A few weeks ago our youngest son, Isaac, and his girlfriend, Maddie, were headed home late at night after an evening out with friends on the other side of town. Isaac is living at home while finishing college, and we had lent him our car for the evening since we were staying in (and it had a full tank of gas). It’s been a process, but we are learning to give our youngest more freedom. He and Maddie spent the summer away, after all, working in the Florida Keys for the Boy Scouts of America at their High Adventure Sea Base, where they balanced their work and free time responsibly. So when Isaac texted that they were headed back at 11:30, I fell back to sleep and didn’t notice that what should have been a 20-minute trip took over an hour. We learned the whole story the next day.
While driving on the major highway loop coming home, in the left lane, at a point where the road curves the lighting is poor and there is no shoulder but only a concrete wall, Isaac and Maddie came upon a single-car accident. A teenage girl had just smashed the front-end of her car into the wall, resulting in her car sitting across the lane—with no room to get around—and there was traffic in the right lane as other drivers tried to avoid hitting her. Isaac stood on the brakes, struggling to control the vehicle, and is fully convinced that it was God who brought the car to a stop safely within feet of the terrified girl who watched them hurtling toward her.
Maddie and Isaac both jumped out to check on the girl. Maddie stayed with her, getting her out of her car and a safe distance from the accident, while Isaac walked back down the lane, waving his flashlight to warn oncoming drivers. Too soon to have been called, a tow truck that ‘just happened’ to be driving that way, stopped for them. The driver of the tow truck pulled into the space where our car had been as Isaac moved it to the far side of the accident. He and Maddie were going to wait with the girl until her situation was resolved.
No sooner had the driver of the tow truck set his brake when another car slammed into it from behind—the engine bursting into flames. With the tow operator’s help Isaac pulled the driver out—a teenage boy, who was walking and talking, but clearly hurt. When he called this accident in, the 911 operator asked if they needed an ambulance, and Isaac turned on his phone’s flashlight to get a closer look at the boy’s forehead. Seeing the depth of the wound, he turned away to quietly say that, yes, an ambulance was definitely needed. He then stayed with this young man, talking to him and trying to keep his tone light and jovial, until the ambulance medics had him in their care.
God’s detailed preparations for this event include a recent brake job and brand-new tires on our car. The tow truck arrived at precisely the right time. Isaac has a steady and calm demeanor, he is an Eagle Scout, and for their summer jobs both he and Maddie had emergency first-aid training, so they were ready to jump into action, and Isaac could assess the young man’s injury and keep him at ease in an uneasy situation as they awaited the ambulance. From Cub Scouts to car maintenance, God was building the preparations for that night on the side of the highway. As I review the ways in which God’s grace permeated the events I can’t help but weep in gratitude and praise.
Even as I rejoice in God’s goodness to our kids on that night, I am keenly aware that his plans for our good and his glory do not always end so happily. But I also know that whatever God calls his children to walk through, whether it be good times, hard times, or even tragedies, he is not only with them, but he graciously prepares the way, down to the last detail.
There’s a detail in the book of Genesis that used to puzzle me. Just as the action of the story of Joseph is building: he is on his way to find his brothers where they are pasturing their father’s flocks and where we know they’re going to attack him and sell him into slavery—as the suspense is building there comes a passage that seems like an unimportant detail.
So [Jacob] said to [Joseph], “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan. — Genesis 37:14-17
Surely this bit could have been left out in the interest of the word count, and the story could have rolled on uninterrupted to the exciting part. But God is giving us a glimpse into his orchestration of the smaller details behind the larger events. Because, you see, if Joseph hadn’t found his brothers way out in Dothan, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sell him to the Ishmaelites whose caravan passed that way from Gilead to Egypt, and may have killed him instead. If they had killed him instead of selling him, Joseph wouldn’t have been taken to Egypt and sold to Potiphar, where he succeeded so well that he was made overseer of the household. If he hadn’t been in charge of the household he may not have caught the roving eye of Potiphar’s wife, whose false accusations after he spurned her advances got him thrown into prison. . . .
You see where this is going. In the story of Joseph we see detail after detail of the means by which the LORD prepared Joseph and put him where he needed to be in order to become overseer of all Egypt. From a pit in the wilderness to the second-highest position in Egypt. And from that position of power the LORD used him not only to save the Egyptians, but also his family and therefore the people of the promise. And it began with Joseph’s chance encounter with a man who overheard his brothers’ plans while wandering in the fields of Shechem.
But even more, the stage was set for the exodus from Egypt—the greatest example of deliverance from bondage the world would ever see until approximately 1500 years later when God would send his Son Jesus Christ to fulfill his promises and deliver his people finally and fully from sin and death.
From Dothan to Calvary, God worked his plan, building detail upon detail, setting in place every player and event until the time was right, when “Jesus, [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, [to be] crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23). Many of the details of God’s plan of salvation are to be found in the Bible, as Paul makes clear: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, … he was buried, [and] he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Old Testament is positively packed with these details.
But most of the details of our own lives and the way God leads his children may not be found written plainly for us to see. We therefore must look to what God has revealed to us about himself and his purposes, trusting his character and his steadfast love, pressing in to know him, so that we may entrust ourselves to his sovereign care with peace of mind, knowing that he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We must trust that whatever God calls us to walk through, whether it be good times, hard times, or even tragedies, he is not only with us, but he has graciously prepared the way, down to the last detail. And therefore, if you are a Christian, I, with Paul, “am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).