This question that Joseph asked when his brothers came to see him after their father had died is a good one to ask. The brothers were frightened that Joseph might finally take his revenge on them for the terrible things they had done to him, now that dad was out of the picture. They were afraid that judgment day had arrived. Joseph rightly assures them that judgment day is in the hands of another, one more holy and compassionate than him – God himself.
There are many ways in which we are so often tempted to take over God’s job. Running the world, for example. It’s so easy to think that if we had control of the world (or even our little bit of it), things would run much better. And yet the history of humans trying to exercise total control is pretty ugly. The record of autocratic church leadership is also not very edifying. ‘Jesus is Lord’ was not just a slogan for the first Christians – it was a commitment to the reality that he is in charge of everything and that the essence of following him is to live as if he is.
Joseph’s question is a good one to ask ourselves as we serve God and others. What is my role in this? What is God’s work? In evangelism , for example, we proclaim Christ, God convicts, gives the gifts of repentance and faith and converts the person. In caring for those in need, we help and support, but ultimately God saves. If we begin to think of ourselves as the prime mover in God’s work, it’s so easy to slip into the saviour mentality. And, as they say, there is only One of them, and it’s not any of us!
I’m sure if Joseph had the chance to control his future, his life would not have included many of the hard things that happened to him. Yet as he looks back, he can say that “God meant it for good”, even the bad stuff. Hindsight is such a useful and edifying thing. May God grant us the godly foresight to see the truth of Scripture and the reality of the universe, that God is bringing all things under the Lordship of Jesus (Ephesians 1:9-10), and wants us to get on board with his program. It cannot and will not fail.