27 Jun 2016

Turning Men’s Evil Intentions to Good Outcomes

Religious 4 Comments

One of the most beautiful passages in Scripture is an adult Joseph forgiving his brothers (who, when he was a teenager, had literally sold him into slavery because they were jealous of him):

15When 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?” 16So 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.

18His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

I added the bold. That should help you forgive others and move on with your life.

Then in the book of Exodus, we see the same thing: Pharaoh orders that all the Israelite male newborns should be killed–which of course is a horrible thing–but God ultimately uses that to allow Moses to be raised in the Pharaoh’s court and become the man he needed to be.

Incidentally, as my study partner and I worked through Exodus, I noticed something that I hadn’t caught before. First the context: In Exodus 3 God tells Moses that he is going to deliver the message to Pharaoh, and rescue his people out of bondage. Then this is Exodus 4, where Moses has his doubts:

1Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”

2Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

3The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4Then the Lord said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5“This,” said the Lord, “is so that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

6Then the Lord said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, the skin was leprousa —it had become as white as snow.

7“Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

8Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second. 9But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”

10Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

11The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

13But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.”

14Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you. 15You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17But take this staff in your hand so you can perform the signs with it.”

Look at the part I put in bold. I had remembered Moses saying he wasn’t a good speaker, but I didn’t remember that he flat-out asked God to pick somebody else–and this was after God had performed three miracles (starting with the burning bush) in the previous 5 minutes. (!)

But what’s really interesting is that the Lord doesn’t say, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that, get going.” No, He caters to Moses’ weakness by bringing Aaron into the equation.

*   *   *

I was listening to Tom Woods tell Isaac Morehouse some unpleasant details about his childhood, and it made me smile. First, because it sounds like Tom had a very similar experience as me, in junior high. Second, because that stuff needed to happen for Tom to become the Jedi Knight of Liberalism he is today.

God knows the whole scope of human history; He knew it before the first people existed. He knows your flaws but He also knows your potential. He has arranged everything–down to the last atom in a star billions of light-years away–so that His wonderful story will unfold just as He planned.

Was there any chance that on page 550 of Book 7 of the series, J.K. Rowling would realize she’d painted herself into a corner and that Harry Potter wouldn’t be able to defeat Voldemort? Yet even though we know that as outsiders, Harry was still anxious and doubtful throughout the whole series, because he didn’t realize he was the star in a novel written by an author with a good heart.

If you trust your life to the Lord, you will achieve a peace that surpasses all understanding. Paul was writing letters in prison and was full of joy.

4 Responses to “Turning Men’s Evil Intentions to Good Outcomes”

  1. Colombo says:

    Great, great post.
    Thank you.

  2. Khodge says:

    I second Colombo. So many people try to push the focus on a vengeful, murderous God and never speak of the loving Father carefully nurturing, exhorting his children to become the loving people from whom Jesus springs.

  3. Zack says:

    Good post. That Woods interview was interesting too.

  4. Reader says:

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the post.

    Why do you believe that the book of Exodus belongs in the bible (the canon of scripture)? Why do you believe that the book of Exodus is the inspired word of God? Why don’t you believe these things regarding the gospel of Thomas, the Didache, or Macabees?

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