God’s Good Intentions
Dec 2, 2013 1224
by Levi James
For almost twenty years Michael Henchard, Mayor of Casterbridge, worked hard to become a successful corn merchant. He was rewarded with not only material prosperity, but the respect and admiration of the townsfolk. When Donald Farfrae came, however, things were never the same. Whereas Farfrae couldn’t put a foot wrong, things lurched from bad to worse for the Mayor of Casterbridge. First he lost the mayoralty. Then his businesses went broke and he had to sell out to Donald Farfrae. Furthering his humiliation, he was obliged to ask Farfrae for work and seek a poor man’s lodgings while taking up his old career as a farm labourer.
During those dark days, Henchard fell to bitter brooding over the turn his fortune had taken. He felt that some demon fate was toying with him, killing him inch by inch; that he was in the grip of conspiratorial forces intent on crushing him
When Jacob’s ten eldest sons arrived in Egypt to buy grain, Joseph, their younger sibling whom they had sought to destroy twenty years before, now had his tormentors in his grasp. What would he do to them? Those years of slavery and imprisonment rose up in his mind, yet he refused to exact revenge. Instead he manipulated them in ways to remind them of their long-secret crime. So the guilt of their jealousy and violence was dredged up and they were forced to relive it all.
Though they did not realize that the Egyptian ruler was in fact Joseph, they were made to feel that they were being punished at last for what they had done to him. “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” cried Reuben. “Now we must pay for his blood.”
Relentlessly Joseph pushed the brothers down, down into a paroxysm of remorse and despair; until to their horrified surprise, he identified himself to them, and they were terrified. They were sure that they were about to be consumed by an unstoppable law of retribution. Joseph saw otherwise. He felt that what had happened in his family history would be the cause of a great good.
What is your interpretation of the events of your life? If things are going well for you, do you suppose you are being rewarded? If everything appears to be against you, do you think that your chickens are coming home to roost; that the universe is conspiring to do you in?
It is a fact that sometimes we reap some reward for good deeds or our bad ones. But the law of sowing and reaping is not absolute. Something greater is directs the course of our life. Ultimately the world is not under the control of the evil that we do, nor of the good we may achieve. The world is steered by God. Even events that are wicked, unjust and painful, the cause of much heartache can be drafted into service by God and forced to contribute to his purposes. God is greater than all evil; that is the message of the Cross. The perpetrators of that terrible wrong believed they were ‘taking care of business.’ But the initiative was stolen from them, and God made the Cross his.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done; the saving of many lives”(Genesis 50:20).
– Levi James