One of the most astonishing statements recorded is Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” This was Joseph’s answer to his brothers when they feared he would take revenge on them. How could he escape bitterness after abusive treatment at their hands? The answer is that Joseph understood the role of God’s sovereignty in his life.
To describe God as sovereign is to say that He rules over all creation and exercises ultimate control over everything that takes place within it. This sovereignty is especially evident in three of His most important works: creation, providence, and redemption.
In creation, God established His superiority to and authority over all He has made. Creation depends upon God, not the other way around (Acts 17:25). Providence is His work upholding and directing the work of creation according to His plan. He provides for His creatures and has ordered the universe (Job 38:1—41:34). In redemption, God exercises His sovereignty over creation graciously to provide salvation for those who are His through Jesus Christ.
This intersection of God’s control and human interaction in redemption is reflected in the church’s prayer in Acts 4. After describing how Gentile and Jewish leaders and the people had opposed Jesus, the disciples affirmed that Christ’s enemies had only done what God’s “power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (v. 28). This does not make God responsible for evil—those who sin do so of their own volition. Yet even their rebellious actions are drawn into the overarching plan of God. This is why Romans 8:28 assures us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” We too have been drawn into God’s great plan.
We do not need to understand all the workings of God’s great drama of redemption to take comfort from these words. While we may not be called, as Joseph was, to save a nation from starvation, we are no less significant to God. No matter what is happening in our lives today, God is in control.
To learn more, read Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor (Crossway).