Read: Matthew 2:1-23
When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” Matthew 2:12-13
Confession time – I’m a planner. I don’t mean I’m a casual planner; I mean I try to plan everything. If you were to ask my wife, she would readily tell you that I have Excel worksheets for everything. Christmas shopping lists you ask… I have a multi-columned worksheet with embedded formulas for the potential gift items for each person, the best deals I can find for each of those items, and notes on each. Vacations… also an Excel spreadsheet with the same level of detail for locations to stay and eat. If we have to be somewhere (let’s say Pittsburgh) for an event the next evening, the phrase my wife and daughter will tell you they’ll hear from me the day before is “let’s march it backwards” meaning let’s establish the timeline and plan we need to follow to be there in time.
As you may recall from a previous devotion I wrote, I spent several years on active duty in the Navy. For any of my fellow sailors out there, you can appreciate that there are probably very few places on the face of the earth that are more welcoming for serial planners than the military. Plans of Action and Milestones (POAMs as they’re affectionately called in government lingo) – LOVE THEM! As Hannibal Smith from the 80’s show the A-Team would excitedly say in each episode, “I love it when a plan comes together”. I’m with Hannibal; I love it when a plan comes together too. However, one thing I quickly learned in the Navy and have continued to realize in life that is highlighted in the focus verses from today’s reading is that in life, plans don’t always come together they way we expect them or have planned for them to go.
In today’s reading, we see God stepping in and telling the wisemen to head home in a different direction. Perhaps even more life changing, we see God telling Joseph that He had a major change of plans for him. Joseph had to set aside his plans and obey God instead. Joseph’s immediate obedience of God made possible the fulfillment of multiple Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ coming, so the setting aside of Joseph and Mary’s plans for God’s will had bigger impact than either could have imagined at the time.
I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t want us to make plans, but I can’t believe that; I think too much scripture points towards it being right and necessary for us to plan. For example, in Proverbs 21:5, we are told: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” In Luke 14: 28 – 30, Jesus tells His disciples: “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
As I read the Bible, I see God telling us that there needs to be a balance with regard to planning. Proverbs 19:21 tells us “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” While we need to seek wise council, work hard, and make plans for the future, we also need to remain flexible. When God shows us that our plans don’t match His will for us, we need to be prepared to immediately jettison our plans in favor of His greater plan and will. We may not always understand the reason why God is telling us to forsake our plans for His, but we can always trust that His will is better than our plans could ever be.
Prayer: Thank You, Father, that I can always trust Your will to be bigger and better than anything I could ever plan. When I start to get sideways about “needing” my plans to come together when You’re nudging me in a different direction, I pray that You remind me that Your will is above anything I could even imagine. As Jesus prayed in the garden “Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”