Lately, I've felt extremely compelled to write about Genesis 41, and the importance of preparedness. I don't know why, but over the last month the Lord has been reminding me of the Lord's provision to Pharaoh through Joseph's interpretation of his dream. Often I feel that there is a great divide amongst Christians between being prepared, and at the same time not worrying.
Often we (Christians) think we shouldn't prepare for “uncertainty”, because we aren't trusting God. However, I think the Bible teaches that God uses people to prepare for troubling times. The problem is very few people (Christians included) aren't listening. In talking with my Grandpa frequently I heard the same to be true prior to the Great Depression. People weren't expecting it. The roaring 20's had no one thinking of 25% unemployment. Food lines a quarter mile long, and people starving.
Pharaoh's Dreams and Joseph's Interpretation
In, Genesis 41, God reveals a dream to Pharaoh, and uses Joseph to interpret the dream. For those of you who don't know the story here is an overview:
- Pharaoh has two dreams (verses 17-24)
- In the first dream Pharaoh sees seven fat cows grazing along the Nile, and then seven scrawny/ugly cows come and eat up the seven fat cows.
- In the second dream Pharaoh sees seven heads of grain (full and good), and then seven heads sprout (withered and thin) that swallow up the seven good heads.
- Joseph interprets the dream. The seven good cows and heads of grain are seven years of abundance, and the seven ugly cows and thin heads of grain are seven years of famine. (verses 25-30)
- Joseph says that seven good years will not be remembered during the seven bad years. Joseph says God has revealed this to Pharaoh because it's been firmly decided and he is to put someone in charge to collect one fifth of the harvest during each of the seven years. (verses 30-35)
- The collection of one fifth of the harvest will help Egypt survive the famine and not be ruined (verse 35-36)
- Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of the collecting, because God has made “all this known”, and he is wise and discerning. (verses 37-40)
The whole story is really compelling and similar to the 1920's (seven fat cows and good heads of grain) and the following years of the Great Depression (seven lean cows and thin heads of grain). Like my Grandfather told me, “no one saw it coming, Charlie. No one!”
Lessons that apply to today and preparation
God used both Pharaoh and Joseph in amazing ways and for many years to come. First off, Pharaoh had to be open to allowing someone to interpret his dreams. Secondly, God used Joseph to be both the man that interprets and prepare His people for many years of famine.
After going through the Great Recession in 2008, I feel like we may have since gone through our five fat cows years (2009-2013). We've quickly forgotten how bad things were in 2008, and now our savings rates are again back close to 0%. Our mortgages are close to breakeven (no longer under water), and we've started to feel somewhat good again. However, I feel like God is telling His people to prepare. To prepare for something much worse than 2008.
As I write the above words I realize how subjective the statements are, and fully realize people may not feel the same way. But I know God still uses people to prepare people like he used Joseph. Whether he uses me, your pastor, a friend, or neighbor it really doesn't matter. God can use anyone to prepare for the best and worst of times just like Joseph.
So if the above is true, then now might be a good time to prepare. Here are few tips to prepare:
- Stockpiling – much like Joseph save 20% of his country's harvest during the seven “fat” years, now is the time to preparing your family. Consider stockpiling canned goods, water, and a proportion of your income (20%). During the seven fat years I have to think this was hard for them to save 20%, and how easy it would have been to spend “the plenty”.
- Reducing Debt – as the Great Recession is in our rear view mirror it was easy to see that a big cause was unsecured mortgages, high debt to income ratios, and sub-prime mortgages. Focus on reducing your family's debt burden, because these are your family's monthly commitments regardless of good or bad times. Weathering an economic collapse will be easier (obviously) with having as much debt.
- Growing your own food – my grandpa talked about how they'd grow all vegetables in a one-acre garden for their family and how the neighbors would think they are crazy. Even in suburban areas it possible to start raising a portion of your family's food needs, and get started somewhere. Undoubtedly, I'm sure the farm gardens helped people make it through the depression, and should be considered even today.
- Trading services – lately I've been having a number of car troubles that have quickly added up and drain on my emergency fund. I'm reminded of how my grandpa would frequently help neighbors with harvesting, tending to cattle, and other chores for no financial benefit. It was all about helping your neighbor, because that's what needed to be done to get through the depression. Consider how you can serve your friends and neighbors now, because there could potentially be a way that they could help you during tough times.
Whether we go through economic collapse it is always a good idea to have plan of “what if” scenarios, and how long you could sustain a number of “lean” years. I'd be interested in 1) hearing your opinions on the state of the economy, and 2) how do you prepare for the worst case scenarios?