God Has a Plan
Text: Genesis 37
Proposition: The account of Joseph prefigures the way that God took captivity captive through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Introduction: God has a plan for you and for me, it may be a plan that has a number of twists and turns in it but it is always a plan that comes from His good hand. The last time we talked together Jacob had left Shechem and gone first to Bethel and then on to Hebron. We looked at how Jacob’s sons had slaughtered the newly circumcised men of Shechem, we saw him pull his family together and direct them away from their various idols in order to the worship the only God there is, Jehovah Almighty. The following chapter, chapter 36 details the genealogy of Esau describing how he inter-married with the peoples of the land, even marrying one of the daughters of Ishmael. It says that Esau is Edom, meaning that from him came the peoples of Edom in the land of Mount Seir. Esau is Edom and Edom has a difficult history. Some 430 years later the king of Edom refused Moses passage when the people of Israel came out of captivity, Edom collaborated with the Babylonians in capturing the Jews and then joined in the sacking of Jerusalem. Edom, which came from Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, was condemned in prophecy by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Joel and Malachi, the last prophecy stating that God would leave Edom a waste land because of how they treated Israel. God has a plan for those who seek Him and even for those who don’t. This is the last we hear of Esau in Genesis and the focus is now put upon the lineage of Jacob and especially upon his son Joseph. Turn with me to Genesis 37 as we see how God’s plan sometimes leads to captivity, even for those who do seek Him.
I. God’s Plan Will Crash the Flesh Against the Spirit.
As you read the first few verses of Genesis 37 it would be easy to get a picture of Joseph as being the spoiled, selfish and arrogant favoured son. He comes in from the field and brings a bad report of what his brothers were doing, he has these dreams that portray his brothers and even his father and mother as bowing down to him. Let’s set that impression to the side and consider the possibility that Joseph even as a child was a person of integrity. What if his intent was not malicious at all but rather for good, for truth, for doing what was right? The evident contrast between Joseph and his brothers seems to stem from their fathers favour towards this son, but what if there really was a significant difference between Joseph and his eleven brothers, what if it was this very difference that God intended to use? The essential difference between these brothers is that Joseph was sensitive to spiritual truth and the other brothers were driven by fleshly pursuits. What if the dreams that Joseph had were more prophetic than they were expressions of pride? What if the diligence that he had in telling these dreams comes more from an obedience to God than a desire for power? God’s plan for our lives will crash the desires of the flesh into the obedience of our spirit. It will be experienced like a crash, like an out of the blue, speeding through a yellow light moment. The effect will be like a war going on inside us and around us. In Galatians 5:16 Paul writes, “…Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish.” God’s plan is to constantly expose the way that our fleshly mindset would seek to ruin our faith and our good relationship with God. Joseph’s life is a picture of how opposite these two forces are. The flesh can seem more powerful, can seem more self justifying, can seem more profitable but the end of it is ruin. Know that God’s plan in your life will crash the flesh against the Spirit in order to reveal who you are and Who He is.
II. God’s Plan Will Take What is Good and Lead it Into a Refining Captivity. Joseph in obedience to his father leaves Hebron and goes to Shechem to look for his brothers. He searches for them, he hears they are well and in Dothan and though he could have returned at this point he still goes further to Dothan to see them. Were Joseph’s intentions good, was he being obedient to his father, had he done anything wrong, was God somehow being mean or unloving in what was about to occur with Joseph? We know from the outset that brothers were going to bush wack Joseph, their intent was to murder him and be done with him. Rueben, the oldest son, Leah’s first born, had slept with Bilhah, his father’s concubine (35:22), he seeks to intercede for Joseph but only in a self serving way to regain his fathers favour. So they grab Joseph and throw him down an old dry well. They rip off the coat of many colors, to them a symbol of their fathers favour towards Joseph. Then as Joseph cries out to them from the bottom of the pit, they sit down and have lunch. A group of Ishmaelites come, descendents of Abraham through Hagar, and Judah in a moment of insight suggests that they sell Joseph into slavery and make twenty pieces of silver in the bargain. The deal is done and Joseph is hauled out of the pit and sent away to Egypt. It is easy for us who know how the story ends to say that God has a purpose in all suffering, that God’s plan will take what is good and lead it into a refining captivity. That doesn’t mean that Joseph wasn’t terrified, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t feel alone or helpless. As human cargo, a slave to be used and sold, he couldn’t have felt further from being the favoured son.
I suppose that’s really the point that it’s okay to feel these reactive emotions, to be afraid and even to be angry, yet we are not to let these waves convince us to let go of the rope. It’s like we hang onto truth with a grip of faith that is like a person hanging onto a rope as the flood waters would seek to sweep them away. God’s plan will take what is good and will lead it into a refining captivity, not because He hates us but because of the much greater good that will come as a result. This is the glory of God, that he enables our Spirit to overcome the flesh and as we hang onto truth, greater truth is revealed. The captivity brings a stronger faith, the struggle reveals a greater God. David Guzik in his commentary put it like this: If Joseph’s brothers never sell him to the Midianites, then Joseph never goes to Egypt. If Joseph never goes to Egypt, he never is sold to Potiphar. If he is never sold to Potiphar, Potiphar’s wife never falsely accuses him of rape. If Potiphar’s wife never falsely accuses him of rape, then he is never put in prison. If he is never put in prison, he never meets the baker and butler of Pharaoh. If he never meets the baker and butler of Pharaoh, he never interprets their dreams. If he never interprets their dreams, he never gets to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. If he never gets to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, he never is made prime minister. If he is never made prime minister, he never wisely administrates for the severe famine coming upon the region. If he never wisely administrates for the severe famine coming upon the region, then his family back in Canaan perishes from the famine. If his family back in Canaan perishes from the famine, the Messiah can’t come forth from a dead family. If the Messiah can’t come forth, then Jesus never came. If Jesus never came, you are dead in your sins and without hope in this world.
God’s plan will take what is good and lead it into a refining captivity.
As you have considered the life of Joseph perhaps you have seen a number of parallels to the person of Jesus Christ in him. Jesus was a favoured Son sent to seek and find the lost. Jesus was hated because of what He said, He too was held in a pit under Caiaphas house, He too was stripped of His coat, He too was sold for silver, He too was hidden in Egypt, He too was thought to be dead and He too was the One God used to be the Savior of Israel and of the nations of the world. He too was a Man of obedience, truth and goodness and was led into captivity that we might be set free in Him. From the beginning of the world, from before the days of Joseph, God had a plan to reach into the world and do for it what it could never do for itself, to bring righteousness to sinful man.
When Joseph’s brothers go back to their father they spill the blood of a young goat on the garment and then ask their father if he recognizes this bloodied coat of many colors. The action of these brothers shows not only the desperate need they felt to cover their sin but also the degree of contempt and even hatred they felt for their father as they watched him weep and mourn. Does God the Father weep over those that suffer, does He know the contempt and even hatred that people feel towards Him? Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
God has a plan.