Genesis 45:8 & 50:20 Suffering: God's Sovereignty & Our Theology

Genesis 45:8 & 50:20   Suffering: God’s Sovereignty & Our Theology      WC McCarter
Is God out of control? Is there anything outside of God’s authority and power? Can you trust a God who is out of control? Is there ever an event that takes place that God is too weak to do anything about it?
Let’s define the terms of my title this morning before we go any farther. Sovereignty is God’s absolute right, power, and intention to govern all things according to the counsel of His will. It is  His decisive self-reliance and self-determination. Humans do not have this ultimately. We have the right and authority to make decisions and do this to a certain degree, but ultimately we cannot control everything. If we could, we would solve all of the world’s problems and move on. God’s sovereignty includes his authority and power over sin and evil.
Theology is the study of God. It is our understanding of God. Every Christian is a theologian to some extent. You enjoy talking about God, learning about Him, and you have a certain understanding of who He is and what He does in this world. This morning, I would like to talk about both of these things, God’s sovereignty and our theology, through the lense of suffering.  We will do this from the story of Joseph found at the end of the book of Genesis.
In chapter three of The Story, we read about the life of Joseph, Jacob’s favorite son. We followed page after page through the ups and downs of his years. We followed him from the plots to the pit to Potiphar’s to the prison and finally to Pharaoh’s palace. After his brothers sold him, Joseph went from the lowest position in Egypt, as a slave, to the highest position in Egypt, as Pharaoh’s second-in-command. Before, his brothers lifted hand and foot to destroy him. In the end, no one lifted hand or foot in all of Egypt without Joseph’s word. Before, he was just a dreamer. Finally, he was the-real-thing. All along the way, he was learning. He was being shaped and molded to do what God would call him to do at a crucial time in Egypt and the surrounding areas.
Scripture Reading (pp. 39 & 42) – This is the Word of God

“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh,

lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish

what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
It is a fact of life that if you live long enough, you will be made to endure suffering. If you are older, you already know this to be true. If you are younger and think that it will not come, it will. Suffering takes on many forms. It may come in the form of a disability or disease; in the form of financial hardship or hunger; in the form of racism or discrimination; in the form of marital conflict or family disputes; in the form of murder, envy, strife, deceit, violence, and so much more. Our question is always, “Why?” as if we don’t already know that we live in a fallen world. The earth does not function the way that God originally intended, the political, social, and religious systems of the planet are corrupt, Satan is causing as much chaos as possible, people do terrible things to one another, and we ourselves sin and continually fall short of the glory of God. All of this causes heartache, anxiety, and depression. All of this causes suffering in many forms.
God’s Sovereignty through the Lens of Suffering
We already said at the very beginning of this sermon that God is in control and that there is nothing outside of His authority and power. We are people who believe those statements. But, what do we do with the problem of evil and suffering in the world? This is an especially difficult question when we consider that the wicked often prosper while the godly struggle. What do we do with this? How to we handle it? How do we understand it? How do we explain it?
Well, the Bible repeatedly teaches that the godly do suffer and will suffer until the end of this age. Joseph was a godly man, even from his youth, yet he was made to suffer. Why would God allow this? Joseph understood why. He said it was to accomplish an even greater purpose. We often think that God should pluck people (us) our of situations that may be harmful. He is God, we are His people, He can do it – so, why not? Picture this: if God would have not allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery, what else may have happened? He may have been murdered by his own brothers. Ok, what if God would have intervened and not allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery or to be murdered by his own brothers – would Joseph have escaped suffering the remainder of his life? The answer is no. There was still a famine to come, and Joseph would have suffered starvation like the rest of his family. We learn that he would have suffered either way.
Yet, God allowed (and was actually involved) the events of Joseph’s life to come about, even that difficult times of suffering. He did so to bring about a better thing. He did so in order to accomplish a greater purpose. Joseph was able to save his family, the land of Egypt, and all the surrounding areas from a great famine.
Our Theology through the Lens of Suffering

My assertion is that Joseph was able to suffer through all that he faced primarily because of his theology, that is, his understanding of God. Joseph must have been taught about the things of God as a little boy by his father, Jacob. Joseph himself had encounters with God that surely were significant in the shaping of his theology.
But what was Joseph’s theology? What was his understanding of God? I think that we can get a grasp of it from the verses we read earlier. If you notice the remarks he makes when everything is said and done, you realize that Joseph believed all along that God was at work in his life. You get the sense that Joseph believed in the power of God. What was it that he said?
“So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh,

lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish

what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Joseph believed in the sovereignty of God. He believed in the promises and the covenant of God. Joseph believed that God was always in control, using the good, the bad, and the ugly to accomplish His purposes. Joseph believed that no matter what people may do, no matter what evil may exist, no matter his own personal sin, God would still do good to him because he loved God and was called according to God’s purpose. The same is true for you. The question is whether you believe it or not. And not only should you agree in your mind that this is all true, but you should live a life that reflects this great faith.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
In the Bible, you get the idea that Satan is always mad. Do you know why he is so angry all the time? Because every time he does some seemingly clever and damaging thing, God is still able to accomplish His own righteous purposes.
1) Despite human sin and evil, God is able to accomplish His purposes. When you are going through a financial, emotional, relational, or spiritual struggle – hang on knowing that God is able to continue to work in your life and situation. He will get you through it. He will accomplish a good work in you. In the meantime, be attentive to His word and constant in prayer.
2) I am persuaded that part of the reason Joseph was able to weather the storm, as it were, was because his theology was right. I would challenge you to get the big picture just like Joseph did. Don’t believe things just for the sake of believing things. Dig deep into the Scriptures and really think through the hard issues. God will bless you for your efforts, and He will use that effort to prepare you for the challenges that life may throw at you later.
3) God wants you to be faithful wherever you are and whatever you may be facing. If you are cruising through life at the moment without a care in the world, He wants you to be faithful. If you are struggling to make ends meet, He wants you to be faithful. If you are battling an addiction, He wants you to be faithful. If your health is failing, He wants you to be faithful. If you are struggling with __________ (you fill in the blank), He wants you to be faithful.

Genesis 22:1-13 God Will Provide

Genesis 22:1-13    God Will Provide                   WC McCarter
In chapter two we read about the father of faith, Abraham. We also read about his son and grandson who are the forefathers of the Hebrew people, Isaac and Jacob. In the “lower story” of the lives of these three men, we read all sorts of interesting events. In the “upper story” we can see that God is beginning the long process to redeem His people from the curse of sin. He must build a nation, and to do that he must choose a couple. God shows that this plan of redemption will be completely accomplished by Himself; so, He chooses a highly unlikely couple – Abram and Sarai (whose names are later changed). Abraham is not perfect, and neither are Isaac and Jacob. Honestly, they are far from perfect . . . but they trust in the promise of God. God chooses to take it upon Himself to establish a binding covenant with these men and their descendants.
I would like to narrow in on a certain passage of Scripture for this morning’s message. Of all the events in this chapter, one narrative really stands out. It has deep theological roots, and it has considerable consequences for our own lives.
The passage I am referring to is the one that describes God’s testing of Abraham. Abraham is told to sacrifice his son of promise, Isaac, as a burnt offering. Can you imagine being asked to give up the thing/person that means the most to you? Why would God ask a person to do such a thing? This was a test to see if Abraham truly trusted the plan of God. Of course, Abraham was willing to do it – believing that God would raise Isaac back to life again if necessary.
Scripture Reading (pp. 19-20) – This is the Word of God
Testing and Trusting
To test someone is to stretch some part of them to the limits. What is it that God is testing here? The text does not explicitly say, but it is implied that God is testing Abraham’s faith. In the same way our hearts may be tested with a stress test, God is seeing how strong Abraham’s faith really is by stretching it to its limits. Abraham is expected to trust God and obey Him in difficult circumstances. Of course, this is an isolated event. I cannot think of anywhere else in the Bible where God gives a command in order to test someone, but does not allow the person to carry the command out.
The issue is basically whether Abraham identifies more so with the covenant or with God. I fear this for many Christians. Do you indentify more so with a church or building than Christ, your Redeemer? Do you associate more so with the things of the faith than the object of our faith, the person of Christ? I am a “Christian” not because of some political move, or because it is the socially acceptable thing to do, or because my parents and grandparents were. I am a “Christian” because I belong to Christ. How about you? Why are you a Christian?
Abraham was about to do away with everything. He was about to sacrifice all the promises of God, the covenant, and much more. He was about to send history in a tailspin. If Isaac is sacrificed, mankind will be sent back into the period of darkness and sin with no hope. This is the family of the covenant. This is the child of promise. This is beginning of God’s plan to solve the sin problem, to save us. It is about to all be sacrificed and God is the One who has demanded it. As Abraham had trusted God in the past, he trusts God about this as well. As difficult as it was, he got up early in the morning, loaded a donkey, split the wood, and left with his son.
The Two of Them Went Together
God said go, and Abraham went. God said sacrifice your son, and Abraham took the knife to slay his son. What drama! What a heart wrenching, soul stretching, emotional event. Twice in the text it reads that “the two of them went together.” Was Isaac so na├»ve? Maybe, but perhaps he knew what was asked as well and was willing to lay down his life for his God. We already know from verse one of the chapter that Isaac would not be sacrificed. This was only a test. But Abraham and Isaac do not know this. The two of them went together to do what God had commanded them to do. Abraham had said, “Here I am.” What great determination of faith.
Isaac realized that they had fire and wood, but no sacrifice. He asks his father, and Abraham makes that tremendous and famous, ultimately prophetic statement, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”
Now I Know that You Fear God
In the same way that a loved one knows that you love them, but expects you to demonstrate that love, God expects us to demonstrate our faith during trying times. He knows our hearts, but requires that we act it out. In the upper story, God never intended for Isaac to be sacrificed. God does not require child sacrifice as the pagan gods were said to crave it. No, our God requires faith. That is what was shown from Abraham that day.
An Angel of the Lord spoke to Abraham from heaven. He says, “. . . for now I know that you fear God. . . .” That is what this was about. Did Abraham fear God? His faith was tested and it proved strong. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. He believed him when God made the promise and when God asked him to sacrifice the promise.
Instead of His Son
The Lord provided a sacrifice. The intention was never for Isaac to be sacrificed, at least not in the upper story. But in the lower story, Abraham had every intention of following the word of the Lord. Abraham believed that God would fulfill His promise of many descendants. He believed that God could and would honor that promise even though he had been asked to offer up the son of that promise because God would either offer a substitute (God Himself will provide the lamb) or raise his son back to life again.
A ram was seen caught in the thicket by its horns immediately after the Angel spoke. The Lord had provided the sacrifice. The Lord had provided a substitute for Isaac. The Lord had provided. “So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.”
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God’s Story
1) God does not tempt anyone to sin. His tests are not meant to cause someone to stumble, but are to make one’s faith stronger. So, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.
2) God has promised that He will provide. In all of the promises He has made in Scripture, He is telling us, “I will provide.” Trust Him on a daily basis to provide nourishment for your soul.
3) Notice the striking similarities between this great test and the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
A. Isaac was to be sacrificed; Christ was sacrifices on the cross of Calvary.

B. The wood was placed on Isaac’s back; the cross was placed on Christ and He carried it through the streets.

C. Abraham, the father, would be the one to sacrifice his son, Isaac; God the Father would sacrifice His only Son, Jesus Christ.

*What is the only difference? Abraham was stopped and a ram was substituted in place of Isaac. The sacrifice of Christ could not be stopped. This was the plan of God, the eternal plan of redemption. Jesus Christ was offered up as a substitute for all of us. The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Genesis 1 & 2 A Healthy Self-Understanding

Genesis 1 & 2                        A Healthy Self-Understanding                                  WC McCarter
This week we have read The Story of “The Beginning of Life as We Know It.” To be exact, we read portions of Scripture from Genesis chapters 1-4 and 6-9. In this first chapter, we have read the creation event and incidents shortly thereafter. First, we were given a bird’s-eye-view of creation. Second, we were told in more specific detail how God created man and placed him in a garden. Then, we were told how the tempter helped to cause the man and woman to fall from the grace and glory of a perfect relationship with the Creator. Fourthly, we read how sin began to devastate the creation from very early on. The first siblings are marred by sin. Cain murdered Abel. Lastly, God is righteous in destroying mankind for their sin, but is merciful to Noah.
At some point this week, maybe on the video we watched Wednesday, I heard someone say how awesome it would have been to have a front row ticket to see the Creation event in the beginning. That would have been a majestic occasion! Can you imagine hearing God speak and then things beginning to appear? Can you visualize the beauty of the Garden of Eden? Can you see in your mind’s eye the hand of God scooping up dust of the ground and forming Adam? Are you able to see Adam cracking the mold as God breathed life into him? He began to live and move and have his being when God whispered. What an amazing thing. Today, I would like for us to look at a couple verses in Genesis 1 and 2 in order to develop a healthy and balanced understanding of ourselves.
Scripture Reading- This is the Word of God
Genesis 1:26-27 (pages 2-3)
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
Genesis 2:7 (page 3)
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
We have form because God gave us form.
We are fragile and only made of dust.
            The word for ground and man sound alike.
            Abraham confessed his utter inferiority in comparison to the Lord God in Genesis 18:27:
            “Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord,
            though I am nothing but dust and ashes. . . .
            Maybe you remember what God told Adam after he had sinned in the Garden. He said, “. . .
            for dust you are and to dust you will return.
            We are flimsy, yet important.  We are dust, yet significant.  We are nothing, yet something.
            We must develop a realistic view of ourselves.  Our self-esteem must be balanced.
            The Bible does not demean mankind in anyway in this passage, yet we can attain a balanced
            view of ourselves from this text.
            We have life because God breathed life into us.
            We live because God wants us to live.
            He has given us life, breath, and all things.
            In Him we live and move and have our being.
Conclusion- Finding Your Story in God's Story

You are created in God’s image, but you are marred by sin. Like Adam, Eve, Cain, and so many others, you are not what you were created to be. You have fallen short of the glory of God. You are under sin and are controlled by it apart from Christ. The Good News is you can be renewed in Christ. You can be re-created, as it were.

The Story of the Scriptures

The Story                   April 7, 2013                                                              WC McCarter
I love the Bible. Like many of you, I have learned from this book since the time I was a toddler, and I still am barely scratching the surface of its wealth and knowledge. This book tells the story of God’s love for me and the whole world. His value, His worth is found in its pages. From beginning to end there is one story to be told. It is the story of God creating a people, calling a people, seeking a people, and redeeming a people. All of the stories come together to tell the one continuous story of God’s grace and glory. The Bible is God’s story, but it is ours as well.
From the Foundation of the World (Rev 13:8)
The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. This was the plan from before time. You see, God knows the past perfectly, the present perfectly, and the future perfectly. Before God said, “Let there be light,” He had seen our sinful, rebellious state. He saw the end before the beginning. He knew what we would be and what He would have to do if we did not have Him. He is righteous, holy, perfect, and just. He cannot allow people to go on sinning forever and turn a blind eye to it. To do so would negate His essential attributes.
Follow me as I take you from the beginning of a promise to the fulfillment of it.
1) God Created Man in His Own Image (Gen 1:26-28)
2) He Shall Bruise Your Head (Gen 3:8-10, 15, 21)
3) All the Families of the Earth Shall be Blessed (Gen 12:1-3)
4) The Word Became Flesh (John 1:1-4, 14)
Finding Your Story in God’s Story
This is a story of love. It is a story of grace. It is the greatest story ever known to man. History is His Story. It is God’s story of redemption which only shows His glory brighter and brighter.
1. God has a story and you have a story. Most of you claim to be Christians. Let me ask you this, does your story line up with God’s? This is crucial for your life and witness. We will also focus on this during every sermon of this series. We will want to find our story in God’s story.
2. How often do you read the story? I know that the Bible can be overwhelming. It is a big, long book. I have never been the type to read books cover to cover. But this book is unlike any other. This book speaks the words of life, abundant and eternal life. I am challenging you with this campaign to read The Story from cover to cover, only one chapter per week. What you will be reading is mostly Scripture with a few helps along the way. I want you (and myself) to experience the story of the Bible in a new, exciting, and motivating way.
3. Lastly, how often fo you tell the story? We sang a hymn earlier that says, "I love to tell the story." Did you mean it? Now is a great time to get excited about the story of what God has done in Christ Jesus. Tell someone about that story of Good News and invite them to Fort Trial so that they can experience it with us.