God intended it for good

The Standard July 23, 2020

Ever since the Farmville Community Arts Council put on an energetic and playful production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat it has been one of my favorite musicals. Basically, it is a narrative of Genesis chapters 37 through 50 without any kind of theological commentary or reflection. It’s a terrific way for children as well as adults to learn some of Israel’s history.  If you have Amazon Prime you could ask Alexa to play it and you would hear the entire show by the 1991 London cast. You also could look up a plethora of performances on YouTube. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice teamed up to create a catchy and entertaining retelling of the biblical account.

Shortly after God changes the name of the patriarch Jacob to Israel, we learn that out of his twelve sons he loves Joseph the best. Jacob makes a special, colorful robe for him, which only adds to the jealousy of the brothers. To make matters worse, Joseph recounts two instances of his dreams in which sheaves and stars, representing his family, bow down to one sheaf or star, which represent himself.

Highly irritated, his brothers throw Joseph into a pit, but then decide to sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelite traders passing by. They cunningly show their father the colorful coat which they had dipped in goat’s blood and indicate that his beloved son must have died in the clutches of a fierce animal.

After numerous trials, including two years in prison, Joseph ends up as second in command under Egypt’s Pharaoh. When famine hits all the lands except Egypt, ten of Jacob’s sons go to buy grain there. Towards the end of Genesis, Joseph reveals his identity and brings his family to this new country, where they get to settle in the best of the land. Finally, Joseph and his father are reunited, and Jacob lives out the rest of his life in Egypt.

The attitude of Joseph towards his brothers, years after they have sold him into servitude, is utterly remarkable. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’ So they sent word to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father left these instructions before he died: ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.’ When their message came to him, Joseph wept. His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. ‘We are your slaves,’ they said. But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” (Genesis 50:15-21) Despite being sold into slavery, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife and put into prison, Joseph is able to focus on the central truth that God works all things for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) Joseph’s perspective that his brothers meant to harm him but God meant it for good transcends what seems humanly possible and is an example for us to emulate, with God’s help.

 

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