Living in a world fettered by sin, we have all fallen short of God’s glory, and we have all disobeyed God by feeding our fleshly desires. But is there a purpose for this- is there a purpose for the pain someone else’s sin has inflicted upon us? Is there a grander purpose for the sin we have committed ourselves?
Perusing through God’s Word, we find several cases where sin was used by God. Joseph, a man after God’s own heart, endured the abuse of his brothers by being sold into slavery. At first, the situation doesn’t make sense.
How is it that the one brother who receives visions from God is the very brother who is then cast into a pit, sold into the marketplace as more of an object than a man, and is the target of deception as Potipher’s wife brought forth false accusations leading to his arrest? It doesn’t make sense in our minds.
How can a series of painful events ever result in good? That is when we all with finite minds can breathe a sigh of relief that we are not the author and perfecter of our lives or the lives of others. God has His perfect pen in tow, and yes He even uses sin on the page of our biography of us. He does not illustrate the sin Himself, for that would contradict His very nature, but it nevertheless is used by Him.
It is vital to remember that although Joseph was harmed by his brother’s own sin nature of jealousy and through Potipher’s wife in her unfulfilled lust, God did not immediately extract Joseph from their sinful repercussions that came upon him. He still allowed Joseph to be kicked into a pit of filth, and he still gave the okay for him to call prison his home. Even still, God never abandoned him. “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” Genesis 39:21
Let’s fast-forward to the latter part of Joseph’s story- after he was spurned by his brothers, left for dead, and imprisoned. What had occurred during this time frame? Joseph was able to turn the misfortune others had caused him for good by actually saving the physical lives of the Egyptians. For he said to his brothers, “ 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.” (Genesis 50:20)
God used his imprisoned state and seemingly hopeless situation to interpret dreams that would foreshadow the famine of a nation. In the prison’s walls, he was able to be a mouthpiece of God, saving the lives of many who would have most assuredly famished from the drought. God can use desperate situations (even sin others have brought upon us) to glorify Himself, and yes, even to save the lives of others.
Joseph’s response to his brothers is what is perhaps the most astounding piece of the story. Did Joseph curse his brothers for destroying his coat of many colors? Did he blaspheme them for deceptively telling their father that the blood poured on his beloved coat was only from a mere animal and not from his own body? Did he spew hateful words at their vengeance towards their own flesh by selling him in a marketplace? No. But that was their fear.
They may not have only feared his words of wrath, but his fists of brutality for they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” (Genesis 50:15) They feared his authoritative position and the possible vengeance that Joseph was all too capable of imparting upon them.
They had good reason to fear. Yet, only through the work of God who had spared Joseph from death countless times before, God again spared him from doing an atrocious act of vengeance towards his brothers, and instead, allowed forgiveness to well inside his heart instead of a spirit of animosity. The words Joseph so eloquently bequeathed to his brothers are the same words we continuously quote to this day.
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:20
Through Joseph’s story, we learn that sins from others can result in good by saving the lives of others. In a more broad sense, we can see that God can work through the sins of others to bring about good for our lives and the lives of others.
In the next part, we will look at King David’s story to see that personal sin can lead to a newfound brokenness before God.