2020-01-31 - When Evil Comes
Originally Published 2007-10-24
Genesis 37 begins the story of Joseph. We are told of the boy's dream, supposedly from God, of his brothers and even parents bowing down to him. Joseph appears to be quite proud of this God-inspired vision he has had. His brothers aren't as pleased. In fact, Genesis 37:5 says it made them hate him even more. He was already the favored son, but now he also expects to rule over them. Joseph was the clearly favored son and felt like he was going to be somebody very important. Later in that same chapter, evil comes, and his story goes in a much different direction. Some of those brothers really hated him and decided to kill him, but one brother - who only maybe disliked him strongly - managed to talk them into just throwing him into a pit. When slave traders csme along, they all saw a way of getting rid of him for good without any bloodshed.
Wow! That's harsh - to be hated by your brothers and sold into slavery. But here's how Joseph sums it up for his brothers later. He says, "But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day." (Genesis 50:20a NKJV)
The same can be said of Jesus. The religious leaders wanted him silenced. They hated him. They thought the people favored him, so they plotted against him. The people also turned on him, and Jesus was crucified. But what they meant for evil, God meant for good. As Isaiah wrote, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5 NKJV) God could have come up with some other way to save mankind, but he chose to let evil run its course and triumph through it, to show that he is bigger than all things.
This is a valuable lesson that we all can learn from. Evil happens, but God works through the evil. God is in control, even when bad things happen. That seems somewhat counterintuitive. But listen to what I am saying. God does not cause the evil to happen; he works in it, to bring about something better. He is bigger than all the evil of humanity, the world, and all the demonic forces combined.
James and Paul tell us that trials bring us patience; some good comes out of some evil. (James 1:2 and Romans 5:3)
A few nights ago, my family watched a movie called Evan Almighty. It's a story of a man who asks God to help him change the world. God then tells him to build an ark. He begins going for the Noah-long-beard-and-robes look, and everyone seems to think he's going crazy due to a mid-life crisis, or the stress of being a politician. His wife takes their children to her parents to stay, until he can get his head on straight. While they're stopped at a small diner to eat, God - disguised as a waiter - strikes up a conversation with the woman, and they begin talking about prayers and how God answers them. God says, "When you pray for patience, does God just give you patience? Or does He give you opportunity to be patient? When you pray for courage, does He give you courage or the opportunity to be courageous? And when you pray for your family to become closer, does God just zap you with warm fuzzy feelings, or does He give you opportunity to become close?"
God has always used the bad to bring about good. If you saw a man hacking away at a log with a chainsaw, you might see the destruction of a tree, but he may see some great eagle in that tree, just waiting to be carved out. You may see a guy beating away at a big rock, but that guy is chiseling off everything that's not part of the beautiful statue he has envisioned.
God didn't cause Katrina, 9/11, the tsunami of 2004, or any other disastrous event to occur. He didn't create hunger or poverty. He didn't even give your loved one cancer or some other horrible disease. But he can use each of those things to accomplish his purpose. He can use the world's evil, to build his people.
A dear friend of my parents was buried today. She finally lost a long struggle with cancer late last week. But through her struggle, my parents and many others saw her joy and peace, and they learned more about God than they could have by listening to a thousand sermons. The cancer, whose sole purpose is to destroy other cells, built up the spirits of many. Sure, good things can make good, but so can bad when we let God be in control. And this woman let God be in control.
Jesus let God be in control. The night before his death, he prayed, "Not my will, but thine be done." Joseph let God control his actions. He stayed honest as a slave and as a prisoner. I don't know what your situation is, but God does. Will you let him be in control?
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted.