On NYE, I posted the following:
- “On 2013: ‘Shall we accept the good from God and not trouble?’- Job 2:10.
- On 2014: ‘You do not even know what will happen tomorrow…Be patient and stand firm’- James 4:14, 5:8.”
The first verse is important because 2013 was a year of great highs and one tremendous low; it’s been on my mind since mid-October and took on a greater meaning in early December. As I ponder the meaning of the past 3 months now, I believe God’s revealed a third verse, one that gives context to both of the above: “As for you, 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.
God’s Better Plan
Over the past day, I’ve dialogued with a few people about my NYE post. It struck me that many years passed between Joseph being sold and the redemption spoken of in the Genesis text. Joseph was 17 when we meet him; one of many sons of Jacob (son of Jacob, grandson of Isaac, great-grandson of Abraham), Joseph was sold twice- first to the Midianites, then to Potiphar. He was given authority in Potiphar’s house, only to have Potiphar’s wife try to seduce him. Failing, she then accused him of rape, so Potiphar had him thrown in jail, where he remained for 2 years. He interpreted a dream for Pharaoh, and was released from prison. He rose to power at 30 and was given authority over all Egypt. There were 7 years of plenty, followed by 7 years of world-wide famine. Joseph’s father, starving in the land promised to his father’s father, sends his remaining sons to Egypt to buy food from…Joseph.
Joseph’s life is a series of both good and trouble. Reading through the text, the faithfulness of Joseph is revealed in the good times…but what about the “trouble”?
Mercy vs. Sacrifice
We see the heart of Joseph when he recognizes his brothers. The ones who mocked him. Wanted to kill him. Stole his prized possession. Threw him into a pit. Sold him into slavery. Surely, Joseph was tempted to tell his brothers to pound salt, to curse them, tell them to go and die. The justice of man. And this is where we are. “Bad things” happen and we demand punishment. Judgment. Sacrifice. But that’s just not God’s story.
More years would pass until we get to Genesis 50:20. Joseph’s family has relocated to Egypt, and Jacob died. It is here, when the brothers are no longer “protected” by their father, do we really see repentance. They come to him in fear, on their knees. And Joseph does what we need to do. Forgive. Reconcile. Make peace. That is God’s desire.
The God Who is Slow
Peter puts it this way, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” We can see from Joseph’s story that at least 20 years passed for this vengeance to happen, for the “bad” to be made “good”.
20 years is an eternity in 21st century America. Bad things happen and we want it fixed today. We want to see selfish, deceitful, lying and manipulating men brought down. Today. We want, demand, a sacrifice because someone needs to pay. Now.
What God wants is repentance. What God wants is reconciliation.
We both find exactly what we call out for in the Person of Christ.
Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, once and for all. If “vengeance is the Lord’s”…then the Lord has wreaked it. And the ultimate payback is not punishment to man, but repentance by him. The absolute best thing that could ever happen would be us, in eternity with God, finding those people that have maligned us the most…not because they deserve it, but because we, like they, have found reconciliation with God through Jesus.
What our enemy has meant for evil, God has used for good. This is God’s justice. And this is the past.
Soon, the future, and the folly of planning for it.