“Plots” versus “the Plan”
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
There is a common saying that “Man proposes, but God disposes.” That is a loose reference to Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” All of scripture teaches us that Man’s plans, schemes, and plots are all subject, ultimately, to the supreme authority of God. Even unbelieving humanists recognize that there are things we can’t plan for: they are called “the imponderables,” which guide the final outcome of all our plans.
I remember, as a child, reading of a farmer in Mexico who was clearing brush in February, preparing for Spring planting. He noticed that the ground in his cornfield seemed unseasonably hot. And a little later, as he moved from one field to another, he noticed a small bulge in the field, with a crack running through it.
There had been a pattern of small earthquakes in the area, so he was not concerned. He just continued his work. But then, he heard a sound like thunder. He turned, and saw that the little bulge had suddenly become a hill about six feet tall, and it was spewing smoke and ash! He and his family fled to the nearby village, but the volcano continued to grow, raining ash and eventually lava. The village had to be evacuated and ultimately it became completely buried, with only the bell-tower of the church visible above the volcanic debris.
That eruption was in 1943, in Parícutin, Michoacan, in Mexico. To one degree or another, it changed everyone’s plans.I don’t know how it fits into God’s greater plans, but it didn’t comfortably fit into any human plans! That volcano continued to erupt for the next nine years. It reached a height of almost 1400 feet above the valley floor. Thousands of people were forced to flee, and relocate elsewhere. (No more cornfields!)
Ironically, years later, the original farmer who had lost his cornfield went back and erected a sign. He claimed the volcano for himself, saying it was “owned and operated by Dionisio Pulido.” (I’m pretty sure that little “plot” was never taken seriously by anyone. The sad fact was simply that he and everyone else had just lost their land and their homes.)
The Messiah is God’s Plan
We are told of God’s plan for the redemption of the fallen race of humanity, beginning in Genesis 3:15. There, the “Seed of the Woman” is prophesied. He was the One who was to destroy the works of Satan. But in Revelation 13:8, we also see that Jesus was the “Lamb slain from the Foundation of the World.” And in 1st Peter 1:19, 20, we see that God’s Plan for Redemption preceded the Fall of man. In fact, it was actually already in motion before the Creation of the World.
So, we can see that the Eternal Plan of God is not to be disrupted by the Foolishness and the Rebellion of Man. Long before He created the Earth for Man to live in, God knew that Man would fall into Sin,. He anticipated our rebellion and all the ramifications of our sin.
Revealed in Advance
In John 11:47-53, the Jewish leaders were “taking counsel” and plotting to kill the Messiah. God did not say, “Oh, My! I didn’t see that coming!” As a matter of fact, He did see it coming: He planned for it! He told us about their plot, hundreds of years in advance.
Daniel told of the coming Messiah and His death, in Daniel 9:26, 570 years before the Birth of Christ. (Incidentally, “Christ” is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word “Messiah.” Both words literally mean, “The Anointed One.”)
His birth was predicted 710 years before the fact, in Micah 5:2, where God predicted the location of the birthplace. He was to be born in Bethlehem Ephrata, This is the specific Bethlehem that is in Judea, just down the road from Jerusalem. It is where his great aunt Rachel is buried, too.
In Isaiah 53:1-12, we are told about His death, burial, and resurrection, more than 700 years before Jesus was born. We saw that He was to be executed with criminals, but that His burial would be with the wealthy. We saw that His beatings and wounds were the result of our crimes. They were to provide healing for our corruption and our fatal illness called Sin.
King David told details about the crucifixion of Christ in Psalm 22:1-18, saying, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Also, “My hands and my feet they have pierced,” and other details. All this was given more than 1,000 years before the birth of the Messiah. These are only a few of the places where God told us His plan, and what He would do in order to redeem the lost race of Man.
So, what about all the “plots of Man” which seemed likely to “thwart” the plan of God?
Rebellion is the Overall “Plot of Man”
All the rebellion of Man, from Adam to the last person who will ever be born, is completely within the knowledge of God. His plan is made with full awareness of every detail of our sin. He knew all about our pride, our rebellion, our violence, our immorality, our unfaithfulness, and our deceit…all of it!
When Nebuchadnezzar conquered and destroyed Jerusalem, God not only knew about it in advance, but He told Habakkuk , Isaiah, Jeremiah, and several other prophets that it was coming…many years in advance, and with great detail.
In fact, He told the Babylonians why He was sending them to conquer Jerusalem and all the land of Judea! (In Jeremiah 40:2, 3, Nebuzar-adan, (Nebuchanezzar’s Captain of the Guard) told Jeremiah the prophet, that this destruction came as punishment from The LORD, their God, for their own sin and disobedience, because they turned away from their God! (The heathen knew the plan of God, in some cases!)
Murder is the Plot of Man
The High Priest, the Chief priests, the Temple officers, most of the Pharisees and the Sadducees all plotted against Jesus! And God already knew about it! It fit perfectly into His plan. And, despite all we are told about the Plot of the Enemy to “kill Jesus,” God tells the “rest of the story.” In John 10:18, Jesus said “No man takes my life from me!” He laid down His life by His own will and by His own authority. The Jews plotted to stone Jesus. That is the way they were told (by God) to execute criminals. (That is how they executed Stephen, in Acts 7:59 when he was martyred.) But stoning was not the Plan of God for Redemption.
Redemption is the Plan of God
God’s plan specifically required the Crucifixion, as pictured in the original Passover in Exodus 12:22, and as described by David, in Psalm 22. It is also alluded to in Zechariah 12:10, when the LORD says, “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
Several times, during Jesus’s earthly ministry, the Jews took up stones, intending to kill Jesus. (Once, they even tried to throw him off of a cliff.) But in every case, Jesus just walked away, and they could not touch Him. He allowed their plot to progress only within His narrow pathway to the Cross. Only the Cross could be His destination, as it completely fulfilled the Plan of God!
From here in John 11, all the way to John 18, Jesus is headed for the Cross. He was following the Plan of the Father, and He was completely in agreement with that Plan, because it was also His Own Plan! Jesus chose to lay down His life to satisfy His own righteousness, and that of the Father. And, according to Hebrews 12:1, 2, He did so for the joy that was set before Him. He paid the Bride-price with Joy, looking forward to eternity with the Bride. (That’s us!)
What about Our Plans?
Most of us have some sort of plans for our lives, even if the plan is very short-range, such as what we intend to do after lunch; or longer-range plans, such as what studies you plan to pursue in college; or very long-range plans, such as what results you hope to see in your career.
Most American companies (for example) have “business plans” that extend one year, three years, five to ten years, or even more. I am told that the major Japanese corporations all have business plans extending for the next century. That is beyond my imagination, because there are so many uncontrolled variables in life, for which we cannot “plan.”
We can prepare “contingency plans” to cover emergencies. We buy insurance policies to protect against fire, flood, earthquake etc. But the fact is, even those things are far beyond our ability to predict or prepare for them, as a general rule. That is why most insurance policies used to contain exceptions, listing “Acts of God,” against which they would not insure. I believe the laws have changed, so that such exceptions are much more specific and limited, today.
Don’t fight against God
It seems to me that at the very least, we should see to it that our plans are not in direct conflict with what we know about the plan of God. We are aware of what His overall plan includes and what His ultimate goal is…and He invites us to become a part of that plan. So how do our plans fit into His pattern?
We each have only one life to live, and it will either be spent in a way that intentionally honors God, and is intentionally seeking His directive will for our daily life…or it will not. We will either seek to find ways to be a part of His work, as Jesus, did, or we will not. I will either be obedient to what I know of His will, or I will not.
Be Flexible! Prepare for Change!
Let’s consider James 4:13-16. James was addressing the “businessmen” of that day, and their “grand plans” to get rich. He pointed out that none of us really knows what tomorrow will hold. All of us have known of people who were vigorous, ambitious workers; they were creative and always planning for the future. But something happened: an automobile accident, a stroke, a heart attack, or any number of other possibilities…and their direction was permanently changed. Some were permanently changed, or disabled, and some were dead. From our perspective, their plans came to nothing. Some of those plans had nothing “wrong” with them: they were simply subject to God’s authority, as is everything else, and He overruled them with His own Plan.
God can Change our plans!
Years ago, I knew a man (Ralph Hovland,) who was a missionary for many years. He eventually had to stop working overseas, so he and his wife served as teachers and staff at the Bible school I attended. The graduating class had just completed the last of their studies and Mr. Hovland was walking down the street, a block away from the school, chatting with one of the graduating seniors, Scott Gutmann. He had told Scott that he and his wife were about to retire for good, and was sharing what their plans included.
He concluded with the words, “But, of course, the Lord could change that at any time!” And those were his last words. He suffered a massive heart attack and died! Ralph Hovland graduated, too! He went home instantly!
How Flexible are You?
Each of us has established life-patterns in which we walk, on a day-by-day, and week-by-week basis We have our habits and our “comfort zones,” as we tend to call such things. But if God were to call you to get completely out of that comfort zone and serve Him in a way that is not your daily pattern; not how you had planned…can you accept His will for you, and cheerfully move forward with the new task?
If He removes a cherished goal or dream, can you bear the loss, knowing that, though you had applied yourself diligently to that “plan,” it has clearly been “Overruled” by the Lord?
How will you respond?
If He directs you into a new ministry, can you step forward confidently, knowing the truth that “His plan will not lead you into a place where His Grace cannot keep you?”
Or will you balk, as Peter did (Acts 10:14), and say, “Not So, Lord!” (Not SO, Master! Not So, Creator and Judge of all the Earth!” Do you see how unfitting that is?)
I don’t know that the Lord is going to direct us into anything shockingly different that we have been doing. But I do recognize His sovereignty and I want to be flexible, and to continue to intentionally look for His direction and His leading.
Lord Jesus, open our eyes and hearts to see your hand in our lives. Teach us to eagerly look for your direction, so that every new assignment is met with Joy rather than fear or grief. Help us to live in such a way that others will be drawn to the Light of God shining in our lives..