How Can Bad Things Be Good?

Last week we spoke about why bad things happen to good people. We know that God’s Word tells us everything works together for good. We also know that God, being sovereign, controls every aspect of everything that ever has or ever will happen. I honestly don’t believe that any Christian does not believe by faith that these words are 100% true. Where we have trouble is when we can’t and don’t understand how events, which seem so random, and so not-good, can actually be the work of The Lord. But there are, most assuredly, some things that the Lord just does not reveal to us the how or the when or the why of- good or bad.

Deuteronomy 29:29  The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Acts 1:6-7  When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?  7  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.

Romans 16:25-26  Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,  26  But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:

These passages and others indicate to us that not all things are revealed to us. And they tell us that things are sometimes revealed by God over time, His time.

Though God may not see fit to allow us to understand all things, He does, as I mentioned before, promise that all of these things happen with a purpose that is ultimately good.

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

God is constantly at work in every event.

Ephesians 1:11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (or He makes everything work out according to His plan)

He works through us, at the same time we are working, to carry out His ultimate plan. Many times, most of the time perhaps, we may not have the same intent, but the Lord is definitely acting through our actions and intentions to fulfill His plan for creation. Perhaps the clearest example of this is the story of Joseph.

Joseph was the elder of the two sons of Jacob, by Rachel. He was born in Padan-aram (Mesopotamia), probably about B.C. 1746. He is first mentioned when a youth, seventeen years old. Joseph brought the evil report of his brethren to his father, and they hated him because his father loved him more than he did them, and had shown his preference by making a dress which appears to have been a long tunic with sleeves, worn by youths and maidens of the richer class.

Gen 37:2-4
These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report. (3) Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. (4) And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him..

He dreamed a dream foreshadowing his future power, which increased the hatred of his brethren.

Gen 37:5-7
And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more. (6) And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: (7) For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

He was sent by his father to visit his brothers, who were tending flocks in the fields of Dothan. They resolved to kill him, but he was saved by Reuben, who persuaded the brothers to cast Joseph into a dry pit, to the intent that he might restore him to Jacob. The appearance of the Ishmaelites suggested his sale for “twenty pieces (shekels) of silver.” Gen 37:18-28 records the events in all of its infamous glory. Plotted against by his brothers, almost murdered, thrown in a pit to then be sold into slavery by his brothers to a foreign people, dragged away in chains and so forth. I might be stretching it but I somehow doubt that at this time Joseph saw any “good” in what was happening in his life.

Sold into Egypt to Potiphar, Joseph prospered and was soon set over Potiphar’s house, and “all he had he gave into his hand;” but incurring the anger of Potiphar’s wife, Gen 39:7-13, he was falsely accused and thrown into prison, where he remained at least two years, interpreting during this time the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, which Gen 40 records.. When the dreams Joseph interpreted came to be he was again forgotten, left behind, by the cupbearer despite his promise to tell of Joseph’s situation. Again, if it were me, I would have a hard time understanding how all of these things were for my, or any, good if I were Joseph.

Finally Pharaoh himself dreamed two prophetic dreams. Joseph, being sent for, interpreted them in the name of God, foretelling the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine. Pharaoh, at once, appointed Joseph, not merely governor of Egypt, but second only to the sovereign, and also gave him to wife Asenath, daughter of Potipherah priest of On (Hieropolis), and gave him a name or title, Zaphnath-paaneah. (preserver of life). Joseph’s first act was to go throughout all the land of Egypt.

During the seven plenteous years, there was a very abundant produce, and he gathered the fifth part and laid it up. When the seven good years had passed, the famine began.

Gen 41:54-57
And the seven years of dearth began to come, according as Joseph had said: and the dearth was in all lands; but in all the land of Egypt there was bread. (55) And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do. (56) And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt. (57) And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.

After the famine had lasted for a time, apparently two years, Joseph gathered up all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, for the corn which they brought, and brought it into Pharaoh’s house, Gen 47:13-26, and when the money was exhausted, all the cattle, and finally all the land, except that of the priests, and apparently, as a consequence, the Egyptians themselves. He demanded, however, only a fifth part of the produce as Pharaoh’s right.

Now Jacob, who had suffered also from the effects of the famine, sent Joseph’s brother to Egypt for corn. The whole story of Joseph’s treatment of his brethren is so graphically told in Genesis, Genesis 42-45, and is so familiar, that it is unnecessary to repeat it here, rather for our purposes we look ahead to chapter 50 to see how Joseph reacts to all of the things, good and bad, that have been brought upon his life by these conspiratorial brothers of his.

Gen 50:15-21 And when Joseph’s brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. (16) And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, (17) So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. (18) And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. (19) And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? (20) But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (21) Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto
them.

When he finally had the chance to exact his revenge for all of the terrible things that happened to him because of his jealous brothers Joseph chose to love them, not to get even with them. I believe that he had looked back over his life consistently, evaluating what God was allowing to happen, not unlike us. I believe that more often than not Joseph didn’t understand and may have even questioned why God let the bad things come to pass that He did; Joseph, like us still today, couldn’t see the “big picture” yet, how God was, indeed, using all these things to ultimately bring good to Joseph and many others. But I know that Joseph trusted God, by faith, that He would take care of him and deliver him through all that he faced.

Joseph lived “a hundred and ten years,” having been more than ninety in Egypt. Dying, he took an oath of his brethren that they should carry up his bones to the land of promise: thus showing in his latest action, the faith which had guided his whole life.

Heb 11:22
By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

(Published 9-28-14 as part two of “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?)