When Joseph is revealing himself to his brothers, he gives the following speech:
Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.’
(verses 4–11, emphasis added)
The reason that I can’t believe I forgot to mention this is that Christians mention this passage of the Bible on a regular basis, because of the line I italicized above: “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” (In fact, Christians quote 50:20 even more often, in which Joseph says “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”)
Not just this speech, but the entire life of Joseph, is a reminder to us all that God is always in control of our lives, and that He has a reason for what He is doing. Joseph was astute enough to realize that.
Was it Joseph’s brothers who sold him into slavery? And was it Potiphar’s wife who accused him of rape, and Potiphar who had him jailed? Was it the cupbearer who promised to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph, and then forgot for two years? “Yes” to all of the above. And all of those people are responsible for their own actions, and will have to answer for them. (Or have already answered for them; my concept of time gets a little fuzzy, when we’re talking about the afterlife…) But in a universe where the LORD is in control, we also have to recognize that people can ultimately only do what He allows them to do.
All of the events of Joseph’s life led up to him saving the Egyptian people, along with the people in neighbouring nations, from starvation, because he was able to predict, and deal with, the famine. And I’m sure this is what Joseph had in mind, when he told his brothers that it was God who sent him to Egypt, not his brothers. In retrospect, we can see that God had even more in store, though: Because He brought Joseph to Egypt, all of the Hebrews eventually ended up there, to be saved by God’s mighty hand in the book of Exodus. God’s saving of the Hebrews from the Egyptians is one of the most important lessons He ever taught them—and us—about Himself.