People Who Say Such Things: Lean into the Long Game of Redemption

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February 18, 2020

Genesis 50:19-20 (NIV)

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.

CONSIDER THIS

Joseph deserves a Daily Text series all his own, and in time, we shall return to him. I have a guest writer in mind you will love. There is one thing Joseph said, though, which captures the whole of Genesis; this first master work of Scripture.

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.

It’s a complex story to put it mildly, and too much to unpack here, but Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, setting his life on a path of unmitigated suffering and struggle and yet unparalleled favor and fortune. Today’s text comes at the end of the story as Joseph stood before his brothers as the second in command to Pharaoh himself. He stood before the ones whose cruelty and treacherous betrayal caused him unmentionable trauma and endless loss. The tables had turned and they stood before him in need of what he alone could provide: food in the face of a destroying famine. He stood before them with absolute power. He could have thrown them all into prison and left their family to starve. Instead, he showed them absolute mercy. 

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.

Where was Joseph’s bitterness; his anger; his revenge? He did not excuse what they did or their intentions. He forgave them. It seems he had forgiven them long ago. This was a moment of profound reconciliation and even more, a celebration of redemption. 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

People who say such things know in their deepest guts this simple truth: What God allows he redeems. Abraham and Sarah knew it. Isaac and Rebekah knew it. Jacob and Rachel and Leah knew it. Even more, Esau knew it as did Joseph. Life can be so difficult, so unfair, and unmercifully cruel. Bad things happen to good people, while good things happen to bad people. There is no understanding it or hope to make sense of it in any semblance of the short run. Because God plays the long game, redemption takes the long view. And redemption requires our participation. It can take years to work through the bitterness, the unforgiveness and the often unquenchable thirst for revenge—and this in the best of people. What God allows he redeems. It can take decades, lifetimes, even generations for redemption to run its course. 

Did you catch the secret to participating in redemption; besides working through your bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, victim complex, and revenge fantasies? It was right there in the text.

But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?

Joseph knew he was not in the place of God. He knew his place, and he knew God’s place and he kept them sorted. He seemed to know full well that God redeems what he allows, which meant leaning into redemption instead of revenge. From the bottom of a well to the shackles of a slave to the dungeon of a king and back again, Joseph knew redemption must begin with him. As hard as it seems sometimes, this is always within our reach. Nowhere do we see it more clearly than in our dear Lord, Jesus. 

The 19th century Danish theologian and philosopher Soren Kierkegaard captured in words what every saint before and since have known in their lives. “Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.” 

May we aspire to become people who say such things with our lips and our lives. 

 THE PRAYER

Father, I want to be a person who says such things. You are God, and I am not. Though I am in the miry, muddy middle of it all, you see the end from the beginning. Help me know you are at work to take what was intended for bad and turn it to good; that you are in fact working all things together for my good. Train my spirit to forgive. Draw out the bitterness in my heart. Heal my anger and empower me to trade in my sense of revenge for your redemption. Come Holy Spirit, and train me be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen. 

THE QUESTION

Do you have or know of a story where God worked something out intended for bad into something good? How are you doing with your own stored up bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, and revenge fantasies? Are you ready to let them go? Are you ready to step out of the place of God? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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