When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him. So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
When he first revealed himself to his brothers, Joseph said three times that it was most ultimately God who had sent him on to Egypt, not his brothers (v. 5, 7, 8). Now Joseph returns to this truth and articulates explicitly what has been implicit all through the Joseph narrative and indeed all through Genesis: all things, including the evil actions of godless men, are under the wise, governing hand of a gracious God who intends final good for his people (50:20).
The historical climax of this profound truth is the cross of Christ—here, if anywhere, is an act of evil: the crucifixion of the one person who ever lived a life undeserving of punishment of any kind. Yet even this, the book of Acts tells us, was under God’s good hand. Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23; cf. 4:27-28). This does not exonerate the wicked actions that carry out such evil, but it does give us the broadest vision for what is happening at any given point of history, even when evil seems to triumph most horrifically. God is there. He is with his people. He is working out his redemptive purposes.
This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.