Prepare your work without, and make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterwards build your house.
God loves preparations. God gives little but to preparations. All His own great works He has done preparedly. Creation was not done without great forethought (Proverbs 8:27-31). And redemption was no sudden after-thought, for before the foundation of the earth was laid redemption was cast in the mind of God. And every event that happens to every man, it was planned ages before the man was born. And the children of Israel did not enter Canaan till they had gone through a preparatory discipline. Neither did prophets, nor apostles, nor Jesus Himself, begin work without an interval of solitude and discipline for perfect readiness. The preparation of Jesus was marvellous. Ten-elevenths of that life, of which every moment was gold — ten-elevenths given to preparation. Rightly viewed, everything this side heaven, and perhaps we need not draw the limit line even there — everything is preparation. Within the compass of this present world everything is placed in the state and order that it is, to fit us for another thing which is coming afterwards. Just as in a good education every rule leads up to a higher rule, and every new piece of knowledge is the basis of another piece, so that the mind is always being made ready for something beyond it, so it is in God's dispensations. A joy may be a prelude to a sorrow, or a sorrow may be a prelude to a joy, or a joy to a higher joy, or a sorrow to a still deeper sorrow. Nothing is isolated. It is not isolated joy; it is not isolated sorrow. The great thing we have to do is to be careful that we treat everything as preparatively. We should always be asking, when joy and sorrow comes, "Of what is this the precursor? what is God going to do with me next?" You cannot always be doing duties, but you can always be preparing for them. And remember, preparations are the long things; works are the short things. Let the preparation suit what you are going to do — a general preparation for general duty — but a special preparation for things special. The materials you gather in the "field" must be suited to the particular "house" which you are going to "build." Always make a stop upon the eve, and search into your own heart, and say, "Am I ready? has God given me a true preparation?" If not, as far as you can, stop a little longer before you take another step. Whatever else you do, secure preparation before you begin. There is a frame of mind which is a continual preparedness. It is the "Here I am!" of the patriarchs. It is a high, blessed state.
(J. Vaughan, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the field; and afterwards build thine house.