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Do Bad Choices Thwart God’s Work? (A Mini-Sermon on Joseph’s Story)

Do Bad Choices Thwart God’s Work? (A Mini-Sermon on Joseph’s Story)

Do Bad Choices Thwart God's Work?At the end of his life, Joseph could plainly see the providence of God guiding him even using the wicked intentions of other people (Gen 50:19 – 20). Not even the evil actions of his brothers, Potiphar’s wife, or even the neglect of the chief cupbearer could prevent God using these very events to bring Joseph to a position where he could save the people of God.

This story of God’s providence should serve as an encouragement to all God’s people. The account of Joseph’s life gives flesh to one of the most often quoted verses of the New Testament: “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” (Rom 8:28). In the light of the story of Joseph, we can assert that not even those who harm us can thwart God’s purpose to work good in our lives. This realization leads Paul to the astounding pronouncement that “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:37 – 39).

We must remember, however, that the good God works in our life will not necessarily feel like it. God worked the “good” of being a slave in Egypt for the purpose of saving the family of God. Still there is great comfort in knowing that our ultimate good, being in a loving relationship with God, cannot be hindered by the evil actions of others.

The ultimate expression of God using the evil actions of wicked men to accomplish redemption is not the Joseph story, but Jesus’ death on the cross. Peter expresses this truth in his Pentecost sermon:

Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:22 – 24)

Peter’s point is that the greatest salvation event of all was accomplished through the agency of wicked men who nailed Jesus to the cross. They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, “freeing him” and us from the agony of death.

Those who nailed him to the cross are not exonerated for their act. They are guilty, as were Joseph’s brothers and any who harm us. However, knowing that even those evil actions do not hinder God working his purposes through us both comforts us in our pain and keeps us from working out our revenge on those who hurt us.

Conclusion: Working in the Ordinary

Throughout the Joseph narrative, we see how God’s hand of providence has guided Joseph to a place where he could provide the needed resources for the family of God to survive the severe famine that hit the region. Here we see God working through the ordinary events of life. Rather than working through miraculous events (as he can), he works through the everyday actions and decisions (even bad ones) that people make. Mark Lanier connects this with our lives, when he asks: “How often do we feel removed from Bible stories because we fail to see the miraculous in our lives? Yet, the hand of God could not have been more involved or more evident than we have in this story of God’s providential care. We need to see God at work in the details of our daily lives, and give him credit for doing so.”

—by Tremper Longman III, adapted from his new book The Story of God Bible Commentary: Genesis

How to Use This Book

Do you need to preach or teach fresh lessons from Genesis? Or do you wonder if Genesis is even relevant to the Christian walk today? SGBC: Genesis will help you see Genesis in a new light.

Specially designed for clergy, this commentary has three easy-to-use sections designed to help you and your congregation live out God’s story:

(1) LISTEN to the Story: Includes the complete NIV text, plus references to other texts at work in each passage. This way you’ll experience each passage as a part of the Bible’s grand story.

(2) EXPLAIN the Story: Explores and illuminates each text from within its canonical and historical setting.

(3) LIVE the Story: Reflects on how each text can be lived today and includes contemporary stories and illustrations.

“The easy-to-use format and practical guidance brings God’s grand story to modern-day life so anyone can understand how it applies today.”—Andy Stanley