob has just died and his brothers, fearing that Joseph would now pay them back for selling him into slavery, approach him to plead for mercy and offer themselves as his slaves. Quite contrary to their expectations, Joseph says to them:
“ You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” Genesis 50:19-20
Joseph was Jacob’s favoured son and God singled him out and spoke directly through his dreams about the future. Joseph suffered great injustice at the hands of his brothers when they plotted to kill him and then sold him to the Ishmaelites as a slave. His brothers’ intention was to do him harm because of their burning jealousy and hatred towards him. This single event changed Joseph’s life forever and set about a chain of events that would see him suffer further injustice when he was thrown into prison after Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce him.
It would have been very easy for Joseph to harbour anger and resentment towards his brothers and towards God for all that he had endured, but throughout his trials he remained faithful to God and maintained his integrity. God achieved his plans for Joseph and fulfilled the dreams that he had given him years before. Not only this, God saved the lives of thousands of people through Joseph’s elevated position as Governor of Egypt, with oversight of food provision for the seven year famine.
In verse 16 of Genesis chapter 41 Joseph acknowledges to Pharaoh that it is not in his strength that he can interpret dreams, but it is God’s power:
“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
We can learn a lot from Joseph’s life and his relationship with God. We don’t all have dreams and visions, and God speaks to us in different ways, but we all have the offer of relationship with God. It is our responsibility to accept this and be faithful with what God has given us. He has the power and we are to trust and obey so that he can fulfil his purposes through us. No matter how much harm befalls us, God can and will use our circumstances to build his Kingdom and save many lives.
The ultimate example of God using man’s intention for harm to save lives is the death and resurrection of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The authorities of the day intended to cause him the worst harm and put him to death, but God used this to accomplish his greatest victory by defeating sin and death and saving our lives!