We all know that God has the solutions to our problems before we are even aware of the need, but do you realize God fulfills promises before He even makes them? One of the great promises of the Bible is recorded in Romans 8:28-29, where, loosely paraphrased, He says He will take every circumstance in our lives and use it for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes so that they can be conformed to the image of His Son that He might be the firstborn of many. That promise was recorded by Paul in the first century after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Some two millennia prior to that, the sons of Jacob sold their brother Joseph into slavery. They were all jealous of him and wanted him removed from their presence so Jacob wouldn’t favor him over them. They cared not a whit what happened to this brother of theirs—they just wanted to improve their own lots.
We’re familiar with the story. After toiling as a slave, Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar, his master, and later Pharaoh.
Although I don’t believe God caused the brothers to do this, I do believe He knew what would happen. In some way we don’t understand, He managed—without violating the free will of the brothers or of the slave traders or of Potiphar—to bring about the circumstances that saw Joseph taken to Egypt and sold to this master.
Then, again without violating anyone’s free will (although numerous people violated Joseph’s), He managed to have Joseph thrown into jail where he would meet Pharaoh’s cupbearer, who would eventually cause him to be brought before Pharaoh and Pharaoh would end up elevating him to the status of being number two man in all of Egypt.
Through this chain of events which God managed to bring about, Jacob and the very brothers who had committed this atrocity against Joseph were saved from famine. They would have died of starvation without the help they received through Joseph. God took a bad circumstance and a foul deed and used them for good not only for Joseph, but for this entire household, which was the foundation upon which the nation of Israel was built.
Yes, but that’s all Old Testament stuff. What does that have to do with the book of Romans? The book of Romans would not have been written, nor would any of us have any hope in this lost world, except for the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it was Jacob’s seed which provided the nation and the family into which Jesus was born.
Taking our story a little further, these seventy Israelites who came to Egypt found a land of plenty. They grew ample crops and lived good lives. They became very comfortable and complacent living in Egypt. But God’s promised land for them was in Palestine, and getting there required leaving all this comfort they’d found in Egypt and going out into the desert. Not likely for a bunch of happy and complacent people.
Enter more bad circumstances. Since the Israelites procreated at a faster rate than the Egyptians, Pharaoh became concerned that they might end up taking over. By now, the man sitting on Pharaoh’s throne had no connection with Joseph at all and no reason in his mind to favor the Israelites, so he ordered them taken into slavery. As slaves, they were treated very harshly and soon longed to escape.
Without this slavery, the people probably would never have agreed to leave Egypt. But the beatings, the killing of sons and other atrocities perpetrated by their captors put them in the mood to listen to Moses.
Once again, God took what appeared to horrible—even tragic—circumstances and used them for good for His people. God fulfilled His promise centuries before the promise itself was recorded.
Ø Think back about times you really desperately wanted something you didn’t get—only to find later that God had something much better for you that you’d have missed out on if you’d received what you wanted?
Ø Think about times you’ve encountered a roadblock—a flat tire, engine trouble, etc—only to discover later that the roadblock kept you from being involved in a bad accident or some other mishap?
Ø When you miss out on something you really want or have something bad happen to you, are you able to look beyond that circumstance and thank God that He has something better for you—even if you can’t see it at the time?