But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:19-20)
. . . He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:31-32)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
What human mind could have foreseen it?
Joseph, sold into slavery by his jealous older brothers, then falsely accused by a vindictive woman and thrown into prison for years — all to bring about God’s purpose of saving His people (not to mention Egypt and other nations) from starvation? Perhaps the most remarkable part of the story lies in how Joseph responded to this extreme testing. Through it all, he not only trusted in, but continued to glorify God. Even when called before Pharaoh and given credit for interpreting His dreams, Joseph took no credit, but stressed that God was in control.
What human mind could comprehend it?
Jesus, the sinless Son of God, arrested, vilified, tortured and crucified — all to bring about God’s purpose of saving His people for eternity with Him? His disciples didn’t understand it, and were afraid to ask Him about what He had just told them. This didn’t sound good at all, and there are some things we’d rather not know. Who could possibly understand how killing Jesus would ever be a good thing — let alone a God thing?
That was before. Before everything changed. Before Jesus turned the whole world upside down.
Before He brought life out of death, certainty out of confusion, enduring hope from unending despair.
Then they understood.
Then they rejoiced.
Then they shared the good news.
There was persecution. There were beatings and stonings and torture and death. They suffered, but didn’t falter, because now they understood. Nothing that people could do to them would get in the way of God’s purpose to save His people. They might be killed, but God’s purpose would stand, and they would have played their part. They had been given a glorious privilege of intimate relationship with the Son of God for three years. It prepared them for the tremendous responsibility of spreading His gospel, no matter what the obstacles.
It’s human nature to want things to be predictable, to have some sense of control. We want things and people we can depend on.
Since time began, and through every generation, God has been trying — and trying — and trying — to teach us some foundational truths. A cruise through the Old testament shows a clear pattern in our response. When things were bad, people sought God and paid some attention to what He said. When things were good, they forgot God, or ignored what He said through His prophets.
So, at this time of worldwide uncertainty, what do we know for sure?
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
Despite our human limits, we can and must understand this:
- God wants us to know Him, not just about Him
- God is the Lord; He is our Father, our Savior, our comfort, our strength, our joy.
- God exercises His qualities, and does it gladly and not grudgingly. He is active, not passive. He delights in exercising His kindness to us, even though we are not always kind; His justice tempered with mercy, even though we are not always just or merciful; His righteousness to teach and correct us, even though we are not always prepared to listen or learn.
- In all things — not just some things, but ALL things — God brings good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
I don’t know and can’t imagine all the good God will bring from this pandemic. It will be more than I could ever ask or imagine, because His purposes are so much higher, wider and deeper than mine.
This is what we know for sure: God is good, God is love; God is life. God is truth and trustworthy always. When things are good and when things go to pieces, God is our peace.
Father, grant that we may walk in our knowledge of You, seek to make Your will ours, and fulfill Your purposes today and every day You give us here. In Jesus’ precious name I pray. Amen.