Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another look at Gen. 50:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many [or numerous] people should be kept alive, as they are today. [Gen. 50:20]

A familiar and very beautiful verse, how comforting it is to know that God works all things for good. But note, this verse isn’t simply saying that God brings good out of evil situations, and it isn’t saying that God turns around evil situations to be good situations. The implications of such approaches is God slipped up letting the evil thing happen in the first place and had to use what was available to him, namely the evil event, to re-create good; and, it also diminishes the evil; I.e. ‘don’t worry about the evil, because I will make it good and it will all be ok.’

However, what is going on here is two accomplished intentions of the same event. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, namely selling Joseph to slavery out of Jealousy, - this very same event, was intended to happen by God for good, and inevitably a good purpose.

So the paradox between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is scripturally compatible in this passage. God intends and ordains this event totally to bring about good, and was in no way the author of its evil. Man, however, authored the event in its evil to bring about evil – and as such is responsible. So God can be totally sovereign over an event and ordain it to bring about its good, yet man authors the evil within it (and within God’s sovereignty) for evil intensions.


Dave said...


I think you have touched on something very important here. Isn't this much more about what human responsibility and freedom is about -less about our determining events more about whether our will is conformed to God's in terms of having the same desires and intentions from the things he has planned. Does this tie in to God's use of enemy armies to punish Israel but they in their wickedness want to harm and destory Israel to build up their own power which is why God can rightly punish Assyria for doing what at first glance seems to be the Lord's will. So that the reverse of the Genesis verse is true -what he meant for Good we meant for evil. It applies to the cross as well. The same event is the height of evil so that Peter and Stephen can say "You killed the Messiah" and yet it is God who freely offers his son as a subsitute for us

timgough said...

Yes, absolutely. In fact to use your example, take a look at Isaiah chapter 10. Assyria has two big sins; first, their evil intensions to destroy Israel, and second, there failure to see God's sovereignty over them. - And note that they are held responsible as author and advocator of these actions (v. 15f.). Yet God sees Assyria as his tool to punish godless Israel. Note Assyria are called his rod, and his axe - and warned not to boast above the axeman, who is God.

God used the armies to punish Israel, and is therefore totally sovereign over them. However, the Assyrian armies in their own heart had evil intent and further, did not acknowledge God's sovereignty over them - but esteemed themselves, and are subsequently held responsible for that.

And yes, Acts 4:11, 27-28 - 'you do whatever your hand had predestined to take place.'

And if we believe that Jesus dying on the cross was the -worst- evil ever committed, yet God had a good and perfect purpose for it; then who are we to say that all lesser evils havent a good purpose?

Praise God that his ways are so much higher, and although we are responsible for sin, he provides in his sovereignty Jesus Christ to take the punishment for that sin in our place!

God works -all things- together for the good of those who love him!

Thanx for your comment, great to meet peps' in agreement :P