I read Genesis 42 this morning. It was famine. Jacob had lost his most beloved son years before. In sending ten of his others to Egypt for grain to keep the family from starving, Simeon was taken captive by a foreign power. And that same power demanded Benjamin, too. Jacob had no choices, and he expected no good thing.
"And Jacob their father said to them, 'You have bereaved me:
Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin.
All these things are against me.
...My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is left alone.
If any calamity shall befall him along the way in which you go,
then you would bring down my gray hair with sorrow to the grave.'"
Jacob was not able to see the end. But we get to. We get to see his heartbroken grief and fear. His "I can't take another thing! It'll kill me. I'll die if my sorrows increase." Two sons were dead, and the third would die, too. I read his grieving words, his fearful words, and I cried for him. But I've read the end before.
He said, "All these things are against me."
Were they? They looked like it. It had been years of miserable sorrow. Of Joseph, torn by a wild beast, of ten sons walking in fear and guilt, and of his last son, clung to as 'the one left alone' -- all he had left from Rachel, the woman he loved at first sight and worked fourteen years to get. But reality was, His Father had been working all these miserable things together for his good for all those years. Joseph's loss was his salvation. Simeon's loss dragged Benjamin down there. And Benjamin's loss brought all the rest to exactly the place where God wanted that family -- and to a reconciled, whole, fed condition.
What Jacob said was true. They had bereaved him. But remarkably, God untwisted their handiwork and saved Joseph, Jacob, the ten guilty brothers, Benjamin, and all their family in spite of it and through it. All these things were being worked together for Jacob's good all along. But they were also being worked together for the good of his guilty sons. To restore them all to each other.
Jacob said, "I'll be brought down in sorrow to the grave."
But God had plans for good for him, and not for evil. Plans to give him a future, and a hope. He was right on the edge of having food through the famine, Joseph and Joseph's children, Simeon and Benjamin all given into his hands. He was on the edge of joy, and he couldn't see past sorrow. And the very things he thought were against him, were working for his salvation.