“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17 NIVUK
I often get impatient with God when I think I know there is a shorter way to reach a goal I have set myself in life and I seem to go on a roundabout route instead. As a child of God it is important to realise that when that happens, God is actually preparing me for future challenges I will face. He does this because He really cares about me, He is setting me up for success and because His will is sovereign.
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” – Proverbs 19:21 NIVUK
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” – Matthew 17:1 NIVUK
Why did Jesus only take Peter, James and John with him up the mountain? Wouldn’t the other disciples also have benefited from being part of the transfiguration experience? Was it unfair to only let a few benefit? In today’s culture of entitlement and self-glorification, it may seem an unjust call from Jesus.
However, the Holy Spirit immediately reminded me of Paul’s image of the church as the body of Christ. We are all members of the body but we have different functions within the body. This means that we will not all have the same experiences and it is not reasonable to expect all of us to enjoy the same opportunities. May God give us the willingness to submit to His lordship and trust that He knows what experiences will help us become more like Christ.
In Acts we get some insight in how Paul decides, or is led, to preach in different places.
“Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Acts 16:6-10 NIVUK
Scripture doesn’t make it clear how the Holy Spirit prevented them from going certain places. One must assume there were circumstances, like problems at border checkpoints, that prevented them from continuing their journey. Instead of laying the blame for the lack of success on the enemy of our souls, they saw it as the Holy Spirit directing their steps.
I believe their response indicates an excellent understanding of who they are as followers of Christ: Satan has no power over them because they are walking in Christ’s victory. So no scheme of the evil one will be able to stand against them when they walk in truth with the message of Truth. The logical conclusion, when things they have planned don’t work out, is that God has other plans.
I wonder if we give our enemy undue credit at times because we have forgotten who we are as followers of Christ. Christ is victorious. Let’s live as victors, having confidence that He is directing our steps.
This historical account is reminiscent of Genesis 27. However, there is a major difference between the two accounts: in Genesis 27 Isaac is deceived by Jacob, and Jacob, the youngest son, gets the blessing usually reserved for the older son. In this account Ephraim, the younger brother, gets the blessing that should be given to the older brother with the full knowledge of Jacob. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly why Jacob does this. Looking at how Jacob gives glory to God in the blessing that he pronounces over Joseph’s sons, I propose that God might have spoken to him about it. But again, we don’t know that for sure.
It is interesting to note that Jacob, the youngest, was appointed over his brother Esau; Joseph, the youngest, was the leader of his older brothers; Ephraim, the youngest, was appointed over Manasseh. All of these appointments were counter-cultural, i.e. culture assigned seniority according to age, not by wisdom, experience, or ability. Perhaps there is a practical application for us in this: when God calls us, He might ask us to do something that is Scripturally sound but counter-cultural – He will probably do it because He has gifted you in this area. We must be careful to limit what we can do for God by allowing ourselves to be bounded by cultural expectations. I realize that this is a dangerous statement, and that is why I mentioned before that you have to be a 100% sure that what God is calling you to do is Scripturally sound.
It is interesting to see where Jacob is in his relationship with God. In the blessing he pronounces over Joseph’s sons he says, ‘the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm’. What a wonderful declaration of faith?! Our God is unchanging and He transcends time; He is one who goes ahead of us, and decides what is the best road to take, where we can find the best pasture, and where is the most secure watering hole; He is our protection.
God’s timing is not our timing but when it is time, things move fast! Joseph must have been completely overwhelmed: the one moment he is a prisoner, the next moment he is the second-in-command of one of the biggest countries in the ancient world. And he is relatively young for the position too: only thirty years old! I am just a little older than that, and I cannot imagine being the prime minister of my country right now.
- May the Lord help us to be faithful to Him in the little things, just like Joseph is in his father’s household, his Egyptian master’s house, and in prison. This often prepares us for the plans He has for us in the future by giving us skills, and developing and strengthening our character.
- May the Lord remind us to give Him the glory in all things, like Joseph does when Pharoah comments on Joseph’s ability to explain dreams. This will help us to view the world with a proper perspective, and enable us to resist the temptations power and wealth might throw our way if the Lord chooses to use us in an area of leadership.
- May the Lord help us to be patient when it seems as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel. When we are trying our best to walk with God, and give Him honor and glory for all things, He will work things out for our good at the right moment (Romans 8:28).
- We should never say we are too young, under qualified, or have the wrong background to accomplish what the Lord has called us to do. Just look at Joseph . . .