Posts Tagged With: provision

Why We Seek Jesus—John 6:26–27

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

John 6:26–27, ESV

Lambert Lombard 001

“The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes,” by Lambert Lombard (1505/06–1566)

Only two miracles are mentioned in all four Gospels. Jesus’ is one of them. The other is the feeding of the multitude with five loaves and two fish. The fact that these two miracles share that distinction shows that they are both very significant. In John’s Gospel, the miraculous multiplication of a meal precedes Jesus’ in-depth teaching the following day about the bread of life.

Jesus had spent an entire day teaching the multitude. After a long day in the wilderness, the crowd was hungry, and Jesus did not want to send them home like that. Having only five loaves of bread and two fishes available, He multiplied the food to feed the entire crowd, leaving more leftovers than they began with. Then, He dismissed the crowd, sent the disciples off by boat to the other side of the lake, spent several hours in prayer, and walked on the water to catch up with His disciples.

The next day, the crowd searched for Jesus. They eventually found Him on the other side of the lake, and asked Him how got there. This led to Jesus’ response, which we see in the verses above.

They asked him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” They had seen the disciples leave in the boat without Him. How could He get to the other side of the lake so quickly without a boat? Jesus did not directly answer their question. He knew they were only mildly curious about that. He went straight to what they really wanted to know. Jesus knew why they were really there.

Throughout His ministry, many people sought Jesus because He performed miraculous signs. It must have been amazing when Jesus came to town. The sick would be healed. The lame would stand up and walk. People who had been blind for years would suddenly be able to see. Then, as now, people would be impressed with showmanship, drama, and extravagance. Sudden, dramatic, and unusual displays of indescribable power will always draw a curious audience.

Jesus performed signs and wonders to display God’s love, not to entertain. He often criticized those who came to Him seeking miraculous signs. On at least two occasions, He said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4; cf. Matthew 12:39).

At least the present did not seem as interested in the miracle itself. They may have noticed that He used such a small amount of food to feed them. They might have been impressed if Jesus told them how He crossed the lake overnight (by suspending the laws of physics so that He could walk across the lake during a violent storm). But apparently, they were more interested in the fact that Jesus actually fed them. Perhaps people thought, “He did not actually have to feed us. He only had one meal. Isn’t it wonderful that He cared enough to share a meal with us?”

Jesus thought this was a step in the right direction, but He urged them to move to the next level in their pursuit of Him. It was great that they were not seeking signs and wonders, and were grateful to Him for meeting their earthly needs. However, all of this merely points to His desire to meet their eternal spiritual needs.

Even today, many ministries settle for second best. Some “healing ministries” make dramatic healing the center of their mission. They are satisfied only if people are instantaneously healed of physical ailments or delivered from life-controlling addictions. It must be dramatic and exciting: something that will work on television. Some ministries do not want God to begin to gradually remove an illness, or to guide an addict to a recovery ministry. It has to be instantaneous, so that the crowd can be impressed with how God is working in the ministry.

Others emphasize that God meets our worldly needs. Some claim that Jesus died so that we can enjoy material prosperity. Some churches and ministries preach about how we can be free from depression, discouragement, and despair, or how Jesus can give us purpose and meaning in life. While all of these have some truth—Jesus will answer our prayers for bless our finances, or to give us joy and peace—there is something more that He wants us to seek.

“Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” We want earthly blessings. Jesus offers us eternal blessings. We want daily bread to fill our bellies. Jesus offers us that, but He also offers us the bread of heaven to nourish our souls and the living water of His Holy Spirit to well up to eternal life.

Some seek miracles; others seek Jesus because He meets a worldly need. He rejoices when we seek Him because He offers life. “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

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Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Modern-Day Elijahs II: Protected and Preserved

Elijah being fed by ravens. "Lanfranco Elie nourri par le corbeau" by Giovanni Lanfranco - Own work by user:Rvalette. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg#/media/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg

Elijah being fed by ravens. “Lanfranco Elie nourri par le corbeau” by Giovanni Lanfranco – Own work by user:Rvalette. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg#/media/File:Lanfranco_Elie_nourri_par_le_corbeau.jpg

The word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Go away from here and turn eastward, and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. It shall be that you will drink of the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and lived by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook. It happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah. [1 Kings 17:2–16. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.]

The most important lesson we can learn from the life of Elijah is this: God calls us to be obedient: not popular, wealthy, or successful. Success and provision are in the Lord’s hand, so we should always be eager to seek His blessings, not the things of the world.

The prophet had just taken a bold stand for God. As we saw in the first post in this series, the northern kingdom of Israel had rejected the One True God of Israel and was now “officially” worshiping the Canaanite fertility god, Baal. Elijah declared that HE, as God’s spokesman, would declared when it may rain again—not King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, not one of Baal’s prophets or priests, and not even Baal. Yahweh, the One True God of Israel, controlled the weather, and He would let Elijah know when rain will come again.

Let’s face it, this is not the way to win popularity contests. People do not want to hear that the God you serve is in control of everything (how narrow-minded and exclusive can you be?), and that we all will be held accountable to Him. If they do believe in God, they do not want to hear that His opinion is different from that of most of society, or conflicts with the power-brokers in your nation. If you stand with God, you may find yourself at odds with most of society.

Modern culture tempts American Christians to think that we can rely on the resources of the world for security and satisfaction. That is not true. The prophet Isaiah warned the Israelites of his day against trusting in a mighty empire (Egypt), with its military might, for protection, instead of seeking the strength of the Lord (Isaiah 31:1–3). However, many Christians have failed to learn this lesson. We trust a favorite political party, our education, our media, and a host of other “gods.” We expect our jobs to meet all of our needs. In many cases, our idols are turning against us. We need to return to total reliance upon God almighty.

God protected and preserved Elijah. For much of the biblical account of his life, he lives as fugitive, separated from his own nation who had turned their backs on God. Safety was not found among the Israelites, who had rejected their covenant with the Lord and decided to follow the gods of their pagan neighbors.

As we watch our nation turn our backs on God and reject its Judeo-Christian heritage, we can no longer assume that we can enjoy the security we had in the past. Previous generations of American Christians could trust that our laws had some consistency with, or at least respect for, biblical values. This is no longer the case. When the President of the United States invites the Pope to the White House, and then packs the guest list with homosexual-rights activists and others hostile to church teaching, America can be considered as apostate as King Ahab’s Israel was. Our nation deserves judgment as much as that nation did. Men and women of God cannot trust American values and institutions meet their needs.

It is time for change. Christians must learn to follow God whole-heartedly, as Elijah did. God called Elijah completely out of his comfort zone. His first stop was the brook Cherith, east of the Jordan. This place was “…one of the wildest ravines of the Fertile Crescent, and peculiarly fitted to afford a secure asylum to the persecuted.” Although a fugitive could hide safely there, food still posed a dilemma. God used an unusual way to feed Elijah: breakfast and dinner deliveries from ravens, which were unclean animals according to the Torah (Leviticus 11:13-16).

When the water dried up, God’s next source of protection and provision for Elijah was even more drastic: A widow in a pagan nation. She was at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, in Queen Jezebel’s home country, in the midst of the drought. God appointed a woman who thought she and her son were going to starve soon to feed and protect the prophet.

The point is that Elijah could not rely on worldly common sense. He had to rely on God’s direction, even when it defied logic. Yet, God protected him, provided everything he needed, and preserved him so that he could complete his mission.

This is the challenge for the American Christian. Under Obamacare, government agencies have ordered Christian organizations to pay for “medical benefits” (abortion, birth control, etc.) that defy their religious beliefs. In the name of “tolerance” and “equal rights, some Christian businesses have been ordered to provide services that defy Scripture. We can no longer trust the United States Constitution to protect us, since the First Amendment rights to freedom of religion have been cast aside in favor of the right to sin and to live apart from God. Our neighbors, even many of our church members, have bowed to the god of the state instead of the God of Scripture.

Let us pray for the courage to follow God when He calls us out of our comfort zone, so that we may be faithful to Him. “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17). The key to persevering with Christ, as a modern-day Elijah, is to choose to love God above all things, even when that seems drastic.

This post copyright © 2015 Michael E.
Lynch. All rights reserved.
Categories: Bible meditations, Current events, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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