1 Samuel 16:1–5; Luke 14:28–33; James 4:13–17
But mouse-friend, you are not alone
in proving foresight may be vain:
the best-laid schemes of Mice and Men
go oft awry,
and leave us only grief and pain,
for promised joy!
Still, friend, you're blessed compared with me!
Only present dangers make you flee:
But, ouch!, behind me I can see
grim prospects drear!
While forward-looking seers, we
humans guess and fear!
From "To a Mouse", by Robert Burns
modern English translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
The current situation with COVID-19 should put to rest how fleeting our plans really are. However, while everything is in an uproar and rather chaotic, we are still coming up with plans. What becomes emblematic of human behavior is that we know we are making plans for a target that doesn’t yet exist.
These are strange times indeed.
Samuel had a plan. In fact, at one point it seemed a pretty solid plan, since it appeared to be God’s plan. The Israelites decided they wanted a king, “just like the countries around them”. So, while Samuel was upset (along with God), it was done. This king, Saul, seemed to be destined for great things. He was physically imposing. He was successful militarily. He even had a starting bought of prophesying.
While we cannot say that Samuel loved Saul, there does seem to be some sort of strong emotion that Samuel had for Saul. We see this in God’s words to Samuel, “How long are you going to mourn for Saul?” Samuel knew that Saul wasn’t dedicated to God, yet Samuel still mourned the fact that Saul would lose his kingship and was not blessed by God.
The plans for the King of Israel changed. Now, a new path would be before Samuel. In obedience, he followed it to a boy named David. While it might have not been as abrupt as all that has come with COVID-19, for a culture such as this “just” changing the king was a big deal. This is clear when Samuel brings his worry of being killed before God. It shouldn’t be ignored that God gave Samuel a way around a reprisal coming from the king or his minions.
Plans are worthwhile. It’s not as if they should not be made. Jesus even used the example of construction and war plans to lay out to wannabe disciples that they need to plan for the costs of following him. Jesus makes it clear that if we follow him, we can expect a lot of worldly things to be prioritized at a much lower ranking than the Kingdom of Heaven.
Often we count the cost…and we lie to ourselves. “God doesn’t really want…” “I can grow by just…” “My life is too busy to…” “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” We count the cost, and determine that following Jesus isn’t really worth the price.
Sometimes, and especially in times of turmoil, our plans need to be laid at the feet of God, and not at our comfort. When James talks about people making plans (in particular speculative plans about enterprising and wealth-building), he’s warning each an everyone of us that all of our plans are worthless if they do not begin with God.
What should especially concern us is when we hold so tightly to our plans, that we do not respond to God’s prompting to change the plan.
※ Prayer ※
Father God, you know the plans you have for us. May we be ready to respond. Jesus, help us to follow your example of obedience and submission even unto death. Holy Spirit, guide our hearts into all Truth, hope, and love. Amen.
※ Questions ※
1) What are your current plans (personal, professional, family, religious)? How does God fit into those plans (even the religious ones)?
2) How will you know if God wants you to continue your plans, or change them?
3) How often do you still count the cost of following Jesus, whether it’s your family, your profession, your stuff, your time, or something else?