There are times when we wonder why we struggle so much. We wonder why there seems to be so much badness or evil in the world. Why must the righteous suffer while the wicked seem to prosper and flourish? Questions like these are neither new nor uncommon. Often the psalmist cried to God for deliverance from his troubles when it seemed the foes of God would be victorious. Truly, it often seems that evil will win.
Joseph likely felt the same way at times. Beginning in Genesis 37, Joseph began to endure a series of up and down events that brought him into direct confrontation with the very worst life has to offer. For example, Joseph was unjustly accused of rape (Genesis 39:7-20) and cast into a prison where he languished for at least two years (Genesis 41:1). He had previously been separated from his loving father and his family when his own brothers sold him as a slave into the hands of traders (Genesis 37:12ff). Finally, after years of struggling Joseph was freed and rose to a position second only to Pharaoh in Egypt.
Later, the very same brothers who sold him find themselves standing before the brother-turned Egyptian-ruler begging for famine relief. When he reveals his true identity the brothers are terrified of his reprisals. He does not return evil to them but brings them to live in his new country in luxury (Genesis 47:11,12). Later, when their father dies the brothers are again fearful of Joseph (Genesis 50:15) and the possibility of retribution.
Joseph does not seek revenge. Although in a position to bring horror to the lives of his brothers and repay them for the evil they did to him, Joseph instead calms his nervous brethren. Joseph said, “…you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Through Joseph’s struggles, God protected and preserved the very family that would eventually bring forth the son of Joseph and Mary, Jesus Christ. Without Joseph in Egypt, the family may well have died from starvation in famine stricken Canaan.
First of all, Joseph recognized that God was ruling from heaven. Although times often seemed dark and despair was all around, God was still in charge. When Joseph had nothing else, he maintained his faith in God Almighty and trusted in his deliverance. Through his unwavering faithfulness and dependence, this rejected son of Israel, like Jesus later, would be the means through which his people would be saved.
Next, Joseph knew that God’s plans could not be stopped. The Lord made a series of promises to Joseph’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather concerning the future of that particular family. Those promises had not yet been fulfilled. God had also promised to care for and protect all those who trusted in him. God had never been found lacking in his plans. He always did what he said he would – just in his time, not ours. Suffering Job, in the midst of his own struggles, having confronted God and found himself lacking before his creator declared, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).
Third, God was able to deliver. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would later declare what Joseph already knew, “God …is able to deliver” us (Daniel 3:17). These three righteous men were delivered from the fiery furnace and Joseph would be delivered from the hand of his oppressors.
Finally, Joseph learned that God could take evil and turn it into a blessing. In our words, God can turn a lemon into lemonade! Although is brothers intended to do evil to Joseph, God would not sit by and allow his faithful, devoted servant to be consumed. Not only had Joseph survived, he was thriving in a foreign land.
Rest assured that evil will come your way too. But with God deliverance also comes to his faithful children. The key for us, the central demand of our spiritual survival, is faithfulness. Apart from such there is no deliverance and evil wins. But always remember that there is victory in God’s Son, there is victory in Jesus!