March 2, 2008

Under the Wing of God Almighty - Mar 2, 2008

Grace and Peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Bible tells us about Jesus crying on three occasions. Outside of Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:35). In the garden of Gethsemane (Hebrews 5:7). And when He came to Jerusalem for the last time (Luke 19:41).

The donkey that Jesus was ridding on came up over a little rise, hooves clopping quietly on palm branches and people’s clothing laid out on the road before him. And then, over the dusty brow of the hillside appeared the high walls of Jerusalem. Jesus could see God’s Temple gleaming in the sun. But instead of shouts of joy, this sight made Jesus cry. For He knew Jerusalem’s future. Surrounded. Besieged. Destroyed for its failure to receive God’s Son (Luke 19:41-44). Jerusalem would be judged justly, but that brought no comfort to Jesus, only tears.

Later, after Jesus’ tears had time to dry, He said the following words,

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:37 NIV).

Jesus cried for Jerusalem because they refused the sheltering wing of God. Today we consider the illustration that Jesus used: God as the loving, protecting mother hen. Our sermon theme for today is, “Under the Wing of God Almighty.”

We read from…

Genesis 41:25-45 (NIV)

25Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads of grain are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterward are seven years, and so are the seven worthless heads of grain scorched by the east wind: They are seven years of famine.

28“It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.

33“And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.”

37The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38So Pharaoh asked them, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”

39Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”

41So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and men shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

44Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 45Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

46Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt.

In college a friend of mine showed me an interesting website set up by a local power company. A mother eagle had nested right next to a power box and the company had set up a camera so you could view the nest online, twenty-four hours a day.

It is heartwarming to view a big mother eagle tending to her little hatchling eaglets, hovering over them with strong wings and watchful eye. But there were also many hours when she was absent. In those hours those fragile little fluffy birds did little other than breath and look around, waiting for their mother to return.

I wonder if those little birds felt fearful and lonely when their mother first lifted her wings and flew away from them. The viewing public knew that she was leaving with a purpose – to bring them back much needed food. But I doubt they understood.

And while I am unsure what kinds of emotions birds feel, I can’t help but think that Joseph felt fearful and lonely as he sat at the bottom of the dry well that his brothers had cast him into out on the pasturelands near Dothan (Genesis 37:17). Joseph’s brothers were jealous of Joseph because their father loved him more than them. We remember the special coat that their father Jacob had given Joseph. We remember the brother’s hateful words to one another when they saw Joseph approaching them from a distance.

Instead of welcoming Joseph they had thrown him down into an empty cistern and sat down to eat their lunch.

Surely Joseph must have been afraid down in that deep, dry well. Perhaps it seemed to him that God had lifted up His Almighty wings and flown away.

But, in truth, God had not abandoned Joseph, He had merely gone to prepare things that were to come. God’s Almighty wing was hovering over Joseph in that well, though is was unseen. And God was working in the background so that he might not only provide for Joseph, but for many people.

As the account goes, Joseph was sold to a caravan that was heading west to sell their goods in Egypt. And like one more commodity, in Egypt Joseph was sold to a man named Potiphar. And there too, it seems as if God departs from Joseph. For when Joseph had earned the respect of his master, he was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of trying to sleep with her. Into another dark pit, the pit of prison, Joseph was thrown.

But again, God had not abandoned Joseph. He would cause these evil events in Joseph’s life to turn out for his good. Inconceivably, Joseph would become ruler over all Egypt through the working of God’s unseen but mighty wing.

In our Psalm for today, the Psalmist wrote,

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

deliver me in your righteousness” (Psalm 31:1 NIV).

When the protecting wing of God Almighty seemed gone, Joseph trusted God all the same. And God did not disappoint Joseph. God recorded these events in Joseph’s life for our benefit. When it feels as if God has left you naked and vulnerable, remember God’s working in Joseph’s life. Remember that God is good, and trust that He has not left you, but is preparing your future. As was true with Joseph, God provides for those who trust in Him.

Not all birds nest their young in high places. Some build their nests right on the ground. If you watch a mother duck with her ducklings, you might see her loving care expressed with a nip to the tail and a rough prodding with her wing. A mother duck is sometimes rough with her little ones to gather them to where they need to go.

God sometimes roughly brushes us along in this same way. But he also provides His word to show us His purpose in doing so. Only through God’s Word made clear by the Holy Spirit do we come to understand God’s plan for our life.

In His wisdom, God was going to send seven years of extremely productive harvests to Egypt. But then God would send seven years of severe famine on the land. With these seven years of famine God would roughly move the people of Egypt to know that He was God Almighty.

It might seem strange that God would show His love to Egypt through seven years of famine. But by preparing them for this hard time through the mouth of His prophet Joseph, God would do just that.

When the famine set in and people began to need food, Egypt would seem to miraculously have huge quantities of stored grain! When asked why they had stored up all this food, the finger would be pointed to Joseph, and to God. The God of Joseph had provided for Egypt when no one else had seen the famine coming. The magicians and wise men of Egypt had been unable to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh, but Joseph’s God had.

It’s interesting to note that Joseph had not lost faith in God, even though he had been brushed along roughly by His wing and even imprisoned unjustly. Listen to what Joseph said when he was brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams:

15Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”

16“I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:15-16 NIV).

People sometimes think that they can determine how God feels about them by evaluating their life. If things aren’t going well, God must be angry with what they’re doing. If things are going well, God must pleased with what they are doing.

Sometimes people even try to establish what God wants them to do by looking solely at the events of their lives. They might say, “An opportunity to do this has opened up to me, so this is what God is telling me to do.” Or, “I’m having a hard time doing this, so God is telling me to do something else.” But in truth, God’s will can only be determined without a doubt, when we look to God’s Word.

Because of all the troubles in Joseph’s life, he could have come to the logical conclusion that God didn’t love him. But that wasn’t true. Because of the famine that would come on Egypt, the people could have come to the logical conclusion that God wanted them to starve to death. But that wasn’t true.

We understand that God worked through all the events of Joseph’s life only because we have seen that truth in the pages of God’s Word. We understand that God brought a famine on Egypt to show His love for them. But we only understand that only because the Holy Spirit has shown us that through God’s Word.

For us to move in the direction God is prodding us, we must listen to God speak to us through the Bible. Only then can we begins to understand why certain things happen in our lives. Only with a finger on the pulse of Scripture can we understand where and why God is directing us with His loving wing.

God provided for Egypt by giving Pharaoh a set of prophetic dreams about future events. But this vision would have been completely useless without the interpretation that came from the Holy Spirit.

In the same way, God shows us His plan for our lives, but we can only understand what He means by remaining in contact with His Word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us the way through that Word. If we do that, then when God’s wing directs us we will be able to move in the right direction, because we will understand the Father’s will.

Baby birds find protection under the wing of their mother only in their youth. After a time, they must strike out on their own, leaving the safety of their mother’s wing.

This is one way that God is not like a mother hen. His wing remains over His children throughout their life and forever. When we look over the life of Joseph we see God’s protective influence over and over.

When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming to check up on them, they intended to kill him. But God molded the events that happened so that Joseph was sold into slavery instead.

In Egypt, when Potiphar’s wife had Joseph imprisoned, God molded the events so that Joseph eventually stood before the king of the whole land.

When Joseph announced to Pharaoh that God was going to send a seven year famine on Pharaoh’s land, instead of being upset with Joseph, Pharaoh elevated Joseph to second in command in Egypt. Again, God’s hand was molding the events of Joseph’s life.

Under the wing of God, Joseph could rest securely, for under the wing of the Almighty, everything that he needed was provided.

When I first looked at this selection from God’s Word, I thought, what a strange text for the season of Lent. I mean, shouldn’t we be looking into the life of Christ instead of the life of Joseph? But amazingly, when we look at Joseph’s life we see a foreshadowing of Christ’s life.

Joseph was hated by his brothers. Christ was hated by His people.

Joseph’s brothers plotted his death. The Pharisees plotted Jesus’ death.

Joseph was sold for the price of a slave. Jesus was sold to his enemies for the price of a slave.

Joseph served as a servant to Potiphar. Jesus served the people of Israel by healing their sicknesses.

Joseph was unjustly accused by Potiphar’s wife. Jesus was unjustly accused before Pontius Pilate.

Joseph was unjustly condemned and sent to prison. Jesus was unjustly condemned and sent to the cross.

Joseph was filled with the Holy Spirit. So was Jesus.

Joseph was sent to Egypt, by God, to save many people from death. Jesus was sent to Earth, by God, to save sinners from eternal death.

After Joseph was thrown into a lowly prison, he was elevated to a place of high honor by the powerful hand of God. After Jesus died on the cross, He was raised from the dead and was restored to His former place of honor and authority by the powerful hand of God.

All his life Joseph had placed His trust in God and His ability to provide. All His life Jesus trusted in the wise plan of His Heavenly Father. Even as He willing gave Himself into death, Jesus expressed His trust in the Father by saying,

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46 NIV).

And through His sacrifice on the cross, Christ has provided a spiritual refuge for all sinners. Under the mighty wing of God’s own Son we are protected from the just anger of God that would have fallen on us because of our sins. We will never feel God’s hammer of judgment, because Christ has come between us and that hammer.

Before the worlds were created, God looked forward in time and desired to save sinners from the death they would entangle themselves in. Through God’s Son, God has gathered us under His protection forever. Remain under the wing of Christ, dear Christians, for there your refuge is secure now and forever.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

-Pastor Caleb Schaller

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