God's Plan vs. Ours

by Mary Stephens
May 2016

In Exodus chapter 5 we read about Moses and Aaron going before Pharaoh for the first time to tell him that the Lord wanted His people to worship Him in the wilderness.  Pharaoh, of course, didn't think much of this plan and as a result, he commanded the taskmasters to stop giving the Hebrews straw to make their bricks and to make them find their own while still delivering the same number of bricks per day.  Well, this didn't work out well and the Hebrews suffered sorely for it.  In fact,  the officers of the children of Israel were beaten for not keeping up the production of bricks.  But, when they went to see Pharaoh to ask why this injustice, he answered them very rudely -

Exodus 5:17-19 But he said, Ye are idle, ye are idle: therefore ye say, Let us go and do sacrifice to the LORD. Go therefore now, and work; for there shall no straw be given you, yet shall ye deliver the tale of bricks. And the officers of the children of Israel did see that they were in evil case, after it was said, Ye shall not minish ought from your bricks of your daily task. 

These officers of the children of Israel happened to meet Moses and Aaron as they were leaving their audience with Pharaoh and, in typical human form, they blamed them for causing them this trouble, despite the fact that they themselves had believed that Moses and Aaron were sent of God, as we read at the end of chapter 4.  (People so often do blame the preacher or teacher when they follow God's command and things don't work out.  Somehow it feels safer than blaming God.)

Exodus 5:21 And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.


But, the thing that struck me as I was reading this recently was Moses' response. 


Exodus 5:22-23 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.


Here was "the man of God" (and he was a real one in the Old Testament sense) who had been sent on a special mission of huge proportions (albeit reluctantly), and yet he expected instant results!  How incredibly human of him.


People talk about the terrible impatience factor that we see a lot these days as if it were a new and shocking phenomenon.  The truth is -- it isn't anything new, and it isn't worse than it was since Adam secured a sin nature for himself and all his descendants (except, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ).  Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:


Here was Moses - he had been sent to deliver millions of people from the land of Egypt.  This was an astounding project in the enormity of it.  He was having to negotiate with Pharaoh, who was not a sweet tempered, agreeable sort.  And yet, what happens?  Moses tells Pharaoh once that God wants Israel to go out to the wilderness to hold a feast, and then he apparently thinks that Pharaoh will just let them go.  He obviously doesn't understand why there were not instant results.


Moses has not even done either of the "simple" miracles yet before Pharaoh.  God had warned Moses before hand - And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.  Exodus 5:19-20  But, Moses apparently doesn't remember this, or he thinks that it should happen without any inconvenience to the people, and probably himself.


Our Sorry Plans


We might laugh at Moses.  But, it would probably be more appropriate to laugh at ourselves since we so often run to the same expectations, and we have the story of Moses to remind us how silly these are.


There are parents who think that if they follow the perfect plan for raising children that their kids will just "turn out well" automatically.  Some are surprised or even annoyed when they discover that raising children is a lot of work, sweat and tears (and sometimes blood).  There is no "perfect plan" that guarantees "goods kids." 


Christendom at large has tended to teach for a long time that all "good, godly girls" will "meet someone", get married and have a family - preferably "a covenant marriage and family."  When it doesn't work out quite so easily, parents and young ladies, and even the young men sometimes, get frustrated and impatient. 


There have been missionaries who went to mission field to do some great work for God, and because they were convinced that what they were doing was "God's perfect will" they became disillusioned and maybe even quit when it turned out to be a long hard task.  One young woman that my grandpa knew of years ago went around to a number of churches telling about how she "loooved the Mexican people."  She got her support and went to Mexico for the first time ever, and suddenly when she met them face to face, she decided she didn't "looove the Mexican people" after all because they didn't love her, and she quit and went home.  The problem was, her little dream venture that was supposed to follow a certain scenario turned up looking like a lot of hard work, rejection, pain, and inconvenience.


Real life has a way of turning out that way, especially when God has a plan to really do something of importance.  He is not in the business of shortcuts.  When He sets out to do a thing, He does it well and He does it completely.


Think of the Lord Jesus.  He could have come to earth as a full grown man of 30 and started His ministry straight off.  If He had arrived with enough pomp and circumstance and a show of glory, people would have listened because of the show.  But, that wasn't God's plan.  It pleased Him that Christ should become flesh through the womb of a woman, be born like any other human and grow up in this sad and burdensome world.


Hebrews 5:8-9 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;


Anything that is really worth doing in this life usually comes with pain, discomfort, hardship or inconvenience - or all four.  Sadly, we tend to get this idea, as Moses did, that if we are doing what God commanded us to do the way will be easy and things will just "work out" as we expect them to.  But, if it was easy, how would we learn real obedience?  It's a lot easier to obey when things are guaranteed a certain result in a given timeframe.  It's easy to obey when everything goes just right every time without fail.  But, when it's hard, when the results are not what we expected or anticipated, when someone does "the wrong thing" and messes up our program, we so quickly go crying to God about how He has failed to keep His end of "the deal."


"Oh, Lord, I did what you told me to do, and I got bad results!  Did you really send me?  Maybe I misunderstood.  Or maybe You weren't serious about this.  I did exactly what You told me to, and instead of You keeping your promise, bad things have happened to the people I love; bad things have happened to me.  What are you doing here, God?  This isn't turning out the way I expected!"


I think it probably comes down to these two things.

1. Our expectations.

2. We think it is a deal or a mathematical equation.  "If I _this_, then God will _this_."  "1+1=2"


We expect God to perform on our time schedule by our plan and in the ways we pre-define.  In short, we expect the Almighty God who created everything out of nothing and upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3) to work by our faulty, short-sighted, ill-thought-out little plan.  Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.  God have mercy on us!  What small-minded creatures we are sometimes! 


Luke 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Then, we sometimes think that sowing and reaping is a sort of high-speed venture; or worse, that it's a deal we cut with God and that He is obligated to do thus and so because we did our part.  Every crop requires time and work and patience.  And, we are hardly in a position to be bargaining with God based on our works (Isa. 64:6).  Everything that He sees fit to do through us is a result of His mercy and grace and is given to us, not because we did something but because Jesus Christ did everything!  Does God keep His promises?  Absolutely.  But it isn't going to be on our terms.  It will be on His and it will be for His glory and pleasure. 


Revelation 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.


How little we realize how much we cheat ourselves, those to whom we minister, and God Himself by insisting on our own puny little plans.  Consider the book of Exodus.  By the time God got done with His plan for delivering Israel from their bondage and hard labor, He had also:

a. destroyed the land of Egypt and

b. destroyed Pharaoh and his army (thus making it a non-power for years to come which was an advantage to Israel).

c. given Israel the Law by special revelation.

d. raised up an army of young people who eventually became bold warriors and strong women to conquer the land of Canaan, who had seen the power of God firsthand and were cured from the slave mindset.


I am no expert, but I'm pretty sure Moses' quick and easy plan would not have turned out quite like this.


You see, God is doing something so much bigger than me or you or all of us together, that we could never imagine it ahead of time.  There may be things along the way that seem like a mistake to us.  Someone or something may not turn out the way we had thought or hoped.  Many things happen in life that we don't understand.  Health, family, friends, church fellowship and more may fail us, and often times do.  The "results" we thought were "guaranteed" may be so late in coming that we may never see them; or they may be something we never looked for.


...But God


Do you want to see something beautiful - something that should encourage us and thrill us clear through?  Look at Exodus chapter 6.  After Moses' cry-baby moment at the end of chapter 5, look at how our gracious and lovely Lord God answered Moses.

Exodus 1:1-4 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.


The Lord goes on to say that He intends to keep his covenant and promises to Israel, and to deliver them from Egypt.


Did you see the sound rebuke?  I didn't either.  Instead He tells Moses in essence, "Now I have Pharaoh right where I want him and the real show is about to begin."  And did it ever!


Then, and this is awe-inspiring, God reveals one of His names to Moses - one by which He had never been known before!  I don't know about you, but that is hard for my feeble mind to grasp.  There are other times when God is given a "new" name or reveals one of His names in scripture (such as when the name of Jesus is revealed to Mary).  But, as if to prove that His ways and thoughts are truly not like ours, He reveals His name JEHOVAH to Moses immediately after Moses has his little melt down, failing to believe that God will do what He said He would do and doubting that it was really God who sent him to do this job.


This is wonderfully comforting to me.  The compassion and kindness of the Lord should give us great hope.  Here was Moses in the depths of doubt, crying out to the Lord in what seems to be even accusatory language; and yet the Lord not only does not rebuke him, He basically encourages Moses, "This is where it is really going to get good, and I am still going to do what I promised, and I am even going to reveal Myself to you in a way that I have never done before."  Then He goes on to repeat His promises to Israel as a reminder that He will do what He has said He would do.

Oh, Christian friend, how often we focus on what seems to us to be a defeat, an insurmountable obstacle, or a failure on God's part!  Instead we should be looking at Him as He reveals Himself to us, through our suffering, in a way that we have never seen Him before.

Philippians 3:8-14 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:15-18 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.


Dear one for Christ's sake, are you in this place in your life?  Have you obeyed something God commanded in some way and expected instant and gratifying results only to find that the real battle has only begun?  Have you formed your own plan and assumed that the Lord would bless your efforts because you thought it was His will when it really wasn't?  Have you looked for results and found failure - or apparent failure from you perspective?

What if this is all part of God's plan that is working for His glory through you?  What if, His amazing "afterward" is worth "this dark now"?

2 Corinthians 4:7-11 and 16-18 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of usWe are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh...16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

"According to the Power"

If our scanty measure were used,
How poor were the gifts of the Lord;
If our cups of thought and our pitchers of prayer
Were all that His love could afford.

But - above all our stammering tongues
Can voice of our deepest desire,
Abundant above all the pitiful good
To which our small minds can aspire;

Exceeding abundant above
The reach of our groveling thought;
So great is the fullness of knowledge and grace
His power to usward hath wrought.

Annie Johnson Flint

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.


Other Related Links on this Page

A Word to the Weary - Or Why Do the Righteous Suffer? - A Bible study of encouragement in hard times.

You May Never Know - Encouragement to keep witnessing and being faithful even when it looks like there are no results.  True stories that will bless you included.

A Thanksgiving - A poem of thanksgiving for the things God has withheld.

A Thanksgiving for Hard Things - A poem of thanksgiving for hard things.

Nevertheless Afterward - A poem about trusting God in the dark times because He has our best interests always in mind.


graphics and background by Mary Stephens