Used for Good

It is hard for most of us to be able to claim much good coming out of this pandemic. So when you hear a story that actually has a good ending it needs to be shared.

My daughter is an airline employee. Her company is working hard to not furlough any employees in the midst of the catastrophic economic impact that airlines are facing. They have come up with creative ways to mitigate their situation, including offering early retirements, extending leaves, and creating job-sharing possibilities. She is currently on “bonding leave” with her baby, and was just awarded a one-year extension. She will maintain her seniority with the company and was given other incentives, the best of which is an additional twelve months home with her baby at a critical time in his life.

Talk about a blessing coming from a dark time! We are so thankful.

In our scripture today, we see the culmination of the Joseph story. You remember that his brothers sold him into slavery and he ended up in Egypt. There he succeeded in capturing the Pharaoh’s admiration and eventually rose to a position of power. He led Egypt to store enough grain to survive the famine that came to the land.

Joseph’s brothers, living in famine-starved Israel, have had to travel to Egypt to find food. Lo and behold, they find themselves in front of their own long-lost brother who now controls the grain stores. Their guilt is overwhelming and when news comes that their father is dead, they fear that Joseph will exact revenge on them.

Genesis 50 (Common English Bible)

15 When Joseph’s brothers realized that their father was now dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us, and wants to pay us back seriously for all of the terrible things we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph and said, “Your father gave orders before he died, telling us, 17 ‘This is what you should say to Joseph. “Please, forgive your brothers’ sins and misdeeds, for they did terrible things to you. Now, please forgive the sins of the servants of your father’s God.”” Joseph wept when they spoke to him.

Even in this moment, the brothers are trying to manipulate Joseph’s feelings in hopes of a positive outcome.

18 His brothers wept too, fell down in front of him, and said, “We’re here as your slaves.”

At this point, one might expect that Joseph would load them up on a slave cart and have them hauled off to some miserable work site, just as he was hauled off on a slave cart when they threw him in a pit many years earlier. But watch what happens:

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I God? 20 You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he’s doing today. 21 Now, don’t be afraid. I will take care of you and your children.” So he put them at ease and spoke reassuringly to them.

“What you intended for evil, God used for good.”

This maturity of hindsight is a good lesson for us today. Can you say the same thing? Are you able to look back at a particularly difficult time in your life and see how God used it for your good?

I can. I wouldn’t be here in the Outer Banks if it weren’t for decisions made to restructure the church staff where I was serving. The pain of those decisions was crushing. I was exiled. But I landed on this island, and I can look back and see how God indeed used it for my good.

My prayer for you today is that no matter what awful place you find yourself in right now, you will be able to claim God’s good work breaking through the dark. Hang on. God will use even this for your own good.

God’s Good Work by Amy Sasscer

Reconciled

Can you name a time in your life where circumstance, decisions, jealousy, malice, or someone’s bad intention left you on the outside of something you cherished? It is hard when that happens. Job changes “for the good of the company” that result in your layoff can be devastating. Family conflicts that end up with your invitation to the table being rescinded can result in pain that lasts a long time. Anytime we are rejected, it just doesn’t feel good.

It is in those moments that we need to heavily rely on God’s word to help us through a myriad of emotions and try to see what God is doing in the midst of our suffering.

Today we are in the part of the Joseph story where he is living in Egypt long after his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him to traders. Many years have passed and God has provided Joseph with a rise to power that puts him in charge of Egypt’s grain stores, which he himself had created. Meanwhile back in Israel, a famine has decimated the land and Joseph’s brothers have fled to Egypt in hopes of finding food.

Genesis 45 (Contemporary English Version)

Yes, I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt. Don’t worry or blame yourselves for what you did. God is the one who sent me ahead of you to save lives.

There has already been a famine for two years, and for five more years no one will plow fields or harvest grain. But God sent me on ahead of you to keep your families alive and to save you in this wonderful way. After all, you weren’t really the ones who sent me here—it was God. He made me the highest official in the king’s court and placed me over all Egypt.

This is a profound moment. Even with everything that happened to Joseph…all the hurt, rejection, harm, and estrangement from his family…he is able to claim that God was the agent of everything that happened. It was not the result of his brothers’ actions, nor evil forces, nor jealousy, nor even a consequence of intentional harm. Only God could bring about the miracle that was to happen next and this had been God’s plan all along.

Now hurry back and tell my father that his son Joseph says, “God has made me ruler of Egypt. Come here as quickly as you can. 10 You will live near me in the region of Goshen with your children and grandchildren, as well as with your sheep, goats, cattle, and everything else you own. 11 I will take care of you there during the next five years of famine. But if you don’t come, you and your family and your animals will starve to death.”

And so Joseph, who was thrown away by his insecure brothers, is now able to save not only his family but all of their livestock from starvation. He makes them the incredible offer to come and bring their entire households to Egypt where he will give them all homes and enough food to live.

12 All of you, including my brother Benjamin, can tell by what I have said that I really am Joseph. 13 Tell my father about my great power here in Egypt and about everything you have seen. Hurry and bring him here.

14 Joseph and Benjamin hugged each other and started crying. 15 Joseph was still crying as he kissed each of his other brothers. After this, they started talking with Joseph.

This last part is a touching reminder of the power of FORGIVENESS. When Joseph was able to recognize that God had placed him in Egypt in order to save generations of his family, he was able to let go of his anger and open his heart up to his brothers.

Where is God calling you to open your heart today? Where is he calling you to forgive a grievance that you have harbored for decades? Where can you see God working in your life despite the hardships?

Make today the day. Make that phone call, write that letter, or send that text. God just may be sending you ahead so that you, too, can save your family.

Peaceful Moonrise by Amanda Sprinkle