19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19-21 NIV)
When Jacob dies, his sons fear that Joseph will take his vengeance on them. With the restraining hand of their father now at rest, will Joseph do what he dared not do before?
It is unclear if the verses immediately prior to this are true but the narrative reads as if his brothers fabricated the story – that Jacob had asked that Joseph forgive his brothers for their past sins (50:15-17). Joseph’s brothers are still manipulators and schemers as they were when they were young men and they connived to kill their brother.
In the previous chapter (49), Jacob blesses his sons. But most of his blessings sounds like curses or at least they do not sound like blessings. They are rather words of truth, descriptions of the character and future of his sons. This short story here makes real much of what Jacob said not long before.
Joseph resists any impulse to get even but instead claims that God used their evil intentions to bring about good for all of them.
I have spent many an hour reflecting on these verses. I have experienced evil at the hands of others – people who wished me ill and even some who worked actively to bring it to pass! Sadly I have experienced this as often inside the church as I have outside it.
Joseph had every right to be bitter, to be unforgiving, to set things right. But as he did earlier when his brothers came into his presence but did not know it, so here he gives grace and mercy and sees what has happened from God’s vantage point.
I need to have such perspective myself. How has God used the deeds of others – meant for my harm – to bring about good? When has God redeemed evil with good? Many times – in fact, almost every season when I have felt others wronged me God has turned it to my God. Sometimes another blessing came that was greater than any curse someone tried to make real. At others God redirected my steps from a place I thought was best to God’s better future. And in all these moments that I remember I know God was working to shape and mold and redeem me most of all – my character, my spirit, my faith.
May I always repay evil with kindness and as Joseph did. And not put myself in the place of God as judge but to act as God does in mercy and love.
God of Joseph, you repay evil with kindness, hate with love, scheming and cursing with blessing. May I always act as Joseph did when wronged – to repay as you would and not as my mind and heart often want. And may I see as he did the countless ways you have transformed seasons of trial and wrong into journeys of blessing and fruitfulness. In the name of the One who repaid evil with good and hate with love, Jesus our Savior. Amen.