Sometimes, the smallest and seemingly most insignificant words in a verse carry the biggest implication.
So it is in a verse of Scripture that we read this morning.
The word “meanwhile” in Genesis 37:36 in Hebrew is actually the word “and.” It is generally translated as a simple connective or as a contrastive (like “but”) or as a transition in time (“then”). But on a very few occasions, it is translated “meanwhile,” as here.
The evident intent of the author is to denote that while one set of circumstances has been developing, there is something else also happening concurrently.
While the sons of Jacob had a plan for the life of Joseph, God had another plan that was already being enacted at the very time that Jacob was grieving over the loss of his son. While Jacob grieved, Joseph was being sold to the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguards. God was already preparing for the provision of the family of Jacob many years before their need. This is a testimony to the trustworthy character and plan of God.
In his sermon in Acts 7, Stephen reiterates this very point:
The patriarchs became jealous of Joseph and sold him into Egypt. Yet God was with him, and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household (vv. 9-10; my emphasis)
While Joseph was rejected by men, he was accepted and cared for by the Lord. As one writer notes, this story affirms that “In spite of what the unrighteous may do to the child of God, they can proceed no further than God permits.”
It would take another 13 years before Joseph and the family would recognize how the hand of God was directing the affairs of their lives through this sinful circumstance of Joseph’s sale into the Midianites’s hands. But nevertheless, the Lord was at work through and in it all.
So it is in our lives as well. The Lord is at work, accomplishing His purposes that are for His glory and our good. We, too, may be placed in the hands of “Midianite traders,” but this is no more an abberation from the will of God than it was for Joseph. The Lord is on His throne working good for His own.
The temptation is to look only at the immediate, problematic circumstance, failing to recognize that we do not see with the eyes of the Lord — we have neither His perspective on time or situation. We despair because we cannot see. We complain because we do not have. We resist because we are in pain — not knowing that the very despairing, painful circumstance is God’s means of deliverance for us.
May the Lord grant us hearts to say with Joseph in all our trials, “God meant it for God in order to bring about this present result…” In the present catastrophe of our lives, might we remember and trust that there is pain and sorrow, but meanwhile, God is at work.