Roger's Postings

Friday, September 09, 2011

Genesis 50:15-21.                   God turns evil into good              11/9/11

 (15)  When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?" {16} So they sent word to Joseph, saying, "Your father left these instructions before he died: {17} 'This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.' Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father." When their message came to him, Joseph wept. {18} His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. "We are your slaves," they said. {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.

 Joseph said, ‘You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good.’ Despite all of the trouble and rottenness and tragedy that had taken place in his life he could say it was all for the best, and above all he can say it to those who had caused him all those years of heartache and misery. But that was Joseph; can we here say the same thing today? Can we have the same confidence and assurance that despite all the bad and evil that has, is and will happen to us; that God will bring good out of it? Can we be so sure that God will turn evil into something good and beneficial? As we look around us it is hard to see that it can be so.

 The world around us is full of pain and evil and uncertainty, and as we look forward we can see that things will probably get worse before they get better. There are never-ending reports of murders, rapes and other violence; not to mention cancer, aids and other sicknesses and accidents that are shattering lives. There is the threat of war hanging over our heads; and then, even within the church, there is division, a loss of members and a growing divergence of thinking and practice. And I could go on and on. So where is the good – is there any to be found? Yes, often there seems to be very little. Evil seems to have taken control in a society that is running off the rails, and it is shattering life after life as people see little hope for the future. It appears that we are on a downhill slide and all is lost.

 But is it? Not according to God and his Word. There are two separate, yet connected thoughts that we need to keep in mind.

First of all, let us think about Joseph and his situation again. He too, had every reason to think doom and gloom; that all was lost; and to be very bitter and negative: Then to use his new found position to get back at those who caused him all the trouble in the first place. Remember he had been given that dream and promises by God that he would be head over his family and that he would have an important role to play in God’s kingdom, and among his people.

But what happened – his own brothers sold him off into slavery in Egypt. There he underwent many years of heartache and misery, before managing to become right hand man to one of the leading politicians. But then everything fell apart again as the lady of the house wants to take Joseph to bed with her. When he says no, she sees to it that he is thrown into prison discredited and forgotten: left to share life with the rats and the criminals. One would think that by this time he would have been screaming out to God, or given up hope altogether: Certainly thinking of, if only he could get even with his brothers for all of this.

 Can we suppose that he found it easy to trust God and to stay calm? Those promises of God must have been very distant through much of that time, or a source of thought that it has all been tragically taken from him. But as history continues on we see how God turns the whole situation around and uses Joseph’s life in Egypt to save his whole family. “God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people, who are alive today because of what has happened.’

 Now this is just one of many recorded incidences of how God has turned an evil rotten situation into something good and beneficial. They all show that despite the stupidity and evil that we as human beings get ourselves into, God is still concerned enough about us that he intervenes and uses our evil to bring about a greater good in the long term. He turns a bad situation into something good.

Particularly at a later point in history we see this coming out in a most decisive way of all. We have a man who lived a perfect life here on earth: he helped and cared for people: he healed them and pointed them to what is important in life: and above all he remained in a very close, personal relationship with our Father in heaven. He looked as if he would be the one hope and saviour that our world needed. But for all of this he was strung up on a cross to die like a criminal. What makes it an even greater tragedy was that this man was God’s very own Son: come into our world to help us out.

 What do we do with him? We rejected and killed him to get him out of the way, so that we could continue to be free to live as we choose. Sadly today we are still doing the same thing, even within the church; we are pushing him aside and taking our focus off of him and what he has done for us through his death and resurrection, and we continue to want to focus on ourselves and what we want. So again evil appears to have won out convincingly.

 Yet in Jesus death on the cross, we see the greatest turnabout in all of history. Jesus’ resurrection shattered death and eternal separation from God forever: done away with, finished; gone forever. Forgiveness is now there for each and every one of us, no matter who we are or what we have done. What joy: what peace: what good, is now there for you and me. In the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we see God’s great action in our world for good. In his suffering, death and resurrection we now know that there is life and salvation for all. God has chosen to work in and through the rough and tough of life, to bring eternal life to us and to reveal his goodness toward us.

So now also, in the midst of evil and as a result of it, we can know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Through thick and thin he is there for us; and even when we face death itself, we know that it is not the end: But in many ways the beginning of a new and perfect life with our God in heaven.

Because of God’s love in and through our Lord Jesus and the forgiveness he has made possible, in the midst of evil, we are able to go forward confidently in all that we do and face. We can even extend that love and forgiveness to those around us, and so even bring more good into life. As the Gospel reading today reminds us, we can forgive and forgive, 70 x 7. Why? Because we know that we are forgiven and our lives are taken care of, even though we are facing difficulty or even some tragedy. We have the assurance of eternal life, and so no matter what we face or what others do to us, we have what is important. So evil has been turned into good.

 Here today then, our Lord gives us a wonderful assurance as well as a challenge. Yes, our lives and the future may be full of evil and hardships because of sin, but God reminds us and promises us that despite this, he has good in mind for us, and for others as well. It may well be that He will allow this mess that we are making for ourselves in this country to get worse for a while, but through it he may well bring people back into believing and trusting in him. He will bring good out of it, as long as we do not continue to reject him and what he has to offer.

 Whatever the situation, we can face the future confidently and positively, and yet realistically, because of this assurance that God has our lives under his watchful, caring eyes. And no matter what evil takes place, we know that we can trust that he will turn it into good. No matter what happens to us along the way through this life, we know that he has secured a place for us alongside himself in eternity. Knowing that, means that we can also forgive and forgive, and help others, and so turn bad situations into something good and positive. Sure many have and will reject this, but they are then bringing on them selves the destruction that awaits those who reject Christ. For us however, let us go from here today, with that same assurance from God, that Joseph gave to his brothers; ‘You have nothing to fear. I will take care of you and your children.’ May our gracious Lord grant this faith to each and every one of us.  AMEN.  

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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