This the last Sunday in our journey through the book of Genesis. This last chapter is the exclamation point to the entire book. Genesis has told us so much about God, who we are, and the world in which we live. The underlying message of Genesis is just as life changing for the people of God today as it was for the people of God included in that first book of the Bible.
Mankind’s most pressing needs and most troubling questions are addressed in Genesis, and this week’s passage pulls it all together. Life in this world is not easy. In fact, much of the time it is hard. Despite what the popular t-shirt and bumper sticker claims, life doesn’t always seem “good.” There are lots of times and seasons when life’s good, but if you wait long enough, there will be times and seasons when life seems bad. When life’s good, we’re apt to say, “Life is good, therefore God is good.” But what about those moments when life doesn’t seem all that good? Can you say, “Life is bad, but God is good?” Do you find it hard to believe in God when the walls are caving in and life seems really bad? Well, despite how life might feel at any given moment, God means all circumstances, even the evil intentions of others, for good. How can you know for sure? Because God provided the evidence, which we’ll look at together this Sunday.
There are only two more Sundays to go in our journey through the book of Genesis. I can hardly believe it’s coming to an end. And what a finish!
This week we’ll be greeted to a big surprise in the ending. Humanly speaking, it doesn’t seem like it should turn out this way, but it’s been God’s plan, since before the beginning of creation, to bring about what He’ll announce to us in this week’s passage. It may just change how you think about the advancement of the kingdom of God and your role in it.
God’s kingdom is present and advancing among us, but not yet fully realized. Christians are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken, no matter what the circumstances of life or how things may appear around us. This Sunday we’ll look at four distinguishing marks of that kingdom and consider where that leaves us, both Christians and non-Christians, in the period where Christ’s kingdom is advancing but not yet fully realized.
Dr. Al Mohler recently referred to Christians as the new “Moral Outlaws.” In case you’ve been in a far away land, you can’t help but notice that American morality is shifting at warp speed. What was the predominent view of morality, just a few years ago, is now considered outdated, intolerent and, by some, hateful. These days, anyone with a Biblical world view is seen as out of touch. Worse than that, Christians, holding to the authority of Scripture (is there any other kind?), are being classified by the culture as “immoral.” The speed with which all this is happening is unprecedented in almost all of human history.
The response by American Christians has been all over the map. Some are panicking, many are sounding the alarm and others are deciding if they can’t beat them, they’ll join them. Yet, I don’t think any of these approaches is Biblical. The Bible shows Christians that we are called into a world just like the one we live in. And our passage in Genesis, this week, suggests how we may want to approach the challenges we face with our rapidly shifting and increasingly hostile environment. Christians, I believe, have much more to offer the world than the world has to offer us. That seems to be the overarching lesson in our passage this week.
This Sunday, we’ll look at a number of ways we might expect God’s people to function in this environment, and we’ll consider just how we can respond to our neighbors, family members, classmates and others who see us as the new moral outlaws.
I get panicked when we run out of ice cream, but imagine having no food in your house and knowing all the local grocery stores are sold out. That’s the kind of the situation we see the family of Israel dealing with in this week’s passage from the book of Genesis. It’s a life and death situation. If they don’t go to Egypt to buy food, they will surely die in the land in which God has promised them. If they go to Egypt, they might just die unless they comply with the terms of Egypt’s second in command. It seems like a risky situation, but the sons of Israel will soon find that the mercy of Almighty God is astonishing.
The mercy of Almighty God should be astonishing to us too. This Sunday, we’ll look at several reasons to be astonished and find hope in God’s mercy during ordinary times and in times of great distress.
What is God’s will for your life? Do you ever get the feeling you’re going to get in God’s way or mess up His plans if you make a wrong decision? These are tough questions and can cause a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety and procrastination. But it doesn’t have to be that way, as our passage from Genesis reveals this Pentecost Sunday. God’s people have a Spirit driven call to action. The Holy Spirit calls and enables Christians for action according to God’s purpose. That means followers of Jesus Christ have good reason for confidence and courage as they make both small and large decisions. Being in the will of God may be easier and more freeing than you previously thought.
Do some days, weeks, maybe months, seem like a colossal waste of time? Do you look back and wonder, “What was accomplished?” Joseph was enslaved and imprisoned for approximately 13 years, and some may consider his time held captive a colossal waste of time. But that’s not what our passage this week reveals. Quite the contrary. It points us to the fact that every moment of our lives has purpose. If we have a high view of God’s providence, we must confess that God is always at work in every moment of our lives. He’s doing something even when it seems like we’ve just wasted a day, year or season of life.
Maybe you’re in one of those places right now and don’t have a clue how God is at work in your life. You just can’t see it. If that’s the case, then I hope you’ll consider, with me, this week’s passage in the book of Genesis. We’re going to look at how God was at work in Joseph’s life, growing him in ways that are become more and more apparent. What’s so encouraging is that God’s at work in all His people, in ways similar to how He was at work in Joseph. Not a moment is wasted. God uses every one.
I love to preach through entire books of the Bible, as opposed to selecting a topic or proposition and finding a biblical text to support it. That let’s the Word of God set the agenda, rather than my own personal rant. It also forces me to preach on passages, like the one we’re covering this week from Genesis chapter 38, which I’m certain I would never otherwise select (have you read it?).
This crazy (for lack of a better word) episode in Judah’s life seems so out of place and yet it’s vital to God’s eternal plan of salvation and every bit as important as Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt. In fact, God’s unlikely choices (as is the case with Judah) can result in no one else’s boasting, only God’s. His choices and ways rob us of the notion that we can be our own saviors. That may be an insult to your own sense of autonomy, but consider it an encouragement to your inability to find acceptance or justification in any other way. This Sunday we’re going to see not only how unlikely Judah was, but how amazing and faithful God is to His promises, and hopeful we can be if we’re His.
Have you ever found yourself in circumstances that caused you to wonder, “Where are you God?” You know, a time when you’ve thought, “If God’s really in charge, why are things the way they are?” “Why doesn’t He do something?!”
Joseph, whose circumstances are the focus of this last section of Genesis, may have asked these same questions. There is no mention of God or His actions in Joseph’s life during the episode reported in this week’s passage. God appears mysteriously silent at this point. At first glance, it might seem that God is altogether absent from the matters surrounding the threats and harm Joseph endured. While God appears to be silent, we will soon see, it was no sign of His absence. In fact, The Lord is the main character in the highly charged drama featured in Genesis 37. He’s not mentioned by name, but as you look back on these incidents down the road, you’ll be able to see God’s hand all over it. It reminds us that God “works all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) ALL things. Even things that don’t seem to make sense from our immediate perspective. Even things that hurt or are confusing in the moment.
This Sunday, we’ll take a look at a number of ways God was at work through the seemingly unfortunate circumstances of Jospeph’s life. And from them we’ll draw encouragement and hope when we feel God is “silent” in our own circumstances. God may appear silent, but He’s in no way absent.
You can’t help but notice the recent battle (I hesitate to call it a debate – there’s not much debating) pitting religious against sexual liberty. The confrontation is especially grievous in the social media. At the extremes, each side seeks to conform the other to its morality. The side with the most votes wins in the legislative arena and may very well end up imposing its morality on the losing side. There is a tremendous amount of resentment on both sides.
How are we, as Christians, to think about these issues (see my sermon titled “Sodom’s Sin”)? How are we as Christians to respond when our religious liberty is threatened by a secular society? The rapid moral shift in our country has led some to cry, “Let’s take back our country for God!” But is God really losing? Has God already lost on this one? No!
Our passage in Genesis, this coming Sunday, shows us that human desire for autonomy often exists amidst God’s sovereignty. God is not losing and God has not lost, but the autonomous desires of humans fall under and fold within God’s sovereign plans of providence. We’ll look at three human examples, on Sunday, to help us understand how God uses all things in securing the final victory, and we’ll discuss how that causes us to respond with hope, rather than resentment.
Life and death is a major theme in Genesis. God breathed life into Adam and Eve and they chose death. Eve birthed the first child, Cain, and he murdered his brother Abel. Genesis chapter 5 catalogs thousands of years of life, followed by death. Mankind began to multiply on the face of the earth, but the effects of death continued to pervade humans such that “every intent of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.” Mankind, with the exception of Noah, turned from God in their evil and so he destroyed most all of the life He created in the flood. And so the story continues through the chapters of Genesis and into our day. You and I live with the effects of life and death in a fallen, broken, corrupt world every day.
Our passage, this week, is part of a transition into the last section of the book, and it too highlights the effects of life and death on the covenant family of Abraham. Death, and its effects, rock the world of Jacob, just as it regularly rocks our world. It’s a not so subtle reminder that we live in bodies of death. We live in bodies that will perish, but we also live in bodies where the effects of death are at work in our sin, warring against God’s commands through our flesh. It is precisely these bodies of death that remind us of the preciousness of God’s promises. This Sunday we’ll take a look at the reality and consequences of God’s promises and the reality and consequences of our sin, and we’ll learn that God provides deliverance from our bodies of death, both now and for eternity.