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According to Plan

Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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During late December, for the last several years, I’ve seen many social media posts and I get lots of emails about Bible reading plans.
There are many annual reading layouts... there’s a chronological plan (following the timeline through biblical history), a historical plan (following the order in which each book was written), and (of course) the “straight through the Bible” plan (simply starting in Genesis and finishing with Revelation).
There are one-year, two-year, and three-year plans for getting you through the whole Bible. There are plans that emphasize the Psalms or the Gospels... and others that have you read through each Testament more than once in a year.
Side note: A one-stop-shop for free PDFs of numerous Bible reading plans:
Through modern technology, there are apps and email subscriptions that will send daily Bible readings right to your smart phone or computer... and you can even listen to the audio version... with music in the background if you’d like.
The beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to start a daily habit of reading Scripture, so I recommend all of these to you... whatever gets you in the Bible... and whatever gets the Bible into you.
For those of you who do read the Bible annually... and for those of you who may be resolving to begin this practice... let me tell you... today is going to be great for you.
Today, we’re going to run through the storyline of the whole book of Genesis, providing you something of a sketch to help you see all fifty chapters in light of the overall movement of the book.
Now, I know some of you might be thinking, “I thought Marc was going to start preaching through Exodus today...” And, you’re exactly right... we ARE going to begin studying our way through the book of Exodus this morning.
But, in order to understand Exodus properly, we have to begin by recapping Genesis... Hopefully all of this will become clear as we get going.
Let’s turn now to Exodus 1:1-7 and read it together...


Exodus 1:1–7 (ESV)
1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household:
2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher.
5 All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.
7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.


Because God is the one and only sovereign, we should trust, worship, and hope.





The book of Exodus begins with a story already in motion.
The KJV and the NASB both translate the first word of Exodus 1:1 as “Now” ...but a more literal translation would be “And.”
Either way, the opening verses of Exodus jump right into the middle of a story. Verse 1 says, “These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob...”
But who is Jacob? And what is Israel?
And when did Jacob’s sons go to Egypt? And where did they come from? I think we should take a moment to understand where we are in the storyline of the
Bible... before we try to understand what’s going on in the book of Exodus.
Exodus is the second book of the Bible... and (though book order does not always indicate chronological order)... Exodus does follow right along the storyline of the first book – Genesis.
As a matter of fact, the opening phrase tells us where Exodus picks up in the Genesis narrative... In chapter 46 and verse 8 of Genesis we read, “Now these are the names of the descendants of Israel, who came into Egypt...” Repeating this sentence at the beginning of Exodus, Moses lets us know that he’s is continuing the story from there.
But, what happened in the first 46 chapters of Genesis... before that sentence Moses repeats? ...Well, let’s take a little time to run through it today.
Genesis 1 and 2 poetically introduce the reader to the God who creates and rules everything... the main character and hero of the entire biblical story. God creates and provides... He makes things functional and beautiful... and He does all that He does in order to display His own glory and character.
Genesis 3 describes the conflict... sin and corruption and disobedience became the common human experience... a terrible fall by that part of creation which was especially designed to display God’s stunning attributes.
The first two people rebelled and thus set themselves up against God as arrogant enemies... rather than humble servants... and all humans after them have followed in that same path.
Genesis 3 tells us how the world and everything in it came to be cursed by God... but it also gives us a glimpse at God’s gracious character as well... God promised to reconcile the broken relationship between Himself and His created things... by the work of a future hero (Gen. 3:15).
Genesis 4-11 shows just how terribly creation was damaged by sin. There was murder and deceit, and wickedness beyond description. Things got so bad that God nearly destroyed everyone in judgment... but God did spare 8 people, who later began to repopulate the earth.
And yet, even after the fresh start, humans were still fundamentally corrupted... bent toward disobedience and sin. In Genesis 11, all of humanity gathered in a massive act of defiance against God... but instead of killing everyone this time, God confused their languages and sent them packing to different corners of the earth.
Up to this point in the Genesis story, the only hope we have for any kind of resolution is the vague promise that God made in chapter 3 of an “offspring” who would “bruise” or “crush” the evil serpent who introduced sin and rebellion in the first place (Gen. 3:15).
Then, in Genesis 12, we read a much more detailed account of God’s plan to bring about reconciliation and blessing through the promised “offspring”... despite the current state of hostility and God’s curse. God picked a man from among humanity, through whom He would “bless” all the “peoples” or “families” of the world (Gen. 12:3).
We read in Genesis 12:1-3, “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation [or people], and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families [or peoples] of the earth shall be blessed’.”
The significance of this promise cannot be overstated... It is the critical foundation of so much else that happens in the Bible, and it’s especially important to our study through the book of Exodus... But this promise becomes more detailed as the Genesis-story unfolds.
God spoke to Abram again in Genesis 15, saying, “5 Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them... So shall your offspring be... 13 [And] know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants [or workers] there, and they will be afflicted [or enslaved] for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions... 16 And they shall come back here [to the land of promise] in the fourth generation...” (Gen. 15:5, 13-14, 16).
Here we learn that God’s promised “offspring” of Genesis 3 has now become a whole nation of descendants, as numerous as the stars in the sky... but we also learn that success will not be immediate... there would be about 400 years of slavery away from the promised land before God’s promise of a “great” and “blessed” “nation” would be realized.
This 400-year enslavement and God’s work of bringing the “sons of Israel” (1:1) into the promised land is what the book of Exodus describes... but we still don’t know anything about “Israel” or “Jacob” or “Egypt” or “Joseph” (1:1, 5) at this point in the Genesis-story... so let’s keep following along.
In Genesis 17, God reiterated His promise or covenant with Abram, but this time God gave Abram a new name – “Abraham.” This was to show how radical God’s relationship with Abram was... Abram took on a new identity – Abraham would be the “father of a multitude of nations [or peoples]” (Gen. 17:5).
In Genesis 21, Abraham’s son, Isaac, was born. This was a miraculous birth, since Abraham and his wife were both very old and past their natural child- bearing years. More than that, Isaac was evidence that God would keep His promise to create a multitude of people from Abraham... Though Isaac was only one son, God gave Isaac the same covenantal promise: a people and a land and (ultimately) God’s own blessing (Gen. 21:12, 26:3-5).
In Genesis 25, Isaac had twin sons (Esau and Jacob) through miraculous circumstances (not unlike his parents, since Isaac’s wife was barren).
And in Genesis 27, we learn that Isaac’s son, Jacob, was the one God chose to inherit the covenantal promise, which had been revealed to his grandfather... And after Isaac named Jacob the “blessed” offspring, the pace (or speed) of the Genesis-story slows down... a lot.
From Genesis 27 to 36, God blessed, prospered, and renamed Jacob. Like his granddad (Abraham) before him, Jacob became identified as the object of God’s covenant, and God gave Jacob the name “Israel” (Gen. 32:28).
Jacob had 12 sons in total... and all of them are important to the story... but Joseph (the second-to-youngest son) is a major character throughout the remaining 14 chapters of Genesis.
During Joseph’s part of the story (Genesis 37-50), we really begin to see God’s detailed promises to Abraham (Genesis 12 and 15) unfold.
Who is Israel?
Israel is Jacob, the one through whom God promised to continue His covenantal blessing... which began with his grandfather, Abraham. Jacob or Israel was such a pivotal figure in the story that all his descendants were called “the people of Israel” from then on (1:1).
Who is Joseph?
He’s one of Jacob’s sons... the one who was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, and imprisoned in Egypt... but who was also the means by which God saved (or rescued) the “the people of Israel.”
What’s the significance of Egypt to the story?
Egypt was the land of prosperity and power, but it was not the land God had promised as the destination for His people. It was, in fact, a pagan land... full of people who did not know the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
How did Jacob’s descendants end up in Egypt
They came to Egypt for food because of a severe famine, and God arranged it all through His sovereign rule over even the wicked acts of sinful people.
And here’s where we pick up the story this morning... God had promised a “great multitude” (Gen. 17:5) of descendants... and God had promised “400 years” of “sojourning” in “a land that is not theirs” (Gen. 15:13)...
And God fulfills His promises!


With our bearings now having been established, we are better able to understand what we read in these first seven verses of Exodus.
All of the “sons” of Israel / Jacob “came to Egypt.” (1:1). Verses 2-4 list all 12 sons by name... with the exception of Joseph, who “was already in Egypt” (1:5)... a massive understatement, if ever there was one.
Jacob’s other 11 sons are “Ruben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah... Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin... Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher” (1:2-4). And each of these brought their “households” with them when they came to Egypt (1:1).
In all, we’re told, “the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons” (1:5).
This is a pretty significant increase from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s promise of blessing went from one father to one son, and then from one father to another son, and then from one father to 12 sons and all their families... 70 persons in all.
But God did not promise to merely multiply one father’s offspring... God promised an uncountable people... ultimately a massive group... a “multitude” (Gen. 17:4)... assembled from “every people” of the world (Rev. 7:9-12)... but well see this more clearly as we make our way through the book of Exodus.
For now, we want to see that God did keep His promises... verse 7 tells us that “the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly” during their time in Egypt...
Long after Joseph and his brothers had died, the people of Israel were still recipients of God’s blessings and favor, since they “multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land [or earth] was filled with them” (1:7).
This language not only echoes God’s promise to “multiply” (Gen. 22:17) Abraham’s descendants and to make them “fruitful” (Gen. 28:3)... it also echoes the way in which God commissioned humanity at the very beginning of creation.
After creating man and woman, God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth...” (Gen. 1:28)... the exact same terminology we see in Exodus 1.
Therefore, Exodus 1:1-7 shows us that though sin and rebellion had made child- rearing exceedingly painful work (Gen. 3:16)... and though there was not a single worthy human in all of creation (Rev. 5:3-4)... God was accomplishing – through His people... through this people-group He had created from nothing – everything He intended... and God was fulfilling His promise!
And the end (or purpose) for which God was doing all of this was to make Himself known in all the world.
That’s the reason God commissioned humanity to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28)... That’s the reason God blessed Abraham and his descendants, so that “all the families [or peoples] of the earth would be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
As one Bible scholar said it, “the Lord never chooses a particular person or people for its own sake, but for the sake of the world.” ...and, I would add, for the sake of His own plans and glory (Is. 43:25, 48:9-11; Ezekiel 20:9)
In Genesis, God reveals Himself as the God who creates and rules all things... He is the sovereign God of the universe... and Exodus 1:1-7 reiterates this feature of God’s self-disclosure.
Exodus 1:8 will set us on a new path toward God revealing Himself as much more than sovereign creator and king, but let’s not leave the opening reminder too quickly.
God is absolutely sovereign over all things... and we are more likely to disbelieve... and even resist this truth... than we are to lean into it... or (better yet) rest in it.
How is it that God could promise Abraham that He would bless him with a son, if God is not completely sovereign over the conception of children?
How is it that God could promise Isaac His blessing and favor, if God is not absolutely sovereign over who He blesses and who He does not?
How is it that God could promise Jacob a land and a multitude of descendants, if God is not totally sovereign over the rise and fall of entire kingdoms?
How is it that God could promise the people of Israel a 400-year stay in a foreign land, from which He Himself would bring them out, if God is not meticulously sovereign over what-so-ever comes to pass?
God is meticulously, completely, totally, and absolutely sovereign... and I’d like us to consider what that means for the remainder of our time today.


The main purpose of the whole Bible is to teach us about God.
There’s much more to it than that, but that’s the main purpose... And different portions of Scripture teach us about God in different ways.
If we turn to Ephesians 1, for example, we can read straightforward assertions about who God is and what He’s like. We might flip to Proverbs, and there we can learn about God’s moral character and the ethic by which He intends us to live.
But in the narrative portions of Scripture, like what we have in Genesis and in the first half of Exodus, we learn about God by observing how He has acted in real human history. We read about what God did... He sometimes even explains what and why... and then we consider what such things reveal about God’s character and nature.
The stuff we will learn about God as we make our way through the book of Exodus will be overwhelmingly joyful and awe-inspiring. God is fully deserving of our praise and adoration, and the attribute (or characteristic) God reveals most about Himself in Exodus is soul-comforting... He is the Redeemer of His people!
But there’s something important for us to learn right here at the beginning... and that’s the reality that God is meticulously sovereign... And if we miss it... or if we are hesitant to acknowledge it... then we will likely have a tough time enjoying God for who He truly is... who He reveals Himself to be.
Friends, do you believe God is sovereign?
If sovereignty means supreme authority AND freedom... independent self-rule and absolute governing influence over everything and everyone... then do you believe God is sovereign?
Any good church-going person is likely to admit that God is more powerful than anything else in all the world... but that’s not what sovereignty means... Sovereignty speaks to God’s authority... His right to control... or His governance...
Sovereignty is God’s right and His authority to work all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). Providence is God’s actual working in all things... and these two doctrines go hand-in-hand.
Stephen Charnock was an English pastor-theologian who lived during the 1600s. He wrote clearly and profoundly on this subject... Charnock said, “God is the sovereign Lord and King, and [He] exercises a dominion over the whole world, both heaven and earth. This is so clear, that nothing is more spoken of in Scripture. The very name, ‘Lord,’ [signifies God’s dominion]...”
Charnock went on, “You find him called a ‘great King,’ the ‘Most High,’ [and] the Supreme Monarch... [God] has an absolute authority over the greatest and the least creatures; over those that are most dreadful, and those that are most beneficial; over the good angels that willingly obey him, [and] over the evil angels that seem most incapable of government.”
R.C. Sproul (my favorite pastor-theologian) was fond of saying, “Even the devil is God’s devil.”
So, do you believe God is sovereign? Do you believe God is in charge of all things... that He’s providentially active in all things... the rise of nations... the storms in the sky... the grass that grows... and the events of your everyday life?
Do you know what the Bible says about God’s authority over all things... His complete control over every molecule of the universe?
When I first began to realize what God revealed about His sovereignty in Scripture, I was fascinated... God wasn’t anything like the reactionary and passive God I had been led to believe He was.
I learned God is intentional and active! God is the uncontested King!
Hebrews 1:3 says that every created thing is “upheld” or “carried” or “sustained” by God’s “word.”
Colossians 1:16-17 says that “all things” were created “through [God] and for [God],” and “in him all things hold together.”
Scripture says that nothing “comes to pass” unless “the Lord has commanded it” (Lam. 3:37)... indeed, it is “from the mouth of the Most High [God] that good and bad come” (Lam. 3:38).
God said, “I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Is. 45:6-7).
Friends, don’t you realize that God brought the people of Israel into Egypt through the means of bad and painful circumstances? Don’t you realize that God chose to bless sinful and undeserving people?
Don’t you see that Exodus 1 begins by reminding us that God is doing His work in the world... carrying out His plans... by controlling both good and bad events... and by shaping all of history according to His pleasure?
Friends, God is meticulously sovereign... and He is always at work in the events of the world (in the events of our miniscule lives) to bring about His ultimate ends.
The God of the Bible... the God of Christianity... the only God who is... He has made promises, and He fulfills those promises... and He does so precisely because He is the sovereign God who rules with absolute authority over everything.
But, how are we to respond to such a thing?


The main thrust of today’s message comes from a passage without any command or even an example. It simply tells us about the arrival and increase of the people of Israel in the land of Egypt.
There are basically two kinds of passages in the Bible... one is imperative (commanding us to do or not do something) and the other is indicative (telling us about something)... And our passage this morning is indicative.
Since indicative passages don’t offer any clear instructions about what we are to do, we must give a bit more effort in order to arrive at any points of application.
We have to ask ourselves... Because God is the one and only sovereign, what should we do? How should we respond?
Because God is the one and only sovereign, how should that affect my perspective of my current circumstances (job, family, finances, health, etc.)?
Because God is the one and only sovereign, what should we change about our current beliefs (Have I been imagining God as something or someone other than He is)?
I want to offer three take-aways for us today, but there are numerous... and you can certainly think of more specific applications for your own unique situation.
Because God is the one and only sovereign, we should trust, worship, and hope.

1) We may trust God’s good purposes, even when times are chaotic and painful.

I think this is particularly important for us as a church. Over the last 4 years or so, we have seen our attendance numbers decline, and we’ve faced challenging times... and some of us might be worried about what the future holds.
We should take comfort in God’s sovereignty today... and we may trust in God’s good purposes in all that we’ve gone through up to now. We may trust that God has planned to take us right through the path we’ve traveled, and we may trust that He’ll continue to order our steps as we follow Him.
Our task is to be faithful... and we may trust God with everything else. I think this reminder today is also important for us as Americans. 2020 has begun
with some significant political events, and the geo-political world was already unstable. As nations continue to rage... as some nations rise, and others fall... we may trust God’s good purposes in whatever situation we find ourselves.
Trusting God’s good purposes is a proper response for those facing all sorts of pain or uncertainty. If your health is failing... or if your family is dysfunctional... or if your job is stressful... or if you’ve been abused or neglected... or if you’re in a place of despair... remember today that God is meticulously sovereign, and He is good, and He’s working all things according to His purposes.

2) We ought to worship and fear God.

When we think about the “otherness” of God, it provokes us to worship and to fear
Him... And God’s sovereignty certainly puts Him in a different category than us.
Have you realized that your love for God or your diligence in serving Him is a bit lackluster? Then I recommend that you don’t look for ways to try harder... instead, spend a little more time concentrating on who God is... who He has revealed Himself to be... and then watch your adoration and reverence for Him grow.
If you’re a teenager, and you think the whole church thing is a little boring... then pick up a book on the nature of God... watch some YouTube teaching videos that will introduce you to the basic attributes of God... ask your mom or dad what they know about God’s sovereignty... and why they believe what they do.
If you give most of your efforts to Christian living and “church stuff,” then religion will become tedious... But take a long and frequent look at who God is... and all the Christian living and church stuff will become way more interesting...

3) We may find genuine hope in the gospel of Christ.

Because God is the one and only sovereign, we know that we owe Him perfect allegiance and obedience... but all of us have been horribly rebellious subjects to our King. This should scare us a bit, since we know we will have to face His judgment one day... and we’ll have to face the consequences of our rebellion.
But, God... the sovereign ruler and King... has shown Himself to be exceedingly gracious by bringing all of the events of human history to a climactic point in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Remember that Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 3!
Remember that God’s preservation and blessings on the people of Israel were ultimately focused on bringing God’s Messiah or Savior into the world!
Though we are guilty and shameful, God sent His Son to live as a man, and to die in the place of guilty sinners. In the death of Christ, God vindicated His own righteousness and provided full atonement (or forgiveness of sins) for all those sinners who would trust in Him.
Soon after His death, Jesus Christ was raised from the grave... and later, He ascended to His rightful seat of kingly authority. God promised that the same Jesus who died and rose again will return... but the next time, He will bring all of God’s promises to perfect fulfillment...
And, how can we know that He will do all of this? Because God is sovereign over everything... He will do as He pleases.


Alexander, T. Desmond. Exodus. Baker Books, 2016. Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. W.W.
Norton, 2004. Blackburn, W. Ross. The God Who Makes Himself Known: The Missionary Heart of
the Book of Exodus. IVP Academic, 2012. DeYoung, Kevin. The 10 Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and
Why We Should Obey Them. Crossway, 2018. Hamilton, James M. God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: a Biblical Theology.
Crossway, 2010. Ryken, Philip. Exodus: Saved for God's Glory. Crossway Books, 2015.
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