Day 29: What Was Meant For Evil

Opening Prayer: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 41:50-52
  • Genesis 50:20
  • Psalms 135:6
  • Proverbs 16:4
  • Romans 8:28

The Sovereignty of God. It is a theology that entire denominations have been built and broken on. Questions like what does God cause and what does God allow are more than just semantics. Where does God’s control end and free will begin? How do His plans interact with the sins of man and the will of Satan to steal, kill, and destroy? People a lot smarter than me have been arguing these points for centuries and we will not perfectly answer these questions today.

What is not in question is God’s hand in every twist and turn of Joseph’s story. He was with him in the pit, in Potiphar’s house, in Prison, and in the Palace. He used the good, bad, and ugly parts of Joseph’s journey to bring Him to Genesis 50:20 where Joseph declares to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph’s brothers intended death, but God intended life. Joseph’s brothers thought it was the end of his dreams, but knew it was just the beginning. We may never know the exact line of what God causes and what God allows in a fallen, broken world, but we can be confident that He can USE every bit of our story for His purposes as well.

Have you ever used fertilizer or compost in your yard, garden, or flower beds? There are many store brand fertilizers full of chemicals but when we get back to basics we find that it is usually made of manure. The actual definition of manure is “excrement, especially of animals, or other refuse used as fertilizer.” Similarly, compost is “a mixture of various decaying organic substances used for fertilizing soil.” It’s the watermelon rinds, the old newspapers, the grass clippings, the used coffee grinds and the egg shells. It’s the unused, inedible, and rotting. Both fertilizer and compost are smelly, dirty, and gross. But every good gardener, farmer, or green thumb knows it is golden. It adds life and nutrients to the soil and to the plants that will eventually grow in it. Something rotten becomes something beautiful. Something dead bring life.

God can redeem all things. With Him, nothing is wasted. He can use our hurts, our shame, the things that were done to us and even our own mistakes. On their own, these things can stink up a life and rot out a soul. But when we remain faithful and bring them to God we can say like Joseph, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” He can use the parts of our story, our past, the detours on our journey for our good and His glory.

Today’s Big Questions: When you look at your own journey towards God’s purposes and dreams for your life, can you identify places where someone meant to harm you, but God used it for good? Have you turned over the rotten parts of your story to Him for Him to redeem?

Prayer Response: Today ask the Holy Spirit to reveal those detours He has used or desires to use you in your life. Sit still in His presence long enough to be encouraged that “no weapon formed against you shall prevail (Isaiah 54:17)” and His sovereignty means that nothing is wasted or unredeemable.

Optional Action Step: Tell someone about the ways you have seen God use what was meant for evil and death in your story for good and life. Encourage them to share their own “fertilizer to fruitfulness” story. Maybe even start collecting kitchen scraps in an old coffee can to use in your flower beds as a reminder that nothing is wasted with God.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Day 28: Forgiveness

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 42-45
  • Matthew 6:14-15
  • Ephesians 4:31-32

And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.” -Genesis 41:57

I wonder if Joseph looked for their faces in every crowd that came through Egypt to buy grain. I wonder if he had rehearsed the confrontation in his head for years. I wonder if he was expecting his band of betraying brothers to show up hungry at some point because he recognized them right away. This was the moment. The youngest brother crying out for his life from the pit was now the one who held all the control. He could have them killed on the spot. He could send them away without grain to a slow, starving death. What would Joseph do to his brothers?

When the time came, I think Joseph needed more time. For 3 chapters it seemed he played games with them, testing their character. He kept his identity hidden as he made false accusations and unreasonable requests, pressing them for information on the family. Joseph doesn’t appear ready to roll out the red carpet of forgiveness at first sight. Were his brothers still money hungry, as it appeared they had been when they decided to sell Joseph rather than kill him? No, because they returned the silver they found in their bags twice. Did they still hate the favored sons of Rachel and care little for their father’s heart? No, because they were willing to sacrifice themselves for young Benjamin and fought to protect Jacob from further heartbreak. Were they still calloused to Joseph’s plight and the memory of him crying out? No, because in 42:21 they recognized,” surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life but we would not listen.” Though we never read an apology from the brothers to Joseph, I think we see a change in their character by the time they reach Egypt. We don’t know if Joseph wanted to discern that before he offered forgiveness. The truth is, we aren’t commanded only to forgive if the offending party is sorry or changed. We are commanded to forgive because Christ forgave us. But I think Joseph’s fear of forgiveness overlaid on his deep concern for his family shows us that Egypt’s savior and second in command was still very much human.

Ultimately, Joseph revealed himself and started walking the road toward forgiveness and reconciliation because he was more attached to God’s sovereignty and His plan, than he was to his own agenda. In Genesis 45:5,7-8 Joseph, overcome by emotion, says to his terrified brothers, “do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here but God.” Joseph couldn’t deny God’s hand in his unexpected life. He had relinquished his own self-serving dreams somewhere along the road to slavery or inside a prisons’s cell. There is something about hitting rock bottom that gives you perspective. There is something about having absolutely nothing that frees the ordinary blessings to become everything. And now Joseph’s life truly was immeasurably more than he could have asked or imagined when he was dreaming of stalks of grain. The puzzle pieces fell into place for him and he no longer hated his brothers for the part they played in getting him to this day.

Finally we see that Joseph didn’t just barely forgive his brothers, like my kids do when I make them apologize to each other. He didn’t stop at a disgruntled, “I forgive you” under his breath. He went on to abundantly pour all the blessings he had access to onto his family. Instead of giving them only the sacks of grain they had come for, he gives them “the best of the land of Egypt (45:18).” In this example, we really see what Jesus has done for us. He doesn’t stop at forgiveness or even at eternal salvation. He desires to give us “every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3)

Refusing to forgive is like refusing to take the trash out. The job might be tedious and smelly, but refusing to do the work brings far more rancid consequences. From Joseph we learn that taking some time to process may not be bad but we are called to forgive no matter how sorry or changed the other person is. We also learn that tying ourselves to God’s sovereignty and dream for our life will free us up to forgive others that may have interrupted our own agenda. And if we really want to be like Christ, we will not hold back, but offer abundant blessings to those we forgive.

Today’s Big Questions: Is there someone in your life that you know you need to forgive today? Are you waiting for an apology or a changed heart? Can you see where God has had his hand on the situation, even if it hurt?

Prayer Response: Today, ask God to not only give you the ability to forgive just as Christ forgave you, but ask for the power to bless those who have hurt you.

Optional Action Step: Volunteer to take the trash out today at home or at work. As you do, remember Ephesians 4:31-32 and imagine yourself getting rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Remember that the rot of un-forgiveness in your heart is so much more than the stink of that garbage.

Closing Prayer:Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Day 27: Never Could Have Dreamed

Opening Prayer:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.”

Daily Scripture Reading:

  • Genesis 41:1-49
  • Proverbs 2:6-10
  • James 1:5

Imagine you are Joseph for a moment, sitting in prison like you have been for at least 730 days. It has been a “full two years” since the cupbearer promised to remember you, show you kindness, mention you to Pharaoh, and get you out of this prison (Gen. 40:14). It seems he forgot. And then all of a sudden, the guard is calling your name. You are rushed from the dungeon to the bath house where you are commanded to get cleaned up, clean shaven, and given a fresh new pair of clothes. Before your hair is even dry, you find yourself before Pharaoh himself. You catch a glimpse of the apologetic cupbearer in the corner giving you a timid “thumbs up” as you look around confused. Pharaoh looks like he isn’t sleeping well as he booms, “I had a dream and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

No pressure.

After all the years of waiting, it seems the rise happens at a dizzying pace. Joesph gives credit to God before clearly interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. But he doesn’t stop there. Without being asked, he goes on to succinctly outline a 14 year plan for the preservation of a nation. Did I miss the part of the story where Joseph got his masters in business with a minor in foreign affairs? His quick thinking and obvious wisdom left Pharaoh asking his officials “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” A day that started off in prison, ended with Joseph second in command of Egypt.

He never could have dreamed the turn of events.

I’m struck with the seamless mixture of the supernatural and natural in this part of Joseph’s story. Joseph was given the supernatural gift of being able to interpret Pharaoh’s dream when no one else could. He knew that wisdom came straight from God and he had the supernatural courage to use it for the good of a nation. But he also needed a shower. And instead of advising Pharaoh to offer sacrifices and pray for God not send the famine, Joseph presented a solid, very natural plan to save Egypt.

I’m also struck with the fact that Joseph skyrocketed to leadership with seemingly few earthly qualifications. Before this, he had been a shepherd, a slave, a personal assistant, and a prisoner. God had used him in every place, but this was a whole new league. But what Joseph lacked in experience or education paled in comparison with who Joseph had in His corner.

I hope we can be encouraged in these things today. God can use the supernatural and the really ordinary parts of your story to take you to where He wants you to go. You may need to pray and press into the gifts of the Spirit, and you also may need to come up with a very “boots on the ground” plan. Your earthly qualifications (or lack there of ) don’t matter if God’s dream for your life is qualifying you for a position. I believe God wants His children in places of influence and leadership and I believe He is ready and willing to pour out the creative ideas, wisdom, and knowledge needed to get us there. And lastly, you just never know what a day will hold. You just never know when the waiting will end and you will be skyrocketed into your purpose as well. Don’t lose heart.

Today’s Big Questions: Do you tend to rely on your own knowledge, experience, wisdom, education, and intelligence or do you pray continually for God to supernaturally increase those things in you? Are there places you are being held up because you are waiting for the supernatural when God may be asking you to put a natural plan into place? Are there places you are relying too heavily on your natural abilities rather than on the God of all wisdom?

Prayer Response: Today, very simply, pray James 1:5 over yourself and your dream. Admit to God where you lack wisdom, ask Him for it, and thank Him that He gives it generously without finding fault.

Optional Action Step: Take a walk to get away from distractions and focus on a dream you have been waiting on. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak clearly to you about it. Ask for clarity, wisdom, and creative ideas concerning that dream. Ask if there is a plan you should construct or if you should continue to wait.

Closing Prayer: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.