Sugar Coated Plans (Family Dysfunction Redeemed Part 2)

Liberty Baptist on August 16th, 2020

Message Title: Sugar Coated Plans
Theme: Redeemer of Stories
Season: ORDINARY
Main Text: Genesis 45:1-15;
Scripture Reading: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32;
RCL Scripture: Genesis 45:1-15; Psalm 133; Isaiah 56:1, 6-8; Psalm 67; Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28
Focus: God redeems the story of 12 brothers.
Function: To not blame or attribute God for our pains, to take ownership for our actions, and to make a change.
Other Notes:

SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32; So I ask you, has God rejected his people? Absolutely not! I’m an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God hasn’t rejected his people, whom he knew in advance. Or don’t you know what the scripture says in the case of Elijah, when he pleads with God against Israel?…  29 God’s gifts and calling can’t be taken back. 30 Once you were disobedient to God, but now you have mercy because they were disobedient. 31 In the same way, they have also been disobedient because of the mercy that you received, so now they can receive mercy too. 32 God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them.

LORD’S PRAYER

BOOK STORY: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins

My first exposure to Suzanne Collins’ work was through children’s shows like Little Bear or adolescent shows like Clarissa Explains It All. In 2008, Suzanne Collins released the first book in a series different from the works I had been exposed to previously.

Premise: “The Hunger Games universe is a dystopia set in Panem, a North American country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 13 districts in varying states of poverty. Every year, children from the first 12 districts are selected via lottery to participate in a compulsory televised battle royale death match called The Hunger Games.” (wiki)

  1. Post destruction of America, a new nation was established called Panem.
    1. 12 districts and one Capitol make up Panem. Each of the 12 districts contribute to the economy: power, coal, textiles, fishing, farming, etc. The Capitol is the law.
  2. A rebellion happened and the Capitol won. As punishment for the rebellion, the Capitol hosts a yearly pageant to the death called the Hunger Games where each district offers 2 kids to take part. The winning child gets bathed in riches.
  3. The Capitol claims this is a reminder of the pain that rebellion and war bring and keeps the country united.

TRANSITION: President Snow, like the presidents before him, sugar coated their violence. They used flowery rhetoric to ensure their agenda. In our text for today, we see Joseph trying to sniff out the motivation of his brothers.

BIBLE: Genesis 45:1-15

Joseph could no longer control himself in front of all his attendants, so he declared, “Everyone, leave now!” So no one stayed with him when he revealed his identity to his brothers. 2He wept so loudly that the Egyptians and Pharaoh’s household heard him. 3Joseph said to his brothers, “I’m Joseph! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers couldn’t respond because they were terrified before him. 4Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me,” and they moved closer. He said, “I’m your brother Joseph! The one you sold to Egypt. 5Now, don’t be upset and don’t be angry with yourselves that you sold me here. Actually, God sent me before you to save lives. 6We’ve already had two years of famine in the land, and there are five years left without planting or harvesting. 7God sent me before you to make sure you’d survive and to rescue your lives in this amazing way. 8You didn’t send me here; it was God who made me a father to Pharaoh, master of his entire household, and ruler of the whole land of Egypt. 9“Hurry! Go back to your father. Tell him this is what your son Joseph says: ‘God has made me master of all of Egypt. Come down to me. Don’t delay. 10You may live in the land of Goshen, so you will be near me, your children, your grandchildren, your flocks, your herds, and everyone with you. 11I will support you there, so you, your household, and everyone with you won’t starve, since the famine will still last five years.’ 12You and my brother Benjamin have seen with your own eyes that I’m speaking to you. 13Tell my father about my power in Egypt and about everything you’ve seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” 14He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, and Benjamin wept on his shoulder.15He kissed all of his brothers and wept, embracing them. After that, his brothers were finally able to talk to him.

  1. I want to recap the story of Joseph and his brothers since we last saw them…
    1. Last week we learned that Israel’s 11 sons had major family dysfunction.
      1. Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery out of resentment and hatred.
    2. Joseph ends up a slave of Potiphar.
      1. He did well and rose in importance in the household.
      2. Joseph rejected advances made by Potiphar’s wife, so she accused him of sexual assault and we sent him to jail.
    3. In jail
      1. Joseph has dreams about the fate of fellow inmates. He shares the interpretation with the inmates and they are in awe of his wisdom.
      2. Joseph rose in importance in the jail
    4. Pharaoh has a dream and needs an interpretation
      1. Only Joseph can interpret the dream
        1. Famine is coming. Time to store up harvest in preparation.
      2. Pharaoh frees Joseph from jail and makes Joseph second in command to Pharaoh.
  2. More Family drama: Famine has hit all the surrounding countries and people are coming to Egypt for help.
    1. Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt for food.
    2. Joseph recognizes them and plays a weird mind game while hiding his identity.
      1. YOU ARE SPIES!!!!
        1. Put them in jail!
        2. Bring me your baby brother to prove your honesty!
        3. Brothers say (in Hebrew) that this is their punishment for what they did to Joseph.
          1. Secretly, Joseph gives them food & their money back.
          2. Simeon left behind in Egypt while the other brothers go get Benjamin.
          3. They find the silver and were afraid.
      2. They tell their father about the food & silver & accusations
        1. Begg their father for Benjamin.
        2. Jacob is hesitant to give Benjamin because of the loss of Joseph, and now Simeon is in prison.
      3. They return with Benjamin
        1. Joseph has a meal prepared
          1. The brothers fear their lives
        2. Joseph favored Benjamin
      4. Joseph tests his brothers
        1. Joseph sets Benjamin set up as a thief!
        2. The brother’s defend Benjamin
        3. Joseph is changed.
  3. Now: Joseph see’s it has transformed his brothers.
    1. He reveals himself to his brothers.
    2. What you meant for evil, God meant for good.
    3. …And they all lived happily ever after… or so we portray in church.

EXPLANATION & INTERPRETATION:

  1. I HAVE BEEF WITH THIS STORY.
    1. Joseph claims God sent him to Egypt.
      1. We interpret this to mean that everything that happens to us is God’s plan.
      2. We use the toxic phrase: Everything happens for a reason.
    2. I reject that notion. And you should too! Why? Because that’s a terrible God to follow.
    3. The God I follow is good and need not use evil to teach his children a lesson or develop their character.
    4. MY GOD DOESN’T USE EVIL.
      1. EVIL IS NOT A TOOL FOR GOOD.
      2. There is no “it’s for the greater good,” or “lesser of two evils.”
    5. A new perspective
      1. God is the Redeemer of Stories and the Redeemer of Choices we make.
        1. God didn’t make Joseph’s 10 brothers sell him into slavery.
        2. Joseph’s brothers sold him and God turned this terrible action into a redemption story.
  2. Return to the Book:  President Snow, and by default the Capitol citizens, packaged the Hunger Games as a benevolent symbol and a source of stability for the country. The Hunger Games was a lie. President Snow didn’t want to keep everyone safe. President Snow wanted control. He did not have the best interest of Panem in mind, rather the best interest of the elite.
  3. Our God is not President Snow. Our God doesn’t make us puppets, robots, or slaves to accomplish his bidding. Our God has a desire for God’s people, but won’t for them into it. 
    1. Consider Esther’s story. Her cousin Mordecai tells her that if she won’t stand up and do what is right, another person will rise.
    2. God will accomplish God’s Will. BUT our God need not use evil to accomplish the task. Our God is bigger than human restrictions or limitations.

APPLICATION: To not blame or attribute God for our pains, to take ownership for our actions, and to make a change.

  1. I entreat you: Stop saying “It’s God’s plan” or “God must have a plan for this,” when terrible things occur.
    1. God doesn’t make cancer, death, abuse, or miscarriages accomplish God’s will.
    2. It’s ok to acknowledge that something terrible has happened without making excuses or trying to make it better.
    3. Be present with someone in their grief. Don’t try to fix it, because words in that moment may only make it worse.
  2. Own your actions. We all experience the consequences of our actions. Sometimes our consequences passed on to another person.
    1. i.e. a drunk driver survives a car crash but kills another person.  God did not make that person die in a drunk driving accident to save the driver.
    2. Own your actions and the consequences of your actions.
  3. Know better, do better. Be part of your own redemption story.

CONCLUSION: It is easy in our grief to look for an answer or a reason to justify our pain. Unfortunately, for those looking for answers, God is not to blame. God wants what is best for us but God doesn’t make us into robots who always follow God’s desires.

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