“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.”
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 (Gen. 45:5-8). 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 (Gen.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. Acts 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.
In these closing words of Joseph and of Genesis, we are reminded once more of the heart of the gospel. Responding to his brothers’ fear that Joseph will punish them now that their father Jacob has died, Joseph responds, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (Gen. 50:19). The answer to that question had to be no, for Joseph knew that he, a man, could not rule or judge in the place of God. To seek to do so remains the supreme folly. We dare not seek to share in judgment that belongs only to a holy God. Yet at the culmination of redemptive history God became a man and put himself under judgment in the place of sinful man. This is supreme mercy. He dared to share in what only, to that point, had belonged to sinful man—yet he did so without sinning—to provide everlasting good from what we humans intended for evil.
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.