God Meant It for Good
August 23rd, 1989 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-23-89 7:30 p.m.
We are now in the last chapter of the Book of Genesis, chapter 50. And we have come to the close of the life of Joseph. Beginning at verse 18:
His brethren fell down before Joseph’s face, and they said, behold, we be thy servants.
Joseph said unto them, Fear not: am I in the place of God?
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
Therefore, fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
A beautiful, beautiful word; "God Meant It For Good" [Genesis 50:20]. The story back of that word from Joseph is familiar to all of us. Because of their implacable envy and their bitterness of spirit, they sought to kill their brother. They put him in a pit to die [Genesis 37:20-24].
And out of the kindness of Reuben, seeing a group of Ishmaelites come by, they lifted him out of the pit in which he was consigned to death, sold him to the Ishmaelites [Genesis 37:26-28], and Joseph describes the sorrow and terror in his soul. As a teenage boy, he was taken down into the land of Egypt, placed on the slave block, and sold to an army captain in Pharaoh’s regiment. Then the story in the house of Potiphar is no less full of sorrow and disappointment. And he’s cast into prison, and he stays there for years and years [Genesis 39:1-20]. This is the sad life of that devoted and gifted young man Joseph, all at the fault of his brothers.
Then Joseph, speaking to them, does not castigate them, reprove them, but in a beautiful way, "What you did, you meant it for evil; but God meant it for good" [Genesis 50:20]. So all of the providences of life under God are just like that. However they may appear to us to be hurtful or even heavenly forgetful, yet God means it for good. A woman came to me and said, "Why do you always turn your back when I come near?" I had no thought. That’s the last thing in the world I would ever do. Yet somehow, being sensitive, somehow in a providence that I had no thought for, couldn’t remember for, "Pastor, why do you always turn your back when I come near?"
We may be that way in our attitude toward God. Why does God turn His back on me in the depths of my despair, or in the billows of sorrow that overwhelm my soul, or in the providences of life that bring infinite disappointment and despair? Why does God turn His back on me? Remember, whatever the providence, God means it for good. God’s meaning is like Himself. God is good. "There is none good but One,’ said Jesus, to the rich young ruler, "That is, God" [Luke 18:19].
In Romans 3:12: "None doeth good but one; that is, God." Out of all creation, all humanity, all living, we can always be assured there is One someone who is infinitely good, and that is God. And God’s goodness determines His activity. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "And ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to them that love Him?" [Matthew 7:11]. In Romans 8:28, "We know that all things worketh together for good to them that love God." And in Romans 12:2, "We are to prove what is that good and perfect will of God."
God’s meanings often travel over strange paths. That was the life of Joseph. Who would ever have thought that out of the determination on the part of his brothers that he die in the pit, finally that he be sold to the Ishmaelites into slavery [Genesis 37:20-28, 39:1-20], who would ever have thought that God was using those providences to save all of Israel? [Genesis 41:37-50:26]. Who would ever have in the earth have thought that the gospel message would center in the cross, in the suffering, in the crucifixion of Jesus our Lord? [Matthew 27:32-50]. And who would ever have claimed that it would be a bitter persecution of the church that scattered it abroad and sent it out preaching the gospel to the civilized world? [Acts 11:19-30]. We are never to forget that some of our greatest blessings come through the most tragic providences.
Many a rapturous minstrel
Among those sons of light
Will sing of his sweetest music,
"I learned it in the night."
And many a rolling anthem
That fills the Father’s home
Sobbed out its first rehearsal
in the shade of a darkened room.
[From "Songs in the Night", C.P.]
And last: God’s meanings will ultimately be made clear if you’ll just wait on the Lord. Joseph waited many, many, many years. Finally, God’s purpose of grace became plain. In Romans 11:33, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" In Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My purposes for you higher than any that you could ever realize." When you cannot grasp God’s meaning, trust Him and wait on Him.
Isaiah 50:10: "Who among you . . . that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let Him trust in the name of the Lord." In Psalm 37:7, "Wait on the Lord. And again I say wait on the Lord" [Psalm 27:14].
Until I learned to trust,
I never learned to pray;
And I did not learn to fully trust
Til sorrows came my way.
Until I felt my weakness,
His strength I never knew;
Nor dreamed ’til I was stricken
That He could see me through.
Who deepest drinks of sorrow
Drinks deepest, too, of grace;
He sends the storm so He Himself
Can be our hiding place.
His heart that seeks our highest good
Knows well when things annoy;
We would not long for heaven
If earth held only joy.
Who would want to go to heaven? Who would even think about heaven if he were strong and well, rich, and everything going his way? It’s in the sorrows, and disappointments, and frustrations, and hurts of life that we look upward to God. And it is in age and in death that we long for heaven.
A dear, sainted woman in the hospital when I was a young pastor and unknowing, I prayed, "Lord, raise her up in strength and in health." She reached out her hand and touched me and said, "Young pastor, don’t pray that. My life is lived. My work is done. I want to go to be with Jesus. Young pastor, pray that God will open the door of heaven and welcome me in." If I lived a thousand lifetimes, I will never forget that dear sainted woman teaching me in the days of my beginning ministry that these sorrows, and sicknesses, and disappointments, frustrations, and age of life are just God’s ways of making us long for heaven. God purposes some better thing for us [Hebrews 11:40].
Is there someone here tonight who has planned to come forward to give your heart in trust to the Lord Jesus, to put your life in the fellowship of the church, or to answer some call of the Spirit in your heart? Are you here planning to come forward tonight? Would you hold up your hand in the balcony, on the lower floor? Anyone?
Our Lord, what a preciousness to look upon this, this company of God’s children and know we’re all in the kingdom, and we are waiting for that day when the Lord says, "Your task is finished, your work is done, good and faithful servant, come up higher." And no matter the providences of life, help us always to trust that in it and through it God is purposing some beautiful thing for us, in Thy precious and saving and keeping name, amen.
GOD’S PURPOSE FOR GOOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. God’s meaning has one great objective: Good
1. God Himself is good, Matthew 10:17-18, Romans 3:12
2. God’s goodness determines God’s activity; Matthew 7:11; Romans 8:28; Romans 12:2
II. God’s meanings travel over strange paths
2. Cross of Jesus
3. Persecution of the early church
III. God’s meanings will ultimately be made clear
1. Joseph had to wait many years
2. Romans 11:33
3. Trust God when you cannot grasp His meanings; Isaiah 50:10