Lesson Three: Be Prepared not Perplexed
Today, April 2nd , 2020, we are several weeks into a worldwide pandemic. These are definitely perplexing times for all of the people on earth. In the Bible the word “perplexity” comes from the Greek word aporia, and it basically means to be at a loss of understanding. The word describes a person who is out of resources and ideas and doesn’t know what to do. They have reached the end of their emotional and intellectual ability to craft a solution to their problems. It’s easy to become overwhelmed in quarantine where you have been broken off from the normal pattern of your life as well as being separated from your friends and extended family.
During the 10th plague in Egypt the Israelites were commanded to stay in their homes (Exodus 12:22). Sound familiar? God knew the stress and perplexity they must have been feeling while living through ten plagues and now being quarantined in their homes so He gave them some practical instructions about what to do when they were “sheltering at home” during the Passover meal. Here are God’s instructions:
“In this manner you shall eat it (the Passover meal): with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover” -Exodus 12:11
What was God saying here and why were these details so important?
The children of Israel had been in bondage for 430 years and they were about to break out of their confinement. God knew the ten plagues would be an emotionally foreboding experience to live through so these instructions were given to assure the Israelites they were going to make it through the darkness of that terrible night.
By “fastening the belt” God was saying, “This is no time to relax or become apathetic, lethargic, or passive. Jewish clothes had no buttons so while at home you would relax your belt but when you went outside you would “gird up your loins” or “fasten your belt.” The phrase “fasten your belt” is used throughout the Bible as a metaphor for preparedness.
Jewish people did not wear shoes in their houses but God tells them to put on their sandals during the plague. He was encouraging them to not be overwhelmed by their confinement. By wearing their sandals they were reminded they would be breaking out soon.
Placing a staff in the hand was a sign of hope that a journey to a better and promised land was just on the other side of this dark time.
To eat in haste did not mean to eat quickly but rather with sober judgment. They were to thoughtfully consider all the changes God was about to lead them through.
These instructions to the children of Israel in the midst of a terrible plague apply to us today. We must not be overwhelmed with perplexity. We are going to make it through this. So, what should you do?
Fasten your belt – keep working. Do your best not to become lethargic or apathetic. Ask God for creative ideas about what to do with every hour of every day. Diversify. Think outside of the four walls of your quarantine (A wonderful story of diversifying in crisis is how the cotton farmers in Enterprise, Alabama dealt with the devastating Bow Weevil bug in 1915).
Do something in the physical that affirms your faith in God’s ability to lead you through this season. For the children of Israel it was fastening their belts, wearing their sandals around the house, placing a staff in their hands, sprinkling the blood of the lamb over the doorpost in their homes.
Maybe for you its starting a daily Bible reading discipline, journaling, writing a business plan for a creative idea, gathering your family around the dinner table (see lesson 2), re-connecting with old friends. Honestly, for me the first week of quarantine was difficult. I spent the time canceling the projects I had been planning for months and reassuring those involved we would reschedule when we get through this. I then experienced a few days of perplexity as I said, “Now what?” But then I started reading the instructions God gave Moses concerning how to keep living and thriving in a plague and I began to ask God for creative ideas. The first was writing a blog. Something I’ve wanted to do for years but always found reasons to table the idea. If you’re still reading you know I’m blogging here! The second idea was starting a podcast. Again, an idea I’ve always considered but didn’t take the time to get it going. Well, now I have the time and it will go live in a few days, the Lord willing.
So, the message from God to the children of Israel during the 10 th plague was: Don’t be perplexed! Rather, be prepared! Be sober (not somber)! Put on your shoes and traveling clothes and get ready for some awesome changes coming your way! I think this is really encouraging advice from the God who knows the future of His children will be filled with wonder.
You want to hear something really incredible? Jesus gave almost the same advice to His saints living in the last days who would be facing troubling plagues. He said those days will be filled with distress and perplexity. People will be fainting with fear and foreboding. What does Jesus tell us to do in such times? “Now when these things begin to take place, STRAIGHTEN UP AND RAISE YOUR HEADS, BECAUSE YOUR REDEMPTION IS DRAWING NEAR” (See Luke 21:10-11, 25-27). In other words, don’t be perplexed, be prepared – an awesome change is about ready to happen! Sounds like familiar advice!