Don’t you just love the surprise ending you didn’t see coming, the last-minute plot twist that turns everything upside down and leaves you speechless? I know I do. Some of my favorite books, movies and stories are those with the unexpected ending that I didn’t see coming. (which is why it was unexpected in the first place) I like a mystery that surprises me at the end, when the villain is revealed and it is not the person I had thought it was all along. This forces me to look back and reevaluate all the “clues” I missed, now that I am viewing the story from a completely different perspective – the perfect perspective of hindsight.
The Bible is filled with stories that turn out very differently than what I would predict when just hearing the story for the first time. (must be why I love reading it so much) The stories in the Bible are full of unexpected, unlikely, stunningly surprising twists, turns and endings in the lives of most of the individuals whose stories are told as part of the larger narrative that is God’s story. Here I see God’s presence and participation in the lives of those He has created, working through them to write His story, accomplishing His good and eternal purposes.
Because we have free will, there is always lots of drama in the story and it often looks as if evil has won. But appearances can be deceiving and if I have learned anything it is this – never give up hope. God is in the redemption business. No matter how events are unfolding in any particular person’s story, I hang on to these words from Psalm 33:11,
“But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.”
There’s that all important – “but God” – or in this case “but God’s plans” – His plans are the ones that will prevail. And that is the case in today’s “but God” story – the story of Joseph. This is such a familiar and popular story that it has even been told as a musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Yes, Joseph did receive a very special coat from his father, Jacob. That’s probably when all the trouble started and where our story starts in earnest. Joseph was number eleven of twelve brothers and being shown this kind of favoritism by his father did not sit well with his brothers.
To say they were jealous is kind of an understatement. They wanted Joseph dead and plotted to kill him. Turns out instead of killing Joseph, they simply sold him to a slave caravan heading to Egypt. They told their father a wild animal had killed Joseph and they thought their problem was solved – they were rid of the brother of whom they were so jealous. Good riddance – right?
Meanwhile Joseph’s story continues with him living as a slave in Egypt. He finds favor and eventually attains a position as manager, in charge of his master’s entire household – that is, until he is put in jail due to false allegations of seducing his master’s wife. You would think his story ends here because he’s in jail with no hope for his release. But no, there’s a second act and Joseph gets a second chance. While in jail, Joseph correctly interprets dreams for two fellow prisoners, who just happen to be Pharaoh’s former cupbearer and baker. This eventually leads to his being called to do the same for Pharaoh. Next thing we know, Joseph is out of prison and is put in charge of all of Egypt. He is now second only to Pharaoh. This would be a good ending to Joseph’s story, it seems to me.
But it’s not up to me and there is more – a final plot twist as it were. There is a widespread famine in the land and many people come to Egypt to purchase food because under Joseph’s wise leadership, Egypt has stored up an abundance of food in preparation for the coming famine. And who should journey to Egypt in hopes of finding food but Joseph’s brothers. That’s right. The very same brothers that sold Joseph into slavery all those years ago.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking at this point in the story? Joseph finally has the opportunity to get back at his brothers for the evil they did to him. He could refuse to sell them food and let them starve. They would get what they deserved, right? But that’s not what happened. Not even close. Our story takes an unexpected turn, ending this way –
“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 50:19-21)
Now that’s a surprise ending! – totally unexpected. Who could have seen that coming? Forgiveness, kindness, provision for the brothers who had betrayed him in the worst way. Why? Notice that Joseph’s words to his brothers contain the words “but God” – they intended him harm “but God intended it for good . . . the saving of many lives.”
so there it is, today’s plot twist brought to us by the words “but God” – two of my favorite words for sure.
“But You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)
sincerely, Grace Day