His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. But Joseph said to them, “Donʼt be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:18-20 NIV)
In the quest for purpose, we must distinguish between proximate and remote purposes. The proximate refers to that which is close at hand. The remote refers to the distant, far-off, ultimate purpose. The soccer player’s proximate goal is to put the ball in the net (score a goal) and to prevent the opposing side from scoring. The more remote goal is to win the game. The ultimate goal is to win a championship.
We remember the poignant meeting between Joseph and his brothers, when the brothers feared recriminations from their powerful brother for the treachery they had committed against him. But Joseph saw a remarkable concurrence at work between proximate and remote intentions. He said, ” You meant it for evil; God meant it for good.”
Here the proximate and the remote seemed to be mutually exclusive. The divine intention was the exact opposite of the human intention. Joseph’s brothers had one goal; God had a different one. The amazing truth here is that the remote purpose was served by the proximate one. This does not diminish the culpability of the brothers. Their intent and their actions were evil. Yet it seemed good to God to let it happen that His purpose might be fulfilled.
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
Think about how proximate purpose may be contributing to God’s remote purpose in your life.
_Copyright © Ligonier Ministries.
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