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Last held on the 3rd of March 1974 at Daarle

And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.


One human life is not the same as another. For one everything runs smoothly. It suits him. It's all easy for him.

There’s a problem sometimes, but still, he does not come into contact with great troubles and worries. And there’s no particular misery that constantly casts a shadow over his life.

Such a person is lucky. And we all want to lead such a smooth and trouble-free life. But that’s not for everyone.

After all, how many people are there, certainly in our midst, who have to say that throughout almost their entire lives, the dark clouds of misfortune and sadness never completely disappear, and the joyful sun of happiness never shines fully! They have to say that they seldomly can walk upright and proud on their life path, but they usually drag themselves along with difficulty and stoop under a burden.

They carry their cross. Sometimes it weighs more heavily on them than other times. But the hope that they one day will get rid of it completely has been dashed in their minds. They no longer believe in that.

Now that suffering may have arisen through no fault of their own. It can be the pain of loneliness when you are early widowed. Sometimes it’s as if you’ve become quite used to it, but then suddenly, you feel the pain of the lack again, due to a certain event. No, this suffering will never really go away.

Another person is confronted with a disease. With a weak spot in the body. Rheumatism, walking difficulties, bad eyesight, deafness. You name it.

The doctor says you have to learn to live with it. Sometimes it’s not so bad, but there are also times when it’s bitterly disappointing. When you are in pain, or when you want to do things you no longer can because of your disability.

But some people carry their cross in their lives in a different way. And maybe their cross is much heavier. Something also has broken with them but through their own fault. They made a mistake, and it now dominates their entire existence. It casts a shadow over everything. It haunts them again and again.

For example, you have fathered an illegitimate child. It’s as if that child has been blaming you for the rest of your life. You gave it that shame.

There is a quarrel in your family. With a deep gorge that has arisen as a result. You were biased yourself. You were a big part of it, maybe had all the fault. That’s why blood relatives don’t want to see you. People are always missed on a birthday. Then the wound will hurt again.

There’s the awful fact that you once secretly cheated on your husband or wife. Your conscience weighs heavily. You can’t look the other person in the eye anymore. There's a fear that they will find out and don’t forgive you. You want to confess, to come clean, but you don’t have the courage.

We can supplement these examples with many others. And the people who bear such a cross are often overlooked. One cannot pity them. After all, it’s their own fault. They shouldn’t have made that mistake.

Yet they often have a difficult existence. Their lives are constantly tarnished and soured. By self-reproach and regret. If only I had never done it, but things done don’t change. By feelings of shame. Everyone looks down at me, of course. I’m a failure in society. I am an inhuman. By feelings of fear. Does my mistake have more bad consequences? You never know what the result will be. Through feelings of guilt. You can look some people never in the eye again. You also have the feeling that you never can settle things with the just and strict God. Yes, one misstep can turn life into a nightmare. It keeps pressing on you like a cross. Some people sometimes go so down spiritually that they have to be hospitalized. And those aren’t the worst.

Because the terrible people don’t care that they have sinned. Have a seared conscience. (1 Tim; 4:2

We know each other so poorly. Perhaps some of you started to think about that one act that also continues to bother him, haunts him, which he has not yet come to terms with. All our sense of sin and feelings of guilt sometimes can focus on one mistake, and we grow stuck in it.

It was the same with Joseph’s brothers. We know the history. They were jealous of him because he walked around in show robes, and his father spoiled him. And they couldn’t bear it that he had dreamed about sheaves. Joseph’s sheaf stood upright, and the brothers’ sheaves surrounded her and bowed low before her. He also had dreamed that the sun, the moon, and eleven stars, his father, mother, and brothers, bowed down to him. Do you sometimes want to be king over us? They had said furiously, and they had grown to hate their brother. And, driven by that hatred, they threw him into a well and later sold him to itinerant merchants. To father Jacob, they showed Joseph’s robe, soaked in the blood of a kid goat to give the impression that a beast of prey had devoured his beloved son.

That was their mistake. And that had major consequences throughout their lives. For would it not have hurt them that they had treated a brother, a very close relative, so badly? Would their conscience never have tormented because of that? Wouldn’t it have hurt them if they lied to their parents, and even more so by saying that their beloved son was dead when he wasn’t? Wouldn’t it have bothered them that they caused their parents to be deeply saddened as a result? That must have chilled them to the bone. Even the evilest brother could not bear to watch that. And the grief was bad and long. We read this especially from Jacob, who had lost his favourite child. “He grieved for his son for a long time.” All his sons and daughters did their best to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted, saying: “No, in mourning, I will go down to my son in the realm of the dead. “And his father wept for him.” If they themselves preferred to forget their mistake quickly, their father took care that they couldn’t do it but always was reminding them of it.

And later on, it kept reappearing during the journeys they had to make to Egypt. When Simeon had to stay behind on the first journey, they said to each other: ”This is our punishment because we have ignored our brother’s pleadings, although we saw he was terrified. That’s why we now are in misery.” And when they got home, they had to tell their father that they had to take Benjamin with them on the next journey. “You make me childless”, Jacob said. “Joseph is no longer there, Simeon is no longer there, and now you also want to take Benjamin away from me.” And the wound fully was ripped open when Joseph made himself known to them, and they found that he had become viceregent of Egypt. “It’s me, Joseph, is my father still alive?“ His brothers were unable to answer. Terror paralyzed them. Will they not escape the punishment? And when father Jacob died in Egypt, their fear rose again: “If only Joseph would now turn against us and avenge himself for all the misery that we have caused him.” Thus their whole existence has been embittered and tarnished by that one misstep. Guilt and fear are constantly awakened in them. It seems they never get rid of it.

Do you know that too? That accusing conscience? Those feelings of shame and guilt? That recurring pain in the heart? The fear that can arise? Because of that one big mistake that floated threateningly before your eyes all your life? Or a certain series of sins? Because of the realization that we often fail against our fellow human beings and especially against God? That we increase our debt every day? That even our natures have sinful tendencies? Hate, jealousy, pride? As with Joseph’s brothers?

When the Holy Spirit makes us discover our sins, we find that our lives are full of failures and flaws. And then the dark clouds of guilt continue to roll over us threateningly. Then we are stuck.

Evil can mess up much in the world and our personal lives. It’s a spoiler. Sin ruins so much, sometimes an entire life.

We see it clearly with Joseph’s brothers and also with ourselves.

And what will the brothers do when Jacob dies, and their old fear of his revenge resurfaces? The only right thing: they humbly ask for forgiveness. At first, they don’t dare to appear themselves, but they send a message. Later, when they heard Joseph had wept at this news, they took courage and went to him anyway. And Joseph’s answer is: “Don’t be afraid. I can’t take God’s place, can I? You meant evil against me, but God has turned it for good, to effect what now is happening: that a great nation may survive. So don’t be afraid. I myself will take care of you and your children. Thus he comforted them and reassured them.

Joseph received a special grace. He got enlightened eyes from God. For he suddenly manages to explain the whole strange and adventurous path of his life. His dreams, his ill-treatment by his brothers, his journey to Egypt, his slavery to Potiphar, his long captivity and the high position he now occupies, all he now knows how to interpret from God. He has discovered in it the higher sense and the deeper purpose of God. “You have thought evil against me, but God thought it for good.”

God appears to have used the evil deeds of his brothers for his redeeming and saving work. The crime against Joseph now leads to the fact, that the people with whom God made his covenant remains alive so that they are preserved for the future when God will do great things for them and through them to the world. Evil has miraculously turned into good. God has answered positively to man’s negative, the sinful, which results in so many capricious and dark ways in life. That’s the deep secret of God’s love and grace. The great secret of God’s saving dealings with man. It shows his greatness and majesty.

That’s hidden from many. They see nothing of God’s secret dealings. Everything seems to be arbitrariness. But when our eyes are opened by grace, we also see this great mystery. And also, in our own lives. It’s the secret that God uses our evil things for his good intentions. Then we find out with Joseph. Indeed, it will not be granted to every believer that he should receive such a clear insight into his life and discover God’s guidance so clearly. But even if it remains hidden from us, we can trust that it’s also true. God can use our evil for his good intentions with us and others.

God didn’t create us as dead dolls, as puppets, but as consciously living people with their responsibility. We’re people who received the freedom and the possibility from him to be active on earth driven by our own free will. And that’s why God lets us see and even bear the consequences of our actions and our sins. That’s why He doesn’t intervene immediately and visibly when we make mistakes. That’s why all those dark and difficult things can end up in our lives. That’s why it all sometimes has such an enigmatic and strange course. At first sight, there is no guidance, but it’s pure arbitrariness. It seems that there’s no one who saving intervenes and that the evil that came from our hands is increasing in a fast and erratic way.

And so we, like the brothers, are faced with the often difficult, sometimes unbearable consequences of our sins. Our lives sometimes take a dark course. And yet we may believe that all this is enclosed by God’s holy will and guidance, even though we don’t see it. He even knows how to use our sins and make them subservient to His plans. He even has something in mind with our erratic and strange way of life. He carries out his good and loving will through it. He thus fulfils his promises to us, despite our sins.

And so may the words of Joseph be fulfilled in our and many others lives: “You have thought evil, but God intended for good.” Thus it appears that God can use that one misstep that destroys an entire life for his salvation, his redemption. That does not relieve us of our responsibility. It’s no excuse for us and a reason to sin. But it does speak of God’s greatness and majesty. Of His great omnipotence, with which He can turn a curse into a blessing, with which He answers sin with grace, with which He enlists evil for His good intentions, and thus destroys the power of the evil one.

Thus, these words of Joseph sometimes can explain our entire dark life history. And they can explain the entire capricious world history.

And so the full light falls on the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ. That we reflect on at this time of the year. And there, the words of Joseph find their fulfilment. As the sons of Jacob did evil to their brother Joseph, we have harmed our brother Jesus. He also came to visit us on behalf of his Father. And He equally was unwelcome. He, too, was hated and despised. Tormented and mistreated. This ‘firstborn among many brothers’ also had to disappear from the face of the earth. And just as Joseph went the hard way of the pit, slavery and prison, so Jesus went the hard way of the suffering, the cross and the death. It also was done to him by men who thought evil against him. And again, it seemed as if God had become powerless. Here too, we are full of riddles and questions. But it also shows again how much God, in His omnipotence and love, uses evil in his service and turns it for good so that it cooperates in God’s plan of redemption instead of working against it. For thus, through this suffering, through this dark way, Jesus bore our guilt. That is the way how God wanted to be reconciled with sinners.

Joseph’s way went through the depths but rose again, even to the point that he became the ruler of a mighty realm. So also, the Lord Jesus Christ arose after his death on the cross and the grave. And all authority was given to him in heaven and on earth by the chief king, his Father. Joseph was enabled in this strange way to preserve God’s people alive, that God may continue his glorious history of salvation with his people and carry out His good plans with them. And so the life of God’s present people completely is depending on the Lord Jesus.

These are curious similarities. It appears here that Scripture is a unity, a deep spiritual unity, and that we’ve to read it from the centre of the gospel, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. In Jesus, it’s fully apparent how we think evil, and God intended it for good. Therefore, go to him to confess your guilt, as the brethren went to Joseph. Bow down before him and tell him what you did wrong in all humility. Present to him that one great misstep you have struggled with all your life and is causing you so much grief and fear. Ask him for the forgiveness of sins.

Really, He does not leave a prayer. He is not vengeful but rather merciful and forgiving. He wants to give you relief and comfort. He wants to take the cross that you bear through your faults. He wants to comfort you in everything and speak to your heart, as Joseph did to his brethren. In this way, we participate in God’s redemption.

Are you going to meet him? Do you dare to take the step? Do you think that’s the best way to get rid of your feelings of guilt, fear, and despair? Then you are on the right track. Jesus wants to save you. He is the true Joseph.

By the way, how nice it turns out to be that Joseph learned fine things from God on that strange road that he had to go. There’s something constructive and good emanating from him here. He does not want to take revenge on his brothers and still punish them. But he wants to help them. If he notices that God uses evil for good, that God has even reacted positively to sins, then he does not want to put himself in God’s place by changing anything about it. Then he does not want to oppose God’s glorious work but rather to serve it by providing food for his brothers and their children.

I hope we, too, have received this wisdom from God through our experiences in life. That we don’t want to judge in place of God those who have wronged us. That we don’t attempt to pay back. And we don’t proudly show how wronged we are and how we feel humiliated. But in all simplicity, we forgive our fellowmen their wrong deeds towards us. Forgiving, reconciling, not imputing evil, as Joseph did to his brothers, and even comforting and encouraging them in the process, that’s the most meaningful deed you can do towards your neighbour.

And that’s how you put yourself in the right relationship with God because then you don’t put yourself in his place. Didn’t God also respond to your sins with grace? And wouldn’t you do that yourself to your fellow man? Out of gratitude for God’s redemption, for the fact that He also wanted to turn evil into good in our lives, we may act so forgiving and conciliatory in our environment. Shall we do that? Perhaps this will also make people open to the gospel and belong to the saved people. The people called by Him, in whom all things, even evil, shall work together for good. Do you belong to them, and do you bring others to them?

Amen.

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