Genesis 50:20 Tanach (Tanakh, Hebrew Bible, Judaica Press) “Indeed, you intended evil against me, [but] God designed it for good, in order to bring about what is at present to keep a great populace alive.”
Genesis 50:20 Old Testament (ESV: English Standard Version)“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.”
What Joseph said to his brothers in this verse is incredible! Let us first notice what Joseph did not say. Joseph did not say “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God used it for good.” He also did not say “As for you, you meant evil against me, but I overcame it for good.”
Instead, Joseph saw God working through his brothers’ sin and evil, cruel intentions. God worked through the evil, sinful, cruelty of his brothers to bring about Joseph’s triumph in Egypt and the saving of many lives through the famine.
Joseph saw God at work in everything! God’s hand moved and guided every aspect of Joseph’s life, and Joseph trusted this, even when in the natural, to his regular earthly human eyes, ears, and mind, things seemed terrible, horrific, alarming.
You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good describes attributes of God, His providence and His sovereignty. Regardless of the intention of people be it good or bad, God will bring about His own ultimate end. Always. What God means to happen, will ultimately happen. Always. God is always in control.
There is a powerful distinction between God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will. God’s perfect will is unchangeable. It is with His permissive will, or the various things that He allows into our lives which He uses to accomplish His divine purpose for our lives, and the big picture far beyond us.
It is our reaction to things allowed by God’s permissive will that enables us to begin seeing His perfect will, at least in the small picture, for us. It is in these moments as we pray and walk, we are matured, developed, deepened. It is good. It is beautiful. Yes, it is also challenging and can be painful. Then again, if we want to become physically fit, it is challenging and can be painful. We have work out our muscles. No different in the spiritual realm!
As Genesis 50 unfolds we see how Joseph treated his brothers with mercy, loving kindness, undeserved favor (grace.) But wait a second, read back to Genesis 37. How does mercy, loving kindness and grace become cultivated in the heart of one so cruelly treated?
The answer is found in Joseph’s theology (what one believes about God.)
Joseph had a clear understanding that what his brothers did to him was completely and thoroughly evil. However, Joseph also had the clear understanding that although they meant it for evil, God meant it for good. He may or may not have been able to see that good at the time the cruelty was occurring, but he knew God (not just knew of God, but truly knew who God is; character attributes.)
Joseph had a clear understanding that God was at work and God is in control. God can always be trusted for the outcome, again, no matter what we see or experience here on earth. The theology of the sovereign (ultimate, supreme, unrestricted, unlimited) purpose and providence of God (protective care, timely preparation) is what generated the attitude of Joseph’s heart and allowed him to respond to his brothers as he did.
God used Joseph’s suffering and his subsequent circumstances to accomplish His own sovereign purposes in a huge way. God had a plan for the world. To fulfill that, God had a plan for the nation Israel. However, to fulfill that, God had a plan for Joseph. All was tied together. God used Joseph, to preserve a people, so there would be a nation called Israel, the nation from whom the prophets would come. The nation who would be given the Scriptures, the nation from whom the Messiah would come, the nation through whom the world would be blessed. (Links to Tanakh Genesis 3:15; Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:1-18; Genesis 46:3; and here is the entire block of these scriptures in the Old Testament.)