“Trust in God but tie up your camel” reads the ancient Arabian proverb. In other words, have faith, but don’t neglect common sense. Too often we split these concepts and treat them as if they were mutually exclusive propositions. However, they were meant to travel together as complementary partners, not fiery enemies.
The turbulence we face dealing with the global pandemic calls us to hold these two concepts in the same hand.
A Baby in a Basket
The Old Testament holds the dramatic story of a man named Moses. Most of us are familiar with his life, even if only from Dreamworks’ adaptation. His birth gives us a profound picture of these two concepts being held in tension.
Remember the account? The people of Israel had a surge in population such that they outnumbered their Egyptian masters. This greatly disturbed the sitting Pharaoh. Long gone were the days of the shadow and influence of Joseph on the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh became nervous and issued a birth control/murder edict. All male Hebrew babies were to be thrown in the Nile.
The Nile wasn’t some lazy backwater with no risk. It was full of strong currents and deadly crocodiles, all of which the Pharaoh knew would mean certain death for the Hebrew babies.
The parents of Moses—Amram and Jochebed—knew this well and devised a plan. They hid baby Moses for three months until they could hide him no longer. They then decided to put Moses in a waterproof basket and place him in the Nile. He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter, who happened to be taking a bath and noticed the child. Her heart was mysteriously “warmed” toward the young baby. She paid Moses’ mother to nurse him until he “grew older” and she weaned him. At that time, Jochebed took Moses to Pharaoh’s daughter and she adopted him.
In this story we find a 4,000-year-old illustration of the powerful blending of raw and ruthless faith with intentional strategizing.
Common Sense and Planning
Someone in Moses’ family did some pre-work, strategy, and planning; they didn’t just impulsively dump a baby in the river and cross their fingers.
- They knew which day and what time Pharaoh’s daughter bathed. They also knew where on the river she went to bathe. They knew the currents of the river and the patterns of the deadly wildlife, and they planned accordingly.
- They planned their “up-sell presentation” to safeguard Moses’ mother and sister. “Oh, you just found a beautiful baby, you might need someone to nurse him, and there just happens to be one waiting behind that bush over there.” What a coincidence.
- They figured out where to hide and watch close enough to immediately respond to the need for someone to nurse Moses, but not so close as to get caught and carried off.
Prayer and Faith
The planning and strategy employed by Moses’ family did not, however, minimize the tremendous faith involved in their actions. To any outsider, this plan would have seemed like a desperate, long shot at best. Their faith was indispensable.
- There are no facts to make us think that this was a normal occurrence for a Jewish boy and an Egyptian woman, let alone Pharaoh’s daughter. There was no Hebrew boys’ home being funded by the benevolence of Pharaoh. As young Moses grew up in the palace, he didn’t run into other adopted half-brothers. This plan was a one of a kind plan. Moses’ parents had enough faith to allow their young son to be raised in an Egyptian world.
- They prayed for God to guard young Moses during his very impressionable developmental years. Just think how delicate and shaping the first 18 years of life are for any of us.
- Make no mistake; the best-laid plans of man are never enough. The family of Moses prayed like crazy that the Lord would work. And He did. They prayed that God would warm the heart of the Pharaoh’s daughter toward their child, who happened to be the offspring of a people her family despised. They also prayed she would be courageous enough to risk the potential wrath of Pharaoh. Remember, he was the guy who ordered all Hebrew babies to be murdered, and she decided to adopt one.
Maintaining the Balance
Most of us, if not all of us, practice some blend of these two concepts on a daily basis. Regardless of whether you’re a Calvinist or an Arminian, a conservative or a liberal, an analytical person or a mystic, we pray and we plan. Regardless of the size of the issue or the stakes of the deal, we can pray as if it all depended upon God and work as if it all depended on us.
Knowing when to stay in the prayer room and trust God for funding and when to hit the streets and go ask for support or investment is not always easy. Figuring out when to wait on God to resolve an ugly mess and knowing when to roll up your sleeves and go clean it up is often a tricky dance. Your issue could be a personnel issue, a financial issue, a health issue or any number of issues.
In these days of global turbulence, domestic alarm and personal panic, we should remember the story of Moses. We must approach each day with sound common sense and at the same time stay on our knees pleading for God to take care of us.