“Strange bedfellows” is a term defined as unlikely companions or allies. Popular usage is said to have begun in the 1400s. Then in 1610 in his play “The Tempest,” Shakespeare raised the bar with the words: “Alas, the storm is come again! My best way is to creep under his gabardine [cloak/blanket]; there is no other shelter hereabout: misery acquaints a man with strange bed-fellows.”
Yet even before that, the concept of unlikely companions or allies: strange bedfellows has been demonstrated again and again in Biblical relationships. In both Matthew 8 and Acts 10 are stories of Centurions, whose fear of God and hunger for God, resulted in God opening the doors to them spiritually. Strange indeed, as in both instances, the Roman Centurions were a part of the system that was persecuting God’s people.
Long before that, the Lord challenged religious tradition by going beyond just individuals to harness the authority and resources of societal leaders to facilitate times of safety and turning for His people. It represents a model I’ve long been espousing on the strategic importance of sovereign alliances between modern-day Josephs and modern-day Pharaohs. Along those same lines, years before his birth, Cyrus a heathen leader, was prophetically identified by name and labeled as God’s anointed by the prophet Isaiah.
Yet among believers too many tend to recoil from and even avoid members of the Body they don’t see eye-to-eye with on issues of doctrine. In one recent blog, a pastoral leader with an otherwise sound grasp of God’s word, exposed his blind spot in referring to ones whose doctrines he disagreed with, as his enemies.
Jesus consistently exposed the superficiality of the religiously proud while extending grace to those acknowledging their ongoing, humble need for God. His exposure revealed a spiritual myopia: “You neither understand the Scripture nor the power of God.” It is not surprising then that, the Lord saw fit to honor the hunger for and the fear of God operating in the Centurion leaders — definitely strange bedfellows — who were a part of the system allied against God’s people in that day. Amazing, that the Lord’s priority is the heart.
Equally amazing, providing a long-term view of the within-group dynamic of strange-bedfellows, has been the story of two almost completely diverse groups comprising the IDF’s 55th Paratrooper Brigade that regained control of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. “Like Dreamers” by Yossi Klein Halevi tracks not only the historic battle, but the subsequent lives of key members of the Brigade comprised of a mix of devout religious on the one hand and completely secular kibbutzniks on the other, along with their impact on one another and with that, then the culture around them. Very strange bedfellows indeed.
The issue puts in question how we view things, especially the criteria that determines our relationships. No doubt it is a matter of maturity, of embracing reality within the integrity of one’s heart. Yet more importantly, it should cause us to reexamine how we are discerning that God views things, as well as His response to the hearts of those around us.
The issue certainly has many facets. One facet certainly is the influence for the good of the brethren and God’s purposes that can come from reaching societal leaders with genuine listening hearts. Another facet taps the spiritual common ground among those of diverse thinking and even different cultures that has been stirred by the Spirit of the Lord. Still another challenges our approach to those with views that in the aggregate may even be hostile to our spiritual way of thinking. And still another should give us pause in judging entire groups of people by the inappropriate behavior of individuals within those groups.
Clearly, from the perspective of how God views things, there is something more that should and can be added to our response to those holding views different from our own. While Shakespeare taps the reality of how a bit of misery may change our response, in working with the persecuted, when one’s freedom is at risk, the issue becomes not so much one of specific viewpoints, but of trust.
Yet then, when viewed within the framework of times when God has initiated relationships with “strange bedfellows,” it not only was an issue of trust, but one of leadership, prophetic leadership.
Clearly when dealing with the community of God’s people as a whole, the guidance has been to give distance to the influence of worldly values and thinking. Certainly this premise from Moses targets those who came culturally, from having their thinking, values and traditions shaped by their Egyptian oppressors being reset. It was and is the framework for living in the reality, trust and freedom to fully be God’s people. It also entails the basis and wisdom needed for those embarking on a transition into spiritual maturity and purpose.
Times of Change
However, in understanding the times so we can discern right responses, when God deems the need for a change in the course He sets for His own, it clearly taps the reality of the God-view being far deeper and broader than the man-view. Certainly it is His prerogative to override our limited perspectives and redirect the path. So it has been that historically within biblical times, that God has sovereignly, at leadership levels, raised up and orchestrated alliances with unlikely companions to reshape the outcome of changing times.
We have entered such a time of strategic change.
Previous biblical times of strategic change included deliverance from judgment triggered by God’s people, such as during the time of Joseph. Such times of strategic change were in evidence in times of release from bondage of God’s people during the days of Daniel and Nehemiah. Times of such strategic change have also served to restore spiritual foundations, like in the restoration of the Tabernacle of David during the days of the early Church.
So it has been that times of change requiring the God-view have been bridges to avoid disaster and assume the reins of opportunity, but also to release the restoration of ancient paths and a turning into something new God is doing. The God-ordained factor shared by God’s people in such times has been the Lord orchestrating unusual alliances with allies we might in the natural avoid or view as strange bedfellows.
Defining Holy Strategic Alliances
In each situation, whether with Joseph, with Daniel or Nehemiah, or with the Centurions in the Book Acts, God has been the initiator of what might be considered “holy” alliances with these “strange bedfellows.” Each setting took place during times of turmoil and change. They were cross-cultural, unlikely coalitions of trust. Likewise, the Lord’s ambassadors were totally fluent in the cultures of the power brokers they served. Additionally, each of these alliances brought something to the table that neither could have hoped for on their own.
In each situation, the alliance of “strange bedfellows” triggered major realignments to accomplish God-purposes that anticipated the opportunity and avoided turmoil that only God could have foreseen and brought about.
The spiritual environments in each alliance acknowledged the reality of the supernatural world. In each case, the Lord’s ambassadors were His representatives to filling in the blanks for their “strange bedfellow” partners. They were God’s representatives in the way they lived their lives as trusted, prophetic stewards with their alliances.
Simultaneously, they also consistently imparted the Lord’s perspective, as a part of their identity and excellence. Ultimately within their role, was found the timing and opportunity to outline the needed shifts and strategies that harnessed the authority and resources of their “strange bedfellow” allies. In each case, these men of God were positioned and brought into trusted roles in the courts and inner circles represented by these holy alliances.
It is important to note the response of each of these “strange bedfellows” to the prophetic, along with their response to the God of Israel. In hearing Joseph’s response to Pharaoh’s dreams, there seemed to be a sense of amazement and awe when Pharaoh said: “Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God? Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as wise and discerning as you are. You shall be over my house and all my people shall be ruled according to your word. Only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you. I am putting you over all the land of Egypt.”
There was still another form of holy alliance involving “strange bedfellows” when during the early Church the Lord began bringing the Gentiles into the fold. It was acknowledged as a time of turmoil and turning, a time of restoration by the leaders of this still very young sect of Messianic Jewish believers. The leaders had walked with Jesus and then been witnesses to His resurrection. Having then heard the testimonies of Peter, then of Barnabas and Paul to the response of the Gentiles, along with the Centurion to the Gospel, the Apostle James, quoting from the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Amos, referred to these testimonies as affirming God’s intention to restore the tabernacle of David.
On the other hand are the destructive counterfeits of unholy alliances. When ones in positions of God’s authority are seduced by either their own ambitions and lusts, as happened with Shebna in Isaiah 22 or in the case of King Ahab, with the influence of the gods of his renegade spouse and advisors, then the potential for an alliance for God will be defiled and implode.
Instead, roots of subtle, seductive counsel will undermine and corrupt the foundations of what may begin as well-intentioned efforts. Psalm 1 warns against ungodly counsel. There is a fine line between ungodly counsel from unholy sources and the short-sighted, undisciplined traditions of men defining the thinking of ones who might otherwise be saved. Yet each provide the seedbed and spiritual atmosphere for unholy alliances.
What once may have been intended as honorable worldly “influence” has taken on dimensions drifting toward mind-control. The art of motivating consumers to purchase a brand has morphed into a high art of manipulation. High levels of manipulation should be a red-flag in any relationship. Unfortunately, this is at the roots of the spiritual atmosphere of today’s toxic adversarial world. The premise of “the perception being the reality” has reshaped the thinking and values of otherwise rational people in every sector of society.
Listening Hearts, Trust and Influence
So it is that the very factors representing the threads of pollution and seduction for unholy alliances — short-sighted, undisciplined thinking and the traditions of men, along with high levels of manipulation — are the very hurdles to be surmounted with holy alliances.
The strategy to overcoming these hurdles resides in maturity in the prophetic that includes genuine listening hearts and disciplined minds. Jesus noted that many are called but few are chosen. Before the trust and influence of a modern-day Joseph or Daniel can be released, there will be high demands on the requirements for listening hearts and disciplined minds. With cross-cultural strange-bedfellows, those demands are even higher.
Far too many works originally birthed by God wind up with subtle turns that go down a path of the works themselves taking on a significance that defies and defiles the very necessary guidance from the Lord.
The subtlety is in the transition from what one was doing through God to what one is trying to do for God. Such will be the dividing asunder that distinguishes the many who are called from the few who are chosen.
I have a long-term friend, who I consider a modern-day Joseph, awaiting the call from his appointed alliance. He has been in the preparation stage for roughly two decades. Now in the face of an aura of political correctness that deems any relations with Russian foundations to be on the periphery of treasonous actions, an introduction has been made.
It is an introduction to a private Russian firm. Each holds the rights to technologies that provide the missing functions needed by the other. While not politically kosher in today’s toxic, media-frenzied sound bites of reality, the opportunity is in keeping with past opportunities that God has orchestrated between “strange bedfellows.”
Having served Russian believers with our own program, we are acquainted with the realities. Within their system are many who walk a fine line with authorities they know they can trust and work with, versus those who wouldn’t hesitate to crush them. Such can be the ground rules defining the dividing asunder when approaching alliances with “strange bed-fellows.”
The Thinking of Strange-Bedfellows
The strange bedfellows of the IDF’s 55th Paratrooper Brigade found common ground. As one of the key players in Mr. Halevi’s insightful “Like Dreamers” later observed concerning differences separating ones with a common purpose: “The greatest threat came from within. Only the Jews could defeat the Jews. Jews needed to accommodate each other’s conflicting dreams and fears.” Therein lies the insight and responsibility among those factions the Lord would choose to align. With certainty, this has been the case with the strange bedfellows comprising the strategic alliances the Lord has brought together over the ages. It begins with the type of thinking that operates with an integrity of heart.
The psalmist speaks of the one who speaks truth in their own heart. Such is the thinking required for strange bed-fellows. In a world where deceptive, yet zealous ideals or ambitions can distort reality, this issue of integrity of heart will always grant access to matters of truth. Truth will ultimately be discerned. So it was with Pharaoh in the time of Joseph, with Cyrus, with the Centurions. Strategic thinkers reach for truth. The blind spot is in assuming that one’s perception of reality comprises the end and beginning of truth.
The time of Joseph represented a shift. When Pharaoh, puzzled with the strange dreams he had had, acted on the counsel of his wine-taster, to hear what may have been considered a renegade Hebrew slave in his prison might have to say, everything began to shift.
God used this most unlikely candidate, Joseph, to employ this most unlikely strategy, starting with prophetically interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams, to bring about the most unlikely result, the actions that were to set in motion this shift. Promoting this slave-prisoner to become Prime Minister of Egypt is without a doubt one of the most remarkable examples of strange bedfellows in history.
Joseph’s promotion set in motion the shift that harnessed resources to avoid a time of calamity and to provide a safe place for God’s people. When the shift began, an alignment was set in motion for all that followed.
Our examination of strange-bedfellows takes a closer look at how we view things, especially the criteria that determines our relationships and limitations to the man-view of our thinking. No doubt it shines a light on our spiritual maturity, of embracing reality within the integrity of one’s heart. It also implies that more importantly, it should give pause to how we are discerning that God views things, as well as His response to the hearts of those around us. The times strongly suggest that we need to get out of the box of our spiritual myopia and short-sighted thinking.
While there are many today with the notion and ambition of serving as modern-day Josephs, the fulfillment of the calling will not be based on a “king of the mountain” quest. The Kingdom model draws its power from humility. The players whose impact endure will be the ones whose lives have been shaped by their intimacy with God, of hearing His instructions, along with the discipline it has taken to bear the cost of preparation and the primacy of God in their identity, together with the mastery of the tools required to bridge the gap in what will be some most unusual inter-cultural alliances between some extremely strange bed-fellows.
Modern-day parallels to the dynamics of the Joseph-Pharaoh alliance might also give pause to the unlikely dimensions: such as ones currently imprisoned for their faith or alliances between otherwise opposing cultural extremes, not unlike my friend’s potential Russian partnership. The key will be in the current-day Joseph’s identity and role within the alliance. While Joseph’s role with Pharaoh may have been hidden to his family, Joseph’s identity in God was the lynch-pin that defined his relationship with Pharaoh. It was the basis of the unlikely, but very critical trust in the coalition.
The Church today bears the stigma of being elite and fractionalized, of being driven by argumentative thinking and the traditions of men. There is a biblical precedent for the premise of “as the Church goes, so does the world around it.” For those called to modern-day Joseph mandates, as well as spiritual leaders in general, there is a need to reexamine the dynamics of our influence. For Joseph in Egypt, as a slave in Potiphar’s house, scripture tells us that “everyone saw that the Lord was with Joseph and made all that he did to prosper.” It was the mark of a trusted prophetic steward who understood what it meant to be blessed to be a blessing. THAT represents the mark of Kingdom thinking.
The Shakespearean wisdom of misery producing strange bedfellows should be a wakeup call to examine the trust and godly influence operating within our ranks. Joseph understood the heart of God long before he got his opportunity with Pharaoh. When he did, there were no illusions nor hesitations. It became the catalyst for the shift.
With the cost paid to discipline himself to give sole priority to God’s view on things, what in the natural might have been a paralyzing, daunting presentation in the court of Pharaoh, instead had the authority to release the trust and influence that set in motion the bond of an alliance of the most unlikely and extreme of strange bedfellows. This most unlikely alliance not only provided a safe place and changed the destiny for God’s people, but amazingly blessed Pharaoh and his realm during the timely management of the series of subsequent impossible challenges that, through Joseph, were turned into opportunity.
Morris Ruddick has been a forerunner and spokesman for the higher dimensions of business leadership since the mid-90s. As founder of Global Initiatives Foundation and designer of the God’s Economy Entrepreneurial Equippers Program, Mr. Ruddick imparts hope and equips economic community builders to be blessed to be a blessing where God’s light is dim in diverse regions around the globe.
He is author of “The Joseph-Daniel Calling;” “Gods Economy, Israel and the Nations;” “The Heart of a King;” “Something More;” “Righteous Power in a Corrupt World;” “Leadership by Anointing;” and “Mantle of Fire,” which address the mobilization of business and governmental leaders with destinies to impact their communities. They are available in print and e-versions from www.Amazon.com, www.apple.com/ibooks and www.BarnesandNoble.com.
Global Initiatives Foundation (www.strategic-initiatives.org) is a tax-exempt 501 (c) 3 non-profit whose efforts are enabled by the generosity of a remnant of faithful friends and contributors whose vision aligns with God’s heart to mobilize economic community builders imparting influence and the blessings of God. Checks on US banks should be made out to Global Initiatives and mailed to PO Box 370291, Denver CO 80237 or by credit card at http://strategicintercession.org/support/
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2018 Copyright Morris Ruddick — firstname.lastname@example.org
Reproduction is prohibited unless permission is given by a SIGN advisor. Since early 1996, the Strategic Intercession Global Network (SIGN) has mobilized prophetic intercessors and leaders committed to targeting strategic-level issues impacting the Body on a global basis. For previous posts or more information on SIGN, check: http://www.strategicintercession.org