God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Our Plans
The 11th Sunday after Pentecost
God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Our Plans
Text: Genesis 41:41-49
Two weeks ago I stood before you here and mentioned the incredibly unpredictable stock market. We thought the economy was bad but it seems to be getting worse! I also mentioned the earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. I talked about the historic flooding of the Missouri River all across the Midwest and the devastating wildfires all across the South. I also wondered out loud if perhaps God was telling us that the End is coming very soon.
Since then, a historic and unusual earthquake shocked the East coast and was felt all the way from Atlanta to Detroit. Very unusual! Now hurricane Irene is barreling down on the Northeast of the United States. Also very unusual! I’ve said it before and now I’m saying it again—just when we thought things were bad, they are only getting worse!
One begins to wonder. Does God even know what’s going on? Does God have any control here at all? Does God have any sort of plan in mind? Because it only seems like there is chaos, destruction, and disaster in this world!
Joseph must have thought the same thing. To say he had a rough go of it would be an over-the-top understatement. Joseph had as good a set of genes as one could wish for. His father was Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. His father Jacob wrestled with the Lord and was renamed Israel and made to be the father of a great nation to come. Out of his 12 siblings, Joseph was the one loved most dearly by his father Jacob. He was even given a special, amazing, Technicolor dream coat. (OK, so maybe Andrew Lloyd Webber exaggerated a bit. But it was a special garment nonetheless.)
That’s when all the problems began though. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and hated him. They threw him in a cistern. They sold him into slavery and told their father he had been killed. Joseph was carried off to Egypt.
There in Egypt as things were stabilizing and Joseph rose in leadership as a servant in the house of Potiphar, things got worse again! Potiphar’s wife tried enticing him into adultery. Though Joseph resisted her temptation, she put the blame on him and had him thrown in jail.
In prison Joseph was again rising in leadership and favor among the prisoners and the warden. He interpreted some dreams for two prisoners. They promised to remember Joseph and put in a good word for him with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. But they didn’t. Joseph was forgotten and left to rot in jail.
There Joseph sat—hundreds of mile from home, separated from his big family, wrongfully accused, locked in prison, seemingly forgotten. Joseph must have wondered: Does God even know what’s going on? Does God have any control at all? Does God have any sort of plan in mind? Because it only seemed like there was chaos, destruction, and disaster in his life! If only Joseph could tend his father’s flocks and wrestle with his brothers and smell the salty air of Israel again! That sounds like a good plan!
But God’s plans were much bigger than Joseph’s plans ever could have been. For two years Joseph sat in prison, until Pharaoh had two very strange dreams. In one, seven big, fat, healthy cows were eaten up by seven skinny and sickly cows. In the second dream seven big, full heads of grain were eaten up by seven scorched and thin heads of grain.
Not one of Pharaoh’s wise men or magicians could interpret the dream. But his cupbearer remembered Joseph from prison. So Joseph was summoned to Pharaoh, king of Egypt and one of the most powerful men in the world. By God’s help, Joseph rightly interpreted the dreams to mean that there would be seven years of plenty in the land followed by seven severe years of famine.
You heard this morning what happened next. Verse 41: “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hearby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’” Joseph was made second in command in all of Egypt! Verse 46 (on page 6) tells us that he was only 30—my age—when he took over in Egypt. He also oversaw all of the storing of food in preparation for the years of famine.
It seemed like God had no clue what was going. It seemed like Joseph had lost it all and had no hope. But God’s plans were much bigger than Joseph’s plans ever could have been. He made Joseph to be second over all of Egypt. God used Joseph to provide for all of those people. God also used Joseph to provide for his family then when they came looking for food. And God used Joseph to bring the Israelites to Egypt, from which Moses would lead them out 400 years later as a nation of almost two million people! God had much bigger plans in mind!
How often don’t we feel like Joseph must have? Not Joseph the leader, but Joseph the prisoner. It seems at times like we are lost in a world of chaos, destruction, and disaster. We wonder if God really knows what’s going on. Why do there have to be so many natural disasters—and all at the same time? That’s not helping anything! Why does the government have to be so corrupt! It doesn’t make my life any easier! Why doesn’t God just crush the Muslim forces of the world? Why let terrorists create havoc all over the world?
Why can’t I win the lottery? I would actually give some back to the church! How come my family has to have so many problems? It’s my family! We love each other! Why do we need problems? Why does my car have to break down? Why do I need to be afraid of losing my job? Why can’t I just retire in peace without worrying about my investments? Why do I have to have this illness? Why do people have to die? Why God? Don’t you know what’s going on? Don’t you know how bad things are? Don’t you know how good my plans for life are?
These are all questions that flow from a sinful heart. These are all questions of doubt. We doubt God’s power. We doubt God’s purposes. We doubt God’s plans. These are also questions of selfishness and arrogance. We think we are the most important. We think we know best. We think we should be in control.
We have such shameful hearts and minds that doubt our God and his power and his control and his loving plans for us. From the moment he spoke and created this universe until the present God has continually revealed his grand power. Yet still we have our doubts and our issues with his modus operandi. Such sin! How could an imperfect human like I—who continually doubts and defies our God—actually know better than our God?
I may have plans for how things should go in my life and in this world, but my plans are imperfect plans. My plans are incomplete plans. My plans are uninformed plans. My plans are just small plans. But you see, God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Our Plans.
Let me tell you just how big they are. Remember Joseph? Remember how God used Joseph to provide for Egypt and to provide for his family who came to Egypt to get food during the famine? That was a big plan! But that was small potatoes compared to the “big picture” plan God had in mind!
God worked through Joseph to preserve his family. God preserved his father Jacob, now called Israel, because God was going to make Israel into a great nation. And he did. As I said, 400 years later they were two million strong when they left with Moses.
And remember how they left with Moses? Each family slaughtered a lamb and painted its blood over their doorposts so that God would pass-over their homes with his mercy. God delivered them from death. God delivered them from the land of Egypt.
So not only did God use Joseph to preserve Israel, but God used Joseph to set up the Passover meal with Moses and the future. And by preserving and delivering the Israelites God was preserving his promise to send a Savior through Israel. And through the Passover meal God was foreshadowing Jesus who would become the great Passover Lamb who shed his blood to deliver us from death and from this land of sin.
In other words, God used Joseph in history to make sure that the Savior would come to die for our sins and win for us forgiveness! It’s no wonder they call history His-story! God controls all things in the universe for his good purposes and plans. God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Our Plans!
So if God could work through a young slave-prisoner named Joseph to preserve an entire nation of people and to accomplish his plan of salvation, we can be confident that God knows how to accomplish his plans for our lives. What is his plan for you?
Could your financial hardships be his way of reminding you that he is more important than what’s in your wallet or in your home? Might your relationship problems with friends or family be his way of telling you that the most important relationship you have is with your Savior Jesus? Is God putting you through the ringer with all kinds of troubles and trials so that you can learn from them and then teach others and comfort others to help them get through it? Has God led you to this church so that you can hear about the good news of Jesus, then tell someone else about Jesus, so that on the Last Day someone would come up to you and say, “Remember that one time you happened to mention Jesus to me? It was because of your preaching that I’m in heaven now too!”
How many lives will God touch through you? How many lives will God reach through our church? Through our school? When seven adults joined me in my living room four years ago, we just wanted to name ourselves and start worshiping soon. We could not have even fathomed that God would bring so many of you into our family and use us to share Jesus with so many people and so many children in just four years! God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Our Plans.
Joseph went through incredible sufferings—sold to slavery, falsely accused, imprisoned, left to rot in jail unjustly. But God worked through him to carry out his greater plans.
Jeremiah had a similar experience to Joseph’s. God called him to proclaim punishment to the people of Israel. And during his ministry, Babylon swept through the land. They carried people off to exile. They destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. And meanwhile, no one listened to Jeremiah. They hated him and threatened him with death.
Yet with all that trouble swirling around, here is what the Lord said to Jeremiah and the faithful few left: “’I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Your God is telling you today, “I know the plans I have for you!” God’s Plans Are Bigger Than Your Plans. He will prosper you and not harm you. He gives you hope. He gives you a future of life in heaven through Jesus. Trust God. Trust his BIGGER plans.
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Posted on August 28, 2011, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, Doubt, Egypt, Genesis, Genesis 41, God's Plans, Israel, Jacob, Joseph, Pharaoh, Sermons, Technicolor Dreamcoat, Trust. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.