This will not be a commentary but a question. And I really do want some answers. I’m posting it on T&S, but I hope bloggers from all over will add insights. I want a deeper understanding and recognize that people like Jim Faulconer, Kevin Barney, Julie Smith, and others who have studied the scriptures better than I and looked at the etymology of the words can help me understand.
The scripture is Genesis 20:50, and applies beautifully to Easter. It is variously translated, but says basically, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” It is Joseph addressing his brothers, who have sold him into slavery and are now at his feet asking for deliverance. It is clearly a type and shadow of everything we celebrate on Easter.
From my very amateur studies, I see that the word “intended” in its original literally meant “to plait, weave, or to braid.” So we get something like “What you wove into evil, God wove into good.”
I suspect all of us could testify that the worst moments in our lives where the very times we found how strong we could be, but I’d like to go a little deeper. Of course, all religions address the question of whether of not God invented evil. What I want to explore is how God can take our own evil acts and “braid” them into a miracle. Does He already know that we (speaking of us as humanity) will commit atrocities–and specifically which ones we’ll commit? Did he know that it would be Judas who would betray Jesus Christ? Was there a plan to weave that evil into Judas’ own tapestry, and not just to leave him hanging as an example for Dante to use centuries later? Can God possibly weave our evil deeds into acts chapters of deliverance and mercy if we refuse to ask for that miracle? Or if we don’t know the miracle is available?
A very brief context: My dad raised me with hard questions. I remember him asking me when I was about ten years old if I would serve coffee to a guest in my home who was a coffee drinker. Not a terribly difficult question, but fraught with ambiguities for a ten-year-old. (Grandma was a coffee drinker, and made her own coffee when she visited us.) A few sundays ago, Dad asked my kids, “So can good ever come out of evil?” Most of us would give quick responses to that question, but my kids were being invited to think about the nature and purpose of evil, and I had a sweet flashback of all the times Dad had posed difficult questions to me over the dinner table. (I wish Bruce and I did better with that. Our questions tend to be, “So what did you learn in Sunday School?”)
So this little blog is simply a request for deeper understanding and insights from the people I have come to know through the bloggernacle. I want to know more about that verb which we translate as “intended” or “meant.” How else has it been used in the scriptures? What does it imply about the workings of God? What does it tell us about God’s foreknowledge? How early in our lives does the braid begin?
A final observation: I mentioned _Places in the Heart_ on another blog. Another film I love (very different from _Places in the Heart_) is _Judgment at Nuremberg._ In it, a great German judge, Ernst Janning, is being judged by an American judge for his part in the Nazi judicial system. After sentencing, Janning requests an audience with the American judge and says, “You must understand. Those people [referring to the murdered Jews]–all those people. I never knew it would come to that.” The American judge answers, “Herr Janning, it came to that the first time you condemned to death a man you knew to be innocent.”
Thus, the braid was begun and its end apparently inevitable from the first time Janning allowed himself to dip into evil. But is there another braid or weaving begun at the same moment, which anticipates exactly what the final picture will look like and begins its own design to weave the evil into good?