At the close of Genesis, Joseph says to his brothers, “‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today'” (Genesis 50:19-20).
As Joseph looked back on his life, he could only see how God used his brothers’ evil for His ultimate good—that many people should live. Not only the peoples of the earth coming to Egypt to receive grain and live, but especially the people of Israel—God’s chosen people—to live. That God meant evil for good is not only the crux of Genesis; it is also the crux of the entire Scriptures. If we consider the entire story of Israel—all the evil they went through and even committed—God spited all this evil to bring the ultimate good of the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Despite it all, Jesus came to save us all. Even more, while our killing Jesus on the cross was intended for evil, God meant it for good that by His death we would live. The Jews thought they were getting rid of a blasphemer and the Greeks thought they were getting rid of a political rebel, but Jesus intended their evil for good that both Jew and Greek should live (Romans 1:16).
Thus, as we live as God’s people under the justifying tree of the cross, God intends every evil for good. As St. Paul says, “And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Evil may be perennial, but God is working it all out for His good purpose. All of Scripture is a testimony to this reality of who God is. Evil may be happening, which you also commit. But do not fear. Be patient. “‘Be still and know that I am God! I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth!'” (Psalm 46:10).
One of the questions my parishioners often ask me is, “Pastor, when is it all going to end?” Whether it’s the pestilence of COVID-19, acts of criminal violence one after another, kidnappings, cancer taking someone we love yet again, or whatever it is weighing on the minds of the people under my care, they will often come up to me asking when this is all going to end. I don’t know the answer, of course. I can only answer as Joseph did, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? We commit evil against one another, and the devil enacts evil upon us, but God uses it for good, to bring it about that many people should live in Christ, as they are today.”
How will God bring good out of COVID or criminal violence in Saginaw, Michigan, or cancer, or whatever it is? Aside from them being a believer and resting in the Lord upon death until they are raised from the dead, what possible good could come out of these evils? I don’t know, because I’m not God. But what I do know is God’s promise—that God answered this question in Jesus. That as Jesus suffered and bled naked on the cross with His muscles and bones hanging out, we find the end to violence and death in the violence and death inflicted upon Him. It all comes to an end in Jesus.
This is why the cross is our hope. Though we do not now see the end of death, violence, and evil, we nevertheless see its end on the cross—dead. And as we look at the cross, we also look toward the resurrection, where Christ rose from the dead in victory and has promised a resurrection like His by virtue of our Baptism (Romans 6:3-5). Thus, when He returns again—and He is coming soon—we too shall rise victorious over death. When Jesus exited the tomb, He left death and sin in there. Thus, when we shall rise from our own graves, death and evil shall be left behind, utterly destroyed by Christ’s glory.
Featured image by Alem Sánchez. Pexels.