I know a lot of people who are struggling financially right now. They say the recession is lifting but it hasn’t lifted for my friends, or truth be told, for me. Or maybe I should say for the entities I write for. As a freelance writer I depend on businesses, newspapers and magazines with money in their budgets to pay writers to provide content.
So lately I have been searching the Gospels for Jesus’ words about God’s provision. There’s quite a bit there, but despite the musical Godspell’s perky rendition of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 6 and Luke 12:
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like
one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is,
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you,
O you of little faith?
“Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him
a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will
your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?
“For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all
these things shall be added to you.”
…I have trouble applying these verses to my everyday life. What do they mean, really?
This past week I came across the story of Jesus and His disciples picking wheat on the Sabbath (Matthew 12, Mark 2 and Luke 6). Without realizing its application to my meditation on God’s provision, I looked up the Old Testament context on which this Gospel story is based, 1 Samuel 21. Briefly, it goes like this. David, running from King Saul who wants to kill him, enters the tabernacle that was at that moment in the town of Nob. He’s not looking for sanctuary but for bread, as he and his men are gut-twistingly hungry. But there is no bread, the priest responds, except for the holy Showbread.
This Showbread was mandated by God back in Leviticus 24. Each of the 12 tribes of Israel was to bake a loaf of bread – 12 loaves total – to be placed on a table inside the tabernacle where the people could see it as a visual object lesson and representation of God’s presence among them. New loaves were to be set out every Sabbath to replace the old ones, which were then given to the priests (by God’s mandate) to eat…another object lesson to illustrate God’s promise to provide for the basic needs of the priests whose living kept them inside the tabernacle of God.
Back to the story in 1 Samuel, after questioning David about his and his men’s “cleanliness” (their obedience to God’s laws regarding sexuality), the priest gave to David the old Showbread (the bread that had been replaced with fresh loaves the previous Sabbath), still considered holy and consecrated for the priests’ meals. Besides the ramifications of David taking holy bread, what is not told, but certain seems to be implied in this story, is that somehow those 12 loaves of Showbread were able to fill the bellies of hundreds of hungry men.
As I read this Old Testament story, several images came to mind: manna dropping down from heaven to feed the Hebrew people in the wilderness; the widow who fed Elijah, whose flour and oil never ran out; Jesus feeding huge crowds from tiny portions of bread and fish. As I thought of these miracles, Jesus’ own words came flooding to mind: “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
Confusion filled my brain. When taken side-by-side with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, the Bible stories of God’s provision and the picture of the Showbread, what does Jesus’ reference to himself as the Bread of Life mean for me? For today? As my family struggles to make ends meet?
Yes Lord, I prayed, but these words refer to spiritual life, don’t they?
Immediately, shockingly, a response came fully formed to my mind, a rare occurrence, what I call a God-thought: “Do you really think I would not take care of you?”
Whoa…I am indeed in the presence of a holy and mighty God.
This is Part 1 of a 3-part series about God’s provision.