God’s plan for His people
We’re starting our third campaign this fall in our group ministry on Sunday evenings. We’ve met together with the mission of drawing closer to God and closer to one another through intimate fellowship, worship and Bible study. Each one of these fall campaigns has taken us further through the biblical history of God’s people.
Today we are on the cusp of this third session where we will survey MOST of the Old Testament books. Lord willing, we will be surveying from Numbers to Malachi looking at biblical history from struggles to enter the Promised Land to the Prophecies concerning the Promised One. But before we begin let’s review where we’ve been to prepare us for where we are about to go.
Our first fall campaign covered 22 chapters of Genesis, from creation to Abraham. Our second campaign took us from Abraham through the Exodus. This Fall campaign will finish the Old Testament with only glimpses into nine of the 39 books. Each week’s lesson will help us see another facet of God’s plan for His people.
Two years ago we began our journey from creation to the Exodus. How much do you remember of those lessons I wonder? Genesis 1:1 is where we started. Can you say that verse with me?
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Then in Genesis 1:26-31 we have the origin of the human race. God created us in His own image and likeness and blessed us with procreative power and authority to rule the planet.
In Genesis 2 we witnessed the first marriage and God’s design for companionship for us in it.
In Genesis 3 Sin entered the picture and all our woes began to unfold. Disobedience to God’s word brought shame and hiding and blame and God’s curse on creation. We moved from safe and blessed to lost and cursed.
Genesis 4 shows us how fallen man will treat his own brother as Cain slew Abel. God’s creation seems to be moving into chaos and darkness until God decides to wipe man off the face of the earth.
But God’s plan for His people will not be crushed. God begins again with Noah and his family. The promised seed of woman is preserved and the ultimate work of God continues to unfold.
Genesis 11 shows us how stubborn sin within us remains. Man’s pride produces a plan to build a tower to heaven, but God thwarts their plans by confusing their languages and man begins to be scattered throughout the planet.
Although human attempts to get to heaven fail, God continues His plan for His people by choosing Abram and Sarai and God makes a covenant with Abraham with a promise that through His seed all nations would be blessed.
Abraham walks with God and waits on God to make good on His promises. Years go by and it looks like Abraham and Sarah will be childless. But, not to worry, Sarah has a plan. Take Hagar and have children through her, Abraham! That will help God’s plan along. Abraham followed Sarah’s advice and Hagar has a son, Ishmael, but this is not the seed of promise.
God waits until it becomes clearly impossible, and then He proves that He is the God of the impossible. God shows Abraham the stars and tells him to count them, for his descendants will be as numerous as these. Abraham laughs. God visits Abraham and Sarah in their old age and tells them that in a year, they will have a son. Sarah laughs. A year later Isaac is born. Isaac, the promised son through whom the promised seed would come, is named “laughter.” Don’t tell God that He can’t do the impossible. He’s been doing that forever.
Last Fall we continued our campaign as we jumped ahead to Joseph. I did a series of lessons called “Flawed Families of Faith” looking at the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and noting how God puts up with a lot less that what He wants, and we must learn to do the same. While we strive for the high standards of God’s kingdom, we suffer with fallen hearts and minds and relationships. The goal is faithfulness. The path is rough, but not without beauty and blessings for those who walk with God.
Anyway, we picked up with Joseph in our 2014 fall campaign. Joseph! If there ever were a man of faithfulness in the midst of trial and struggle, who comes through it smelling like a rose, he is the man. God’s plan for His people worked through Joseph’s dreams and Jacob’s favoritism, along with Joseph’s brothers’ jealousy, hatred and vengeance.
When Joseph is 17, Jacob sends him off to check on his brothers. When they see Joseph coming, he is wearing that robe of many colors that Jacob gave him. This robe was a clear announcement to Joseph’s older brothers that Jacob had picked Joseph above them. To top it off, Joseph had dreams that he shared with his brothers that clearly portrayed Joseph as ruler and lord over them. So when they see Joseph coming, wearing that coat, their hatred burns towards him and they decided to kill him. Ruben, the oldest, wanting to rescue Joseph directs them to throw him into a pit. They grab Joseph, strip off his coat and throw him into a pit.
As it turns out, while Ruben is gone, Judah has another idea. “Let’s not kill him, let’s sell him as a slave!” So they did. Where is God’s hand and plan in this mess? We have to wait to see. Joseph ends up in Egypt where he serves Potiphar as a slave, but the Bible tells us that the Lord is with Joseph and blesses everything he does. Potiphar sees this and eventually puts Joseph in charge of everything he owns!
What a man of impeccable character! Then the temptress comes. Potiphar’s wife wants Joseph. She openly bids him to lie with her, but Joseph refuses. Finally, she traps him and demands him to do her bidding, but he runs away. She screams and accuses Joseph of attempted rape. Potiphar has Joseph imprisoned. Where is God’s hand and plan in this mess? We have to wait to see.
In prison, the Lord is with Joseph and again he rises to positions of leadership, even as a prisoner. Here, Joseph meets two of Pharaoh’s servants who have dreams. Joseph tells them what their dreams mean and both come true! The butler is restored to his position with Pharaoh and the baker is hanged.
Two years pass. Joseph is still in jail. Waiting, waiting on God’s plan to unfold. Then, Pharaoh has dreams that trouble him but his wise men can’t interpret them. The butler hears and remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh about this Hebrew in prison who interpreted dreams.
Joseph is sent for, cleaned up and called before Pharaoh where he not only interprets Pharaoh’s dreams, but give such wise counsel that Pharaoh decides to put him in charge of handling the whole matter. Pharaoh makes Joseph second in command!
There will be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Joseph works to save Egypt by storing up during the years of plenty and Egypt is ready with the famine comes.
During the famine Joseph’s brothers and family are without food. Jacob sends Joseph’s brothers to Egypt to get food. There they discover the unimaginable. Joseph, whom they sold as a slave is not only still alive but ruling all of Egypt! Jacob, who has grieved for the loss of Joseph for all these years discovers God’s gracious plan.
All of Israel moves to Egypt. Years pass. Another Pharaoh arises who does not know Joseph. Israel is seen as a threat and they become slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh even begins to try to kill off the children so that Israel will not be so prolific. Where is God’s hand and plan in this? We have to wait and see. By this time almost 400 years have gone by. Israel, by in large has become Egyptianized. They cry out in their slavery, and God hears and initiates the next part of His plan for His people. Moses is born.
Moses becomes the greatest leader in Israel’s history. God calls him when he is 80 years old to rescue His people by leading them out of slavery. It appears that God has been silent for a long time, but now He begins working wonders that literally blow our minds. With 10 plagues God ruins Egypt, then as Israel is fleeing God parts the Red Sea and Israel walks across on dry land but when the Egyptian army pursues them, God closes the sea upon them and they drown in its depths.
God gives Israel the Passover to remember His deliverance. God gives them His Laws to guide their relationship with Him. God gives them manna for food and water from the rock. God gives them instruction on building a special tent and furnishings where God Himself will come and dwell among them. God leads them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
Moses writes in Deut. 4: 32 “For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and live? 34 Or did God ever try to go and take for Himself a nation from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.
What more could God do than all that? We will have to wait and see. From promised land to promised One is our next part of the journey as we continue to discover God’s plan for His people.