In Genesis 50, Joseph is speaking to his brothers. The brothers that threw Joseph in a pit and then sold him into slavery. Joseph's brothers are afraid that Joseph is going to take revenge on them. But Joseph says, No worries. And then, there's this famous word that usually gets translated something like this: What you intended for evil, God intended for good.
Now I want to focus in on that word intended. Intention implies a plan. That someone set out to do exactly what happened. And what can happen with this kind of mentality is that God is turned into a master chess player, or marionette string puller. The brothers thought they were working out of their plan to hurt their brother. But in fact Joseph being sold into slavery was God's plan all along.
And this is a problem for me. It makes God into a Jack Bauer-esque, the ends justify the means kind of deity. It doesn't matter how bad, painful, evil, or wrong the events in your life might be. As long as they lead to a greater good, then God has no problem putting awful things into your life.
But, let's go back to the word "intended." The Hebrew word is ha-shab. It has to do with calculating, thinking, reckoning. Its the word used about Abraham. Abraham had faith in Yahweh God; and God reckoned that faith to him as righteousness. It can also be a word used for workmanship. In Exodus, skilled laborers are asked to take thread and fabric and reckon them into curtains and fine cloth.
Think of it in terms of ancient currency conversion. You give me 10 seashells, I reckon those are the equivalent of a good pot of stew.
Now thing rings a little different. What you thought or reckoned was going to hurt me, God reckoned, thought of, or converted it to good.
And I think this an altogether far more helpful way of looking at how God treats the bad things in our lives. God never intends harm for us. God never intends evil for us.
BUT God is infinitely wise and good enough to reckon evil, convert evil, squeeze evil into something good.
God did not WANT me, INTEND for me to have a hole in my heart or to be a foster kid. But God was able to use that for good in my life. And that's a big difference. It's the difference between looking at the atrocities in the world and saying, "It's all part of God's plan," which makes God a terrible planner; or looking at the evil in the world and saying, "This is not God's will. But God help me to cooperate with you to bring something, to reckon something good out of all of this."
May you, friends, join God in bringing heaven down to earth, to reckoning with evil, and to reckon for good, to join God in the renewal of all things.