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Matthew 6: To Plan or Not to Plan

Matthew 6 is another teaching passage, and I want to focus on the end of the chapter. This is a rather common passage that I think we comfort ourselves with when things are tough.

Mat 6:31  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

Mat 6:32  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

Mat 6:33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Mat 6:34  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

This passage immediately makes me uncomfortable. I like to plan. I like to have some idea of what I’m doing. I know that God provides, but I have this seemingly natural urge to want to take care of my own future.

It seems that this passage is advising not to worry about the future whatsoever at face value. However, I’m not positive that that is true.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus is talking about the birds. They do not prepare their own food. They do not have fields or harvest. In that sense, they do not plan in the way that we do.

Mat 6:26  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

I was thinking about the birds, and God does provide them with food. However, they need to use their natural abilities to hunt for that food. God provides a world that is full of potential food, but if the bird just sat in the nest all day, it would starve.

I then think about this passage where Jesus is telling us not to worry, but he did not tell us to go and tear up all of our crops. We certainly use what God has given us. We are called to be stewards. Sometimes taking care of things does mean that we plant responsibly for a future harvest.

Therefore, maybe it is wise to go back even farther in this passage.

Mat 6:24  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

We cannot serve God and stuff. This is really what I think it comes down to. I think that is where all of these other ideas flow from. God cares for the birds. They are stewards of their natural abilities, and they do what God designed them to do. God did not design them to starve after all.

I think there is a reason then that Jesus tells us to not worry about the future but does not condemn farming. We are to use the abilities that God has given us just as the birds do. However, we need to remember who we are ultimately serving. I think that is what we are supposed to get from this passage. We are to seek the kingdom of God. We are to follow the way. We take care of what God has given us, but it is not supposed to become our preoccupation. We have something more important to focus on.

Job 17: Our Plans Are Not Eternal

Job was a good man who wanted to follow God. In Job 17, we see him basically telling his friends to go away and ends the chapter with this image.

Job 17:11  My days are past, my purposes are broken off, even the thoughts of my heart.

Job 17:12  They change the night into day: the light is short because of darkness.

Job 17:13  If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.

Job 17:14  I have said to corruption, Thou art my father: to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister.

Job 17:15  And where is now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it?

Job 17:16  They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.

Keep in mind that all of the things referring to “they” throughout this passage are back in verse 11. We are talking about his purposes and the thoughts of his heart. In other words, we are talking about any plan that he had on earth.

Quite frankly, that stuff dies with you. They always say that you can’t take it with you when referring to possessions, and I would argue that you can’t do it after you are dead. Once you have left the earth, you don’t have the opportunity to follow through on some of those plans you have made. You do not have your hope based on things of earth.

Job’s friends have been very concerned about his material life. For example, back in chapter 15 we heard a lot about why he would never prosper because of his alleged wickedness. However, in this chapter Job is pretty much saying that all of that stuff is only temporal.

Anything physical is going to end up in the dust. Anything that we plan for on earth will only survive on earth.

The obvious implication of this is that we need to look into the things that will survive forever. We need to worry about our spiritual lives. As Christians, our relationship with God will not go away, but it will actually be enhanced when we get to heaven because it will be eternal. That is important.

What happens on earth is certainly important. We are supposed to be busy being the light of the world. We are supposed to be spreading the gospel around the world. Those things are all important. However, always remember that the most important thing is that relationship with God in the first place. It has eternal implications.

Esther 6: When God Intervenes

Haman must’ve been getting a little bit frustrated in Esther 6. He had this plan to exterminate all of the Jewish people, and he was going to start with Mordecai. However, I think that we can see divine intervention at work here.

One night, king Ahasuerus was having a hard time sleeping, so he wanted some of their record books to be read to him. It was in those books that he realized that Mordecai was the one who actually stopped the assassination attempt on his life but had never been properly honored for that. He knew he had to make that right.

Est 6:4  And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.

Est 6:5  And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.

Est 6:6  So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?

Haman was all excited that this honor was going to be for him, so he basically said that they should allow the one who was honored to ride through the street wearing all of the king’s apparel and riding on the king’s horse.

Est 6:10  Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.

Haman followed through on his word, but he also became incredibly aware that there was no way he could kill Mordecai at that moment like he had planned back in verse four.

This is going to sound a little bit morbid, but we are kind of like this at times. I am absolutely not saying that we all want to murder an entire group of people, but I am saying that we have a plan, and we get really close to executing that plan. However, God has something else in mind.

Haman was literally outside the king’s chambers ready to condemn Mordecai. His plan could have been completed in five minutes. He was probably getting excited because his plan was just about ready to come to fruition.

However, for some reason, the king could not sleep that night and happened to be reading from the particular book that recorded Mordecai’s heroism. I use the word “happened” as kind of an understatement because I believe there was a lot more at work here than chance.

God’s plan might not always make sense, and its timing might seem questionable. God could have intervened before Haman even started to plot against Mordecai, but for some reason, He waited until this moment to intervene and save Mordecai from death at this particular point.

As Christians, even though I am sure that we don’t plan to do this kind of evil, this should be a wake-up call. We might have a plan, and we might come really close to seeing our plan happen. However, we need to remember that God has a better plan, and that is the one that we really need to try to be following.

2 Kings 25: Tearing down the Temple

2 Kings 25 allows us to see what happened in the immediate aftermath of the Babylonian captivity. Obviously, Babylon came in and was not necessarily kind to their new subjects. One thing in particular stood out to me.

2Ki 25:8  And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem:

2Ki 25:9  And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man’s house burnt he with fire.

They tore down the Temple. With their entire pantheon of deities, I guess they really didn’t care too much about the God of Israel.

The reason that it stood out to me in particular was because it made me think about Jesus. He also talked about tearing down the temple, but He had a reason for it.

Joh 2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

Joh 2:20  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

Joh 2:21  But he spake of the temple of his body.

Of course, this is a very strong reference to the upcoming resurrection of Jesus Christ, but I was thinking about this because even though the Babylonians were able to burn down the Temple, they could not hinder the will of God. They could burn down His house, but if He wanted another one (and one was eventually rebuilt for the second Temple), there’d be nothing they could do to stop that. After all, even death couldn’t stop Jesus from rising again.

As we come to the end of this book, I think the chapter is appropriate. People can do whatever they want here on earth, but it is not going to slow down the purposes of God.

2 Kings 1: God Will Not Be Stopped

Here we are in another book of the Bible. 2 Kings 1 is honestly a pretty depressing chapter. Ahab died, so his son Ahaziah came on to the throne. He got sick, so he sent messengers to a different god to find out if he would ultimately recover.

2Ki 1:2  And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease.

God did not like it too much, so he sent Elijah to basically go and straighten everyone out. He found the messengers and delivered a pretty harrowing message.

2Ki 1:6  And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.

Ahaziah was not excited as you might imagine, so he sent men to arrest Elijah. That did not work out so well.

2Ki 1:9  Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down.

2Ki 1:10  And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

2Ki 1:11  Again also he sent unto him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he answered and said unto him, O man of God, thus hath the king said, Come down quickly.

2Ki 1:12  And Elijah answered and said unto them, If I be a man of God, let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And the fire of God came down from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.

I think that this shows is a pretty important point about God. Not only is He powerful, but He has a definite plan in place for the world. He knew that Elijah has a lot more work to do, and there is no way that Elijah would be killed before that plan happened. Even the best plans (or I guess the worst plans in this case) have no hope if they go against what God wants.

2 Samuel 16: God Has a Plan

I have to wonder what David felt like in 2 Samuel 16. He was obviously not in a great position as his own son just led a revolution against him. However, to add insult to injury, when David runs into a relative of Saul, he is attacked on that front as well.

2Sa 16:5  And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.

2Sa 16:6  And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.

2Sa 16:7  And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:

2Sa 16:8  The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.

As you will remember from our previous study, David did not really do anything to bring down Saul. He had plenty of opportunities to kill him, but ultimately he died in battle and fell on his own sword. Sure, David had been anointed as the next king, but he always had the utmost respect for the life of Saul. These accusations were virtually baseless.

Even though one of his advisers urged him to just kill Shimei, here is how David responded.

2Sa 16:10  And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?

2Sa 16:11  And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him.

2Sa 16:12  It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.

David understood that God has plans for all of us. We may not understand what is going on, but in the face of adversity, we have to keep everything in perspective. It is not like we are alone, and like David pointed out, it might also lead to something better (it is worth pointing out that this is not a guarantee in terms of wealth. I don’t do any type of prosperity gospel). God does use adversity to strengthen us at times though, and that could also be seen as something better for the future.

Genesis 21: God Works Everything Together for Good

Genesis chapter 21 must have been very difficult for Abraham.

First, Isaac is born just as God said he would be. Obviously, Abraham and Sarah were extraordinarily happy, and they undoubtedly knew that their family line would not die. God had promised that, but it must have been nice to finally see the tangible results.

However, after that, Sarah became incredibly jealous of Hagar again. This relationship has been strained for a long time, but Sarah was again concerned that when Abraham died, both Ishmael and Isaac would take part in his inheritance.

Abraham didn’t want to do that. After all, Ishmael was his son, and he didn’t want to send him away to wander and die.

It seems a little bit strange, but here is what God told him.

Gen 21:12  And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Gen 21:13  And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.

When I read this, part of me really had to wonder what God was thinking. Why would he tell Abraham to throw out his own son?

I think that the answer to that is found in verse 13. Ishmael was promised to have a nation just like Isaac was. Obviously, you can’t have two nations that are built right on top of each other.

You might think that I’m stretching this concept a little. After all, it seems like the separation could have been a lot more peaceful.

Nevertheless, since this was God’s plan, He also made it work. He was watching out for Hagar and Ishmael as they wandered and provided for them in the middle of the desert.

Gen 21:17  And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.

Gen 21:18  Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

Gen 21:19  And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.

Gen 21:20  And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer.

Gen 21:21  And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.

This is yet another illustration of the concept that God’s ways are not our ways. Why did Ishmael and Hagar have to get thrown out of Abraham’s house rather than peacefully parting ways?

I’m honestly not sure, but God provided during the whole journey. Ishmael survived, and his descendents created a great nation. Verse 20 says that God was with him, and Ishmael’s nation had its own area to grow and prosper. It definitely could not have done that if it was smashed up beside Isaac’s descendents.

Even if things seem incredibly confusing at a time, when we are in God’s will, everything has a purpose.