Apocalyptic Advent Day 3: Joseph and Evil

Genesis 50:20. 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.

The season of Advent, of waiting, is full of evil. It always has been. Evil was unleashed in the Garden and so we have always been waiting in the midst of great evil. The Bible doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to this. It’s perfectly clear from the Bible that evil is running amok.

As the world waited for the first Christmas, God was using the family of Abraham to bring it to pass. Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph, experienced evil at the hands of his older brothers. They were jealous and hated him so they sold him into slavery, faked his death, lied to their father, and thought they were rid of their “goody two shoes” brother. But, plot twist, Joseph was taken to Egypt where he rose to power and favor in Pharaoh’s court. It’s a long story that you can read in Genesis.

During a famine, when Joseph’s brothers came looking for help from Egypt, they were confronted by their long lost brother. Needless to say they were terrified. They were sure Joseph would exact revenge and kill them all. Instead they heard Genesis 50:20 (above).

This is one story of hundreds in the Bible where God used what was evil in this world and turned it into something good. Joseph’s suffering ultimately allowed him to save his family and the “world.”

The “problem of evil” (how can a good God allow evil) has plagued us as humans since the beginning of time. Fat books have been written about it. Theologians and philosophers have debated it. And Christians have secretly struggled with it for centuries.

Why God allows specific instances of evil to occur is probably way beyond us. In fact evil itself is probably way beyond us. Evil is more than just messing up or making a blunder. Evil is a force that seeks to control us. It controlled Joseph’s brothers that day they dumped his body into a pit and sold him away as a slave. Mess ups can be fixed. Blunders can be righted. Mistakes can literally be paid for. But evil… We need something much more powerful than our own human agency to fix it. We can’t just pay off the Holocaust. Or apologize for the slave trade. Or correct the mistakes of genocide, rape, and torture.

We are all helpless against evil.



Warning: evil gremlins killing

This is why in Romans Paul tells us that we have to die to Sin (the force). Only death can bring victory over evil. In a very real sense, Joseph had to die to his old life in order to not be defeated by evil. He had to embrace his own form of death and resurrection before he could forgive the evil of his brothers.

What does all of this have to do with Christmas? And what does it have to do with our union with Christ? Everything. The story of Joseph and the story of Christmas teach us that God is able to overturn evil. The powerful force of evil and death is defeatable. How?

Evil is not merely the absence of good. But evil is overcome with good (Romans 12:21). How is evil defeated? By the presence of good. How is death defeated? By the presence of life. That’s Christmas. God defeats evil with his powerful presence. His apocalypse. That’s what we were waiting for for thousands of years. That’s what the birth of Christ introduced to the world – goodness and life. And that is what “to live is Christ” introduces to your own life – goodness and eternal life. Evil defeated, and death destroyed by the indwelling presence of Christ in your life.

How has evil been defeated in your own life? How does your union with Christ defeat evil and bring good in its place?


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