“Best Laid Plans”
The design of anything, whether it be the building of a house or something much smaller like a toy box, whether it is the developing of a curriculum program for an entire school or even a lesson plan for one day, for one class, whether it be the development of a sermon series or even a devotional or newsletter article … no matter what you are doing, there is almost always some sort of a plan. Plans help keep us focused, they help keep us on task. But no matter how great the plan may be … even the best laid plans can end up being crumbled up and thrown into the trash can.
Jacob, Joseph’s father, I’m sure he had great plans for all of his sons to be great shepherds someday. That was the family trade and so as a young man grew up, he typically did what it was his father did.
But there was something different about Joseph. Even though parents aren’t suppose to have favorites, Joseph by far was Jacob’s favorite son. And he is simply the favorite because he was born when Jacob was up there in years. And because he was the favorite, he was also highly spoiled. When Joseph was only 17 years old, his father made him a richly ornamented robe also known as the coat of many colors. This obviously upset the rest of the brothers. The fact that he was the favorite son upset set the others so much that they couldn’t even speak a kind word to him (Gen. 37:4).
Even today, and I’m not just saying this because I am the oldest child between my brother and I, but in general, it seems like the youngest child tends to be the one who is spoiled the most. Because of this, there is usually a little animosity between siblings. But I digress.
So, back to Joseph. Not only is he the favorite golden or multi-colored robe child, he is the second youngest out of twelve sons. Typically, in Scripture, the oldest child is the one who becomes the executer of his parent’s estate. However, Joseph has these dreams. In one dream he tells his brothers, “We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it” (Gen. 37:6-7). Well obviously that didn’t sit well with the older brothers. Neither did Joseph’s second dream which he told to them and to his parents. Joseph said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me” (37:9). This didn’t sit well either and actually this time Joseph’s father even reprimanded him.
Joseph’s dreams, Joseph’s plan to someday have his family bow down to him seemed to be crumbled up and thrown out the window when Joseph’s brothers took him, threw him into a dry cistern, and then over their lunch decided to sell him to a caravan headed for Egypt.
Living in Egypt, Joseph had new plans. Plans to serve his Egyptian master Potiphar to the best of his ability. Well, those plans didn’t last too long. Potiphar’s wife had plans for Joseph but Joseph refused to go along with those sinful plans. Because Joseph refused to give into her temptations, she set-up Joseph and had him thrown into prison.
Even in prison, Joseph’s plans were changed. Joseph helped a couple of men who said they would help get him out … and then that didn’t happen. Until one day when Pharaoh’s advisors couldn’t help interpret his dreams. Enter in Joseph. Joseph is able to and goes from being a prison slave to the second in command of all of Egypt.
Fast forward to our lesson this morning from Genesis 50. Joseph, still in charge and with his family living with him in Egypt, hears of his father’s death. Joseph’s brothers, afraid that Joseph was going to hold a grudge against them and kill them off after their father died, tried to soften blow with a message which may or may not come from his father. The message if you remember said, “I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and wrongs they committed in treating you so badly” (Gen 50:17). Joseph’s brothers threw themselves down on the ground before him and proclaimed, “we are your slaves.”
“But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children’” (Gen. 50:19-21).
Joseph’s brothers devised what they thought was a fool proof plan to harm and do away with their brother. That plan however failed. It failed, not because they didn’t think through things the way they should have. It failed because God had a different plan. God had a plan to use Joseph to save the lives of thousands if not millions of people. And that is exactly what happened. However, it took many years for everyone to see this plan.
And that seems to be the way it usually works. God had a plan for everyone to live in a perfect creation and to physically dwell with Him in that creation. Through the deceitful words of Satan, that plan got spoiled because Satan had convinced Adam and Eve that God was restricting them and that if they ate the forbidden fruit they could be just like God. Not so much. After Adam and Eve ate that forbidden fruit … they realized the error in their thinking.
But instead crumbling up the original plan which God had … He made an alteration. An alteration which could never be spoiled. When giving out the punishments for their sin in Genesis 3, God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crust your head and you will strike his heel” (3:15). Many Bible scholars reason that Eve believed that her first born son, that Cain, was the fulfillment of that promise. Obviously after Cain killed Abel, that plan was crumbled up and tossed away.
Time and time again, man throughout the pages of Scripture have planned and yet time and time again, God says nope, that isn’t the plan I have for you. Time and time again, since the compilation of the Bible, man has planned and yet time and time again, God says nope, that isn’t the plan I have for you.
Coming out of college I planned on working in the business world and perfecting my bowling career. Being a pastor … this was not in the plans I had. Then while in Seminary, I had plans to be a well-rounded pastor who would do a little bit of everything. I remember specifically telling Jessica when we had to fill out the form on what our ideal congregation was, like we ever really know … I remember telling her, and I quote, “I don’t want to be a youth pastor.” Again, God took that plan and said nope, that isn’t the plan I have for you.
Rally Sunday, a Sunday which has included the blessing of Sunday School and Bible Class leaders and the past couple of years has been followed up with freshly grilled brats and hot dogs and ice cold root beer. This year, just like with everything else … those plans have been crumbled up and tossed.
Instead, we are still blessings Bibles and catechisms which we will be handing out, and we are looking at our Christian Education program as a whole in a whole new light. Whether you agree or disagree with what is going on and how things are being done … our Christian Education program, as well as many things we do around the church have changed. We obviously are not able to do some of the things which we use to do. However, … however, the plan to teach the good news of Jesus, the plan to reach out and help others, the plan to be the body of Christ in this place and move forward in spreading the good news of Jesus and the love of God to others has not changed. It is still happening and will continue to happen, but maybe in different ways than what has been done in the past and maybe in ways in which we haven’t even thought of yet.
However, the loving and all powerful God who we serve, who blesses us with more than we can possibly imagine to sustain this body and life we have … He, His love, His grace, His mercy, His dedication, His devotion to you and me … it has not changed.
God’s plan of redemption, God’s plan of salvation is still the same and is still on course. What you and I need to do is simply trust and not be anxious. I know that is harder said than done, especially for me. But Jesus says, who by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
God has a plan, the best laid plan. That plan, which ends with His people spending eternity with Him in the new creation yet to come … it will never change. It will never change because Jesus has secured it. He has secured it for God’s people with his very own blood and through his death defeating resurrection. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, forever guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.