Practical Providence Genesis 50:15-21

The gospel is simple, but not simplistic

  • Simple Romans 3:23-24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption tha is in Christ Jesus.”
    • You’re a sinner
    • You need a savior and because of sin you can’t earn one
    • God gave you Jesus to be your savior—he GAVE you Jesus, it’s a gift
  • Not simplistic
    • Just from this passage there are theologically rich words that you can’t plumb the full depths of easily
      • Sin
      • The glory of God
      • Justified
      • Grace
      • Redemption
      • Christ
    • And as gospel pertains to all of life, it’s not simplistic because life isn’t simplistic

That’s where providence comes in—it’s similar to the gospel,  because providence is simple but not simplistic

  • Simple—everything that happens does because God ordered it to
  • Not simplistic—trying to understand our place within God’s plan
    • Trying to understand God’s goodness in the hard stuff

Our three points:  1.  God’s good design;  2.  The Hardest Stuff;  3.  Providence as a Teacher.  Like the other sermons in this series, we’re starting with a text, but we’re scanning all scripture to get a feel for this fundamental truth.

  1. God’s Good Design—in a sense, all of Genesis is leading up to this point.  Throughout this book, God has providentially saved his people, and ironically, God has saved his promises from his people screwing ‘em up
    1. Our text today is the classic passage dealing with providence
      1. Jacob and family come to Egypt to escape the famine (RR)
      1. Reunited with Joseph, after undislosed number of years (?) Jacob dies
      1. The brothers are afraid that now that dad’s dead Joseph will get his revenge
      1. But Joseph, having grown in wisdom through God’s grace and trials, says “what you meant for evil God meant for good”
    1. Joseph is able to see, in hindsight, God’s good design even when your brothers throw you in a pit and sell you
      1. Ferguson—like a puzzle, the four corner pieces and the border but the middle is only God’s to know
      1. Tapestry—beautiful on the one side, but a jumbled mess of threads on the other
        1. Our view is the jumbled mess
        1. God’s is the beauty and on the other side of struggles we sometimes get a glimpse of the beautiful
    1. Hindsight is 20/20, the problem is we live in the present, so day by day we don’t have the benefit of hindsight
    1. What do you do?  In the midst of your trials remind yourself of the beauty that’s in store
      1. God’s side of the tapestry
      1. The finished picture on the box of the puzzle
  2. The Hardest Stuff—have you ever asked, or been asked, “if God is good why did he allow sin in the world?”  or “why did he even plant that tree in the first place (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil)?”
    1. The easy way out is to say that God isn’t in charge of the bad stuff.
    1. But for God to be God he has to be in charge of everything
    1. Why sin, then?  Why would God allow for the opportunity to sin at all?  Why not just keep creation sinless?
      1. Sin is the reason we need to be redeemed
        1. “the only thing you bring to salvation is the sin that made it necessary”
      1. Wo we start from the viewpoint of redemption to understand why sin was allowed at creation
      1. The love God expresses redemption is greater than the love God demonstrated in creation.   We know that from 1 Peter 1:10-12
        1. Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
        1. The angels enjoy God’s love of creation, they even enjoy God’s full presence, which is more than we do; but “they long to look” into the reality of God’s redemptive love.
      1. That’s astounding—they have a sinless desire for what God has given to his people
    1. But maybe you harbor thoughts of God being cruel or sadistic because he has allowed sin, ordered grief, and even ordained trials beyond your strength in your life, just remember what your salvation cost God
      1. 1 Peter 1:18-21  You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
      1. Not only did Jesus die for your sins, but his suffering and death were a part of the plan before creation was created
      1. That means that Christ anticipated suffering for his people long before they even existed
    1. Sin doesn’t prove God’s love, but sin does require God’s redemptive love to save us from it.  God’s providence which ordained sin is a proof of God’s extravagant love for his people saved by grace through Jesus.
    1. What do we do with this?  How does this help us?  It helps us because in the muck of life we can hold on to God’s love knowing he will remember us just like he remembered his promise to Abraham.
  3. Providence as a Teacher—this is the nitty gritty stuff of life, the day to day living in a fallen world ordered by God
    1. Where do we start?  Big question, because you can’t escape God or his providence.
      1. Psalm 139—God is everywhere
      1. “if I go down to sheol, you are there”
    1. We start with a simple (but not simplistic) truth:  Since most of God’s reasons are unknowable reading his providence in the present is challenging to say the least
      1. And understanding that, trying to read God’s providence in the present is almost always inadvisable
        1. What if everything is going great?  Does that mean God loves everything I’m doing?  Could be, but not necessarily.
        1. What if everything is really terrible?  Then, what do you make of Christians being persecuted?  Or people who suffer at the hands of terrible sinners?  You don’t blame victims for the sins of the offender.  And you don’t blame martyrs for believing in Jesus.
      1. The doctrine of providence is the basis for our theology of suffering
        1. God ordained it
        1. Not everything in the process is good (sin is never good, suffering isn’t good, but trials are good)
          1. God trains his people through their trials
        1. But the end, God’s goal is good, because his goal is redemption and God is always good
    1. But if we consider that wisdom grows through experience, then providence can be a teacher
      1. We can’t know God’s specific purposes but we do learn from previous situations
      1. Don’t try to read God’s purpose in the present
        1. Remember what John Flavel said, “the book of God’s providence is like Hebrew, it can only be read backwards”
        1. Don’t fall into the trap of believing everything is a lesson meant just for you.  What if God’s purpose is bigger than you?  What I mean is that he’s not really trying to teach you something
          1. Like Joseph in prison—I imagine he’s telling God, “I learned this in the pit!?  Why am I in prison, now?”
          1. Oh, yes, Joseph learned in the pit and in the prison, but in Genesis 50:20 he explains that the reason was that “many people should be kept alive”
          1. God sent Joseph ahead of them to Egypt so they would be saved from the famine
    1. What can we learn from our situations?  Some specifics about how to live, and some reminders of what we already know.
      1. Genesis 38—Judah and Tamar
        1. Judah, one of the twelve, tribe of Jesus
        1. Tamar daughter in law
        1. Er, Onan, but no Shelah
        1. Play dress up—temple prostitute in Timnah to trap Judah
          1. Signet ring, cord, and staff
        1. Yes she sinned.  But Judah’s sin was greater and more heinous
        1. Gen. 38:26 “she is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”
      1. Through God’s providence, that included Tamar’s deception, Judah re-learned what he already knew—do the right thing
        1. Even when it might be costly—he withheld Shelah because his other sons had died
        1. Do the right thing, Even when it goes against your sinful nature’s inclinations—Judah began to think Tamar was bad luck
    1. Learn from God’s providence
      1. You can’t discern God’s specific purpose—like Joseph, your trial might not be only for your sake
      1. What you can know about God’s providence is what God has revealed to you in his word.
      1. The book of providence is murky and difficult to read, the book of the Bible is clear and sharp as a two-edged sword
        1. Redemption is the goal
        1. God’s ultimate goal for his people is Good! 
        1. This is true Hope
      1. God’s gospel is that Jesus suffered for his people’s sin, this was always his plan from the foundation of the world.  The gospel is the pinnacle of providence and love is the language of the gospel.  Learn from God’s providence that he loves his people with unquenchable love.
      1. While his goal is good for his people, that’s the secondary goal.  His first goal, God’s chief end is:  his own glory.
        1. John 9:3 “that the works of God might be displayed in him”;  that God’s glory might be seen in his healing.
        1. All things are worked out for God’s glory, Jesus suffered for God’s glory, your suffering is for God’s glory, remember that God’s glory is bigger than everything else.  Hold on to that and obey in the face of trials, in the face of being tempted to turn back from doing what’s right.  Don’t be a Judah—be like Jesus, Judah’s greatest son, and when the trials come, say “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.  Amen.