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 football player’s proximate goal is to make a first down. The more remote goal is a touchdown. The even 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.
—Dr. R.C. Sproul