God Does Have a Plan
Genesis 45:1–15; Luke 23:26–47
God Has a Plan.
I. God had a plan for Joseph.
II. Forgiveness is always at the heart of God’s plan.
III. God’s plan is ultimately centered in his Son and the
forgiveness he earned at Calvary.
“God has a plan.” I’m sure you’ve heard that before. Maybe someone’s said
it to you. It often gets spoken in circumstances that are inexplicable or
tragic. “God has a plan.” I heard it on the local news a few days ago
concerning a family who lost a teenage daughter in a fatal car accident.
God has a plan. Much of the time we don’t know what that plan is—or where
that plan is taking us. And often that plan seems painful.
In the past, I myself have been reluctant to tell suffering people, “God
has a plan.” I haven’t always been certain whether people would hear that
as just a cliché, or whether they would find it comforting. Is it just a
cop-out, or does it provide clarity? Is it trite or truthful?
God Has a Plan.
As our Lenten journey with Joseph moves closer to its culmination tonight,
a theme that’s emerged from this account is God has a plan. And that plan
is often completely hidden from us. We see, hear, and experience one
terrible thing, but in, with, and under that one terrible thing, God is
doing his thing—which is wonderful. The jealousy and hatred of Joseph’s
brothers led them to do something despicable. Selling their own flesh and
blood into slavery in a foreign land was pure evil. But in, with, and under
those very same evil circumstances, God was at work, preparing salvation
for his people and ensuring the survival of Abraham’s descendants from
which the Christ would one day be born.
Joseph’s brothers had unknowingly been a part of God’s plan. Tonight’s
reading from Genesis tells of the reunion that those brothers never saw
coming. And when it finally happens—when they hear the high-ranking
Egyptian official say, “I am Joseph”—they are dismayed, terrified, unable
to speak because their jaws are on the floor. They no doubt expect the
worst. But in one sentence Joseph expresses how God’s good plan and the
evil plan of his brothers unfolded simultaneously: “Do not be distressed or
angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you
to preserve life” (v 5).
Joseph told his brothers: You sold me . . . but God sent me. Which is it?
Did Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery or did God send Joseph down
that path? Was Joseph a victim of evil or was he a savior for the starving
world? The most fitting answer to all of those questions is . . . yes. It’s
not either/or; it’s both/and. It is indeed the wonderful, awesome plan of
God has a plan. And tonight’s readings make clear that at the heart of
God’s plan is forgiveness. God’s plan moves forward and succeeds because of
forgiveness. Joseph’s treatment of his brothers is a profound lesson on the
power of forgiveness. This is what forgiveness looks like. Joseph is now
the most powerful man in the world. And before him are the brothers who
betrayed him, down on their knees, guilty of great evil, deserving of
death. But what does Joseph do? Through tear-filled eyes, he forgives them,
speaks tenderly to them, comforts and kisses every last brother. Oh, and he
also tells them the good news: God has a plan.
What if Joseph hadn’t forgiven them? What if Joseph had done what comes so
naturally to the sinful nature? What if Joseph had subscribed to the idea
that turnabout is fair play—that revenge is a dish best served cold? Or
what if he had spoken forgiveness to them but then sent them back home
empty-handed to starve? What if he had imprisoned or enslaved them to make
them earn their way back into his good graces?
If Joseph doesn’t forgive his brothers, then God’s plan is imperiled. God’s
plan to save the whole world, including you, is jeopardized. How will
Abraham’s seed secure salvation if the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and
Judah comes to a screeching halt because Joseph won’t let go of the sins
committed against him? If Joseph doesn’t forgive, then the Passion of our
Lord described by St. Luke tonight might never have come to pass.
The crucifixion scene sketched out by St. Luke is not unlike the scene of
Joseph and his brothers. The most powerful man in the world, the Son of
God, hangs from a Roman tool of torture, beaten and bloody, and fresh pain
is felt with every breath. As Jesus looks down and surveys the scene, his
disciples have abandoned him. His Father has forsaken him. He is surrounded
by sinners who hate him, who mock him, who eagerly await his death. But
Jesus submits himself to God’s plan to save the world. He seeks not revenge
on his enemies, but prays for them: “Father, forgive them, for they know
not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Jesus sheds his blood and submits to death
for all of his brothers and sisters, including you. This is what
forgiveness looks like. God has a plan—and this is it.
This plan of God for life and salvation had been underway since long before
Joseph was born—ever since our first parents ushered sin and its wages into
the world. God’s plan in Christ was hidden. God’s good plan was obscured by
the evil plans of men like Pilate and Herod, the scribes and Pharisees, and
all who wanted Jesus out of the way. But make no mistake, our sin was the
driving force behind the nails. Our sin was the reason for the crucifixion.
Still, in, with, and under this terrible thing, God was doing his
thing—which is wonderful. “In Christ God was reconciling the world to
himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor 5:19).
That is the best news you will ever hear. It means we don’t get what we
deserve. Like Joseph’s brothers with their guilty consciences and their
jaws on the floor, we don’t get what we have coming because of our sin. Our
Brother, Jesus, forgives us. He speaks tenderly to us through the preaching
and proclamation of his promises. He comforts us with the cup of salvation.
Our beloved Brother comes among us in flesh and blood to serve us and save
Flowing from this grand plan of salvation is God’s plan for you. Yes, God
has a plan for your life. Your life is not a random series of
events—actions and reactions, causes and effects—that in the end are mostly
meaningless. Far from it! Your Baptism declares that God is determined to
have his way with you . . . and his way is always good! We who have been
forgiven understand that God’s plan also always involves our forgiveness of
others. A refusal on our part to forgive those who sin against us—well,
that hinders God’s plan. We get in the way and imperil God’s work when we
do not forgive as we have been forgiven. Better by far to let go of our
neighbor’s sin, forgive, so that God can do his wonderful work and his plan
It is not trite, but truthful, not a cliché, but a comfort: God has a plan
for you—a plan that centers your life in the life of your Savior. The
trials and travails of Joseph remind you not to worry when brothers betray
you, or when temptation comes calling. When it seems as if much of your
life is wasted and worthless, remember Joseph and his years in prison. We
cannot know and we cannot see what God is doing or what he is planning. We
can only believe. We can only trust that he is working all things for our
eternal good, through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus
Christ. And that is everything. Amen.