The biblical feast of Passover is coming up in a few short weeks and Jewish people all over the world (and more and more Christians as well) will celebrate with a traditional seder meal. There will be matzah, time with family, and a retelling of how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt after hundreds of years of bondage. It’s a wild story, complete with political genocide, murder, a burning bush, an anointed leader, a river of blood, devastating plagues, an angel of death and an incredible rescue plan -- and that was all during the life of Moses.
While the focus of the holiday is the exodus, it’s tradition to begin the telling of the story with how the Israelites entered Egypt in the first place. And for that, we have to go all the way back to Joseph.
If you don’t remember the story of Joseph, go to Genesis and read the whole thing again; you’ll be glad you did. His life has God’s handprints all over it. He was born to the patriarch, Jacob, and sold into slavery by his brothers. But, even as a slave in Egypt, Joseph flourished because of his faithfulness and God’s favor in his life. Years into his slavery, he was wrongfully accused of a horrible crime and thrown into prison. There, by God’s gift, he interpreted dreams for two fellow inmates. He continued in his sentence until eventually the Pharaoh had a dream none of his magicians could interpret. All of a sudden, one of the former inmates remembered Joseph and he was called in front of Pharaoh.
The dreams Pharaoh had were a prophecy from God. In the next 14 years, the people of Egypt would experience seven years of abundant crops followed by an equal time of intense famine. The whole known world would be affected. Joseph not only told Pharaoh what would happen, but he told him what he should do about it. He very specifically said Pharaoh should hire people to collect one-fifth of the grain during the plentiful years and store them away for the years of drought, so the people would have enough to eat.
And, here’s where I want to focus. Joseph had a plan. When Pharaoh heard the plan of God come out of Joseph’s mouth, he was convinced Joseph was filled with the Spirit of God. “The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’ In fact, because of the wisdom Joseph displayed, Pharaoh hired him on the spot to prepare for the famine and to be second in command of the entire country,” (Genesis 41:37-38 ESV). As an unbeliever, Pharaoh was introduced to the very Spirit of the living God because of Joseph’s plan!
Please don’t miss the importance of what just happened. “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You 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,’” (Genesis 41:39-40 ESV). Pharaoh trusted God’s plan through Joseph. Remember, the Egyptians were a society of polytheists, many believing Pharaoh himself was one of the many gods. Then, all because of a dream and a plan, God revealed Himself to an entire nation as the Wise One to be worshiped. Incredible!
Even so, creating a plan is often the opposite of what we do as Christians, especially when we see something big on the horizon. Take an example from my own life. When my husband and I decided to expand our family through international adoption, we went all in! We prayed, God spoke to us through different people, and we were confident in moving forward with the adoption process. But when it came to funding this very expensive family adventure, I told my husband, “God will provide.” True. And, there’s nothing wrong with that kind of thinking ... until there is.
You see, God isn’t haphazard. Often times, we tell ourselves and others we’re trusting in God, but we don’t really mean it. We use that phrasing as a cop out because we don’t actually want to be burdened with the logistics of our situation. We believe we’re showing greater faith if we go into a circumstance without researching it because God just wants us to take the “next step.” And while sometimes that is the case, Scripture is full of instructions and examples of planning ahead and saving. We look to the future with hope that God will carry us and a make a plan to get us where He wants us to go.
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty,” (Proverbs 21:5 ESV). I’m not at all arguing that it is hasty to trust God. I’m just recognizing that many times, we’re acting in haste but covering up our actions with a mask of faith. We are saying we’re trusting God when really we just don’t want to think about what we need to do to follow through with what He’s asked of us.
CREATING A PLAN IS OFTEN THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT WE DO AS CHRISTIANS
In our family’s story, my husband, who is very visionary and pragmatic, stepped in with wisdom. He encouraged me and we prayed some more. We asked God to help us adjust our budget and even sold a car (total God story there) to cover the expenses we would incur throughout the adoption. Yes, God wants us to trust Him with everything in our lives, but He is also a God of order Who knows the future and appreciates a good plan.
In Egypt, it was Joseph’s plan that revealed the very Spirit of God to Pharaoh. He understood something big was coming and instead of communicating a passive “we just need to trust God” mentality, which often sounds good in church circles, he was prepared to plan and act. He created a budget complete with a savings and re-distribution plan (if you want to look at it through today’s fiscal language) -- and it was brilliant! Pharaoh knew the God of the universe must have been the mastermind behind rescuing the world from famine because he heard the plan from Joseph. That plan was straight from the mind of God to Joseph’s voice to Pharaoh’s ears, and it saved the population of the world.
More than 400 years before the very first Passover, God revealed his plans to Abraham. In very specific language, He told Abraham that his ancestors would enter into slavery in Egypt, but that eventually He would rescue them. God knew Joseph would save his family from famine and they would come to live with him in Egypt. God knew all about the new Pharaoh and his scheme to kill the baby boys even before Moses was ever conceived. I’m so grateful God had a plan. Even more, I’m so grateful He chose to reveal it to Abraham, Joseph, Moses and so many others. This act of God to reveal His plan so they could share in it didn’t weaken their faith at all, it actually strengthened it. They got to see firsthand that what God said He would do, He did, and they got to participate.
Having a plan isn’t counter to God’s way, it is God’s way. It’s true, He rarely shows us the whole picture, but asking Him for our part in it isn’t being faithless. It’s actually a way of being faithful. It shows Him we’re willing to lock arms with Him and work to see His vision for the world be fulfilled, even we are just planning and working in our little corner of it.