You Need to know He knows.
The following phrase from Genesis 50 is a guiding thought for our meditations on Wednesday evenings throughout Lent. It is a phrase that Joseph, the son of Jacob, speaks to his brothers when they realize that their father died and Joseph has every right to seek revenge for what they had done. Furthermore, they realize that with his position in Egypt, he also has all the authority and power to carry out his revenge. The brothers are afraid. They plead for his forgiveness, but Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 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.” (Genesis 50:19-20, ESV)
You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to preserve life.
In other words, evil is in the world, God knows it, but will use it for good in order to save many.
This year during Lent we are working our way through a few chapters of the Gospel according to Luke beginning with chapter 22 (Chapters 22-24). As we have slowly read through this chapter, we have carried that phrase from Joseph with us. We see right way great evil has come against Jesus and his closest followers. Satan has returned as Luke warned in chapter four. (4:13) Now he is orchestrating a hostile takeover, a coop of sorts. He hates God and is working overtime to destroy Jesus. In verse three Luke writes that Satan has entered Judas, then in verse 31 Luke notes that Satan is demanding to sift the disciples like wheat and chaff. It is without question that Satan is behind the arrogant and prideful argument the disciples are having during the Passover meal about who is greatest, Peter’s rejection of Jesus’ warning that he would fall away and the subsequent promise he would be restored. And the devil is surely a part of the faithless chief priests and elders mob rule non-sense as they approach Jesus in the dark of night to arrest Him and hold Him for a mock trial. This whole chapter is a slow-motion unraveling in process.
Worse, everyone is involved, this is a kind of thinning out of each person. They all diminish more and more under the thumb of the Evil One, unbeknownst to them. But God is no fool. Jesus is not in the dark. He is light and truth and the Son of the living God. He is God. And as God, he knows all things. He is not surprised nor fooled.
He warns Peter and the disciples that temptation and persecution will come. Prepare for it he tells them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” He acknowledges to the mindless mob which has come to arrest him, “…your hour has come, and the power of darkness.” It is time. He must be numbered with the transgressors. He must drink the cup of wrath, the righteous judgement of God that must be poured out for those who do evil, those that have sinned against God. The righteous will bear the cup that was meant for the unrighteous.
You see my friends, the suffering, the persecution, and even the temptation wreaking havoc in this chapter and the chapters to come, are coming by the hand of Satan. And Jesus knows it. Evil has seeped into every person involved and Jesus knows. Satan will succeed in putting the Son of Man to death. And Jesus knows that the “wages of sin is death.” He knows that it will be his death, his blood that will be poured out for the forgiveness of those sins.
What the devil meant for evil, our Father in heaven will use for good, that many might be saved through his one and only Son.
And so, you have been saved, redeemed, reconciled to God even while you were still enemies, weak and a sinner. That work is finished, it has been accomplished for you and life is given to you by grace, as a gift. Rejoice! Amen!
Now in this life you will have trouble, like those disciples in this chapter. There will be hardship, moments of temptation and even moments where fear will drive us to faithlessness. However, Jesus gives great promises to you in his word just as he gave great promises to those twelve disciples in Luke chapter 22. They are there for you and whether you cling to them or not they will come true as they did with Peter and the apostles. Peter was restored though he denied Jesus, as Jesus said. The apostles are seated with Christ at his table, in his kingdom, judging the twelve tribes of Israel as Jesus said, though they all were sifted and shaken by the devil that night. God is not surprised at your temptation, or that the devil is prowling around, or shocked at your sin. He knows.
However, like the apostles, you too have been given promises, that though there is trouble, persecution and temptation, Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you (Joshua 1:5). That he has prepared a place for you and he will come again and take you there (John 14:1-3). We know that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” Finally, but not lastly, we hear and know that all things, even the evil, “…work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).” Can you remember any promises?
Your task then is to remember these promises, to meditate upon them day and night. To keep them ever before you so that when you are unraveling you can be strengthened by the one who is your strength, the one who overcame sin and death so that you may live. Then you pray that you may not enter into temptation saying, “…lead me not into temptation” and “Deliver me from the evil one…”
You remember and you pray--in faith! You believe, you trust. Our God is a God who fulfills his promises, from creation to this day, we can see that in the gift he has given in the Bible, his words revealed to us. Take heart. Have courage. Believe. Pray.
“Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.” (Nunc Dimittis—Compline)
The almighty and merciful Lord, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless and preserve you.