But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:20)
Joseph expresses here a glorious truth about God. We all try to understand why there is evil in the world and how it is that God is involved in it. Some feel that God has allowed evil to preserve the capacity of libertarian freedom, to be able to choose moral good or moral evil. Others say God has no control over it since he cannot perfectly see the future and moves circumstances as they arise. Others say God’s involvement in evil is to comfort those who are suffering.
What Joseph reveals is that evil doesn’t have a purpose in and of itself for God. God does not compel men to do wicked acts nor author sin in and of itself. While He governs it according to His Providence, he directs it toward an end that glorifies Him and is directed toward his redemptive purpose. Calvin comments on it in this way that is marvelously powerful:
So that whatever poison Satan produces, God turns it into medicine for his elect. And although in this place God is said to have “meant it unto good,” because contrary to expectation, he had educed a joyful issue out of beginnings fraught with death: yet, with perfect rectitude and justice, he turns the food of reprobates into poison, their light into darkness, their table into a snare, and, in short, their life into death. If human minds cannot reach these depths, let them rather suppliantly adore the mysteries they do not comprehend, than, as vessels of clay, proudly exalt themselves against their Maker.