I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I go. “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). The early bird gets the worm. These sayings, and others similar, were taught in the house when I was a young boy growing up. I do not discount, nor question the value of hard work. The question is who is my provider? Where does my bread come from?
My parents both grew up in the Great Depression. Because my mother grew up on a farm, she had food to eat, even though times were difficult, and money was very tight. My grandfather had inherited the farm, which provided a place to live. Transportation was often by foot, and clothes were homemade, sometimes from print flour and feed sacks. My father grew up in a large family his parents were unable to support. The family moved from one abandoned house to another, and was assisted by county welfare. Clothes were hand-me-downs, and there were no shoes until time to start school. Dad’s parents both died at an early age, meaning I would never know them as grandparents. My mother worked hard on the farm to help support her family, and my father quit school to support his family. He would often say he wished he had two nickels to rub together.
With that background as a point of reference in my formative years, I came to hate poverty. I also came to believe that my hard work and effort would make the difference in surviving and being successful in terms of a higher standard of living. However, without discounting the value of diligence and hard work, I later came to know there is another larger, more important perspective, and that is the spiritual perspective.
There are a number of scripture passages that speak to the spiritual perspective. In Genesis 22, Abraham’s devotion to God was tested when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac his son. Preparations were made, and the two set out for Mt Moriah, or present day Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Abraham knew God very well, and trusted him without question. Accordingly, when Isaac asked about the lamb he thought would be needed for the sacrifice, Abraham said God would provide one. After the altar was built and the wood was laid on it, Abraham laid Isaac on the altar and took out a knife, preparing to do what God had asked of him. An angel stopped Abraham, and God did provide the sacrifice, a ram tangled in a nearby thicket. Genesis 22:14 says [So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”] In this passage is disclosed one of the Names of God-Jehovah Jireh-the Lord Who Provides. The name Provider reveals an aspect of His eternal character and nature, and tells us something about Him.
In Exodus 16, the Bible says God sent quail in the evening and manna (bread) in the morning in order to provide meat and bread for the millions of Israelites newly freed from Egyptian slavery under Moses’ leadership. The manna fell from heaven, and was lying on the ground each day. God’s instruction was to gather each morning the bread that was needed for the day, and on the sixth day to gather enough for the seventh day as well. Because the seventh day was to be a day of rest, there would be no gathering on the seventh day. Food gathered above what was needed would spoil. This provision of daily meat and bread continued for forty years, until the children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, finally crossed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. This was the land that had been promised to Abraham as a result of his complete trust in God (Genesis 22:17-18).
In John 6, Jesus fed a meal of meat and bread to five thousand men from a boy’s sacrifice of his five small loaves of barley bread and two small fish. The count did not include women and children. This was truly a miracle, because after everyone had eaten their fill, the leftovers exceeded the food he had to begin.
The real meat of all these passages begins with Jesus’ teaching on bread the day following the miracle. Starting with John 6:25, and continuing through verse 59, consider these words of Jesus:
- V.25-“they found him on the other side of the lake”. Who is “they”? The crowd of five thousand from the day before. They were the descendants of Abraham, and descendants of those who came to the Promised Land. They knew the story of Abraham and Isaac. They knew the story of the quail and manna each day in the desert for forty years. They witnessed the feeding miracle the day before, and ate the bread and fish. They were literally full of a miracle. Many had stayed up all night talking about what they had seen and tasted. The next day they found Jesus again, and received this teaching.
- V. 27-“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
- V.32-33-“It is not Moses who has given you the bread from Heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
- V.35-“I am the bread of life.”
- V.41-“I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
- V.49-“Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.”
- V.50-“Here is the bread that comes down from heaven which a man may eat and not die.”
- V. 51-“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”
Taking all these scriptures together, one can draw these conclusions:
- God is the Provider. Your work and effort is not the provider, nor is your job, neither is your pension, IRA or 401k. Your diligence, effort and cooperation are a required part of the solution, but God is the Provider.
- When God required the children of Israel to gather the bread daily, He was teaching them to daily seek bread (the Bread of Heaven). Although they were in the desert with no food, the manna was not a feeding program. Gathering the bread given them would help them for the day, but learning to gather Bread (from heaven) daily would sustain them for eternity. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said it this way “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” These “things” are discussed in the verses immediately preceding: what will you eat, drink, and what clothes will you wear?
- Jesus is the living Bread from heaven that brings life. When He was hungry and tempted by the devil with bread, Jesus responded in Matthew 4:4 “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Seeking the Lord daily for a word or direction for your life (Bread) is better than bread. Isaiah 48:17 says “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, and directs you in the way you should go.” Some translations say “…teaches you to profit”. Time is well spent asking the Lord what is best, what is profitable, and which way to go.
- Regarding provision, if one gets up early to gather bread, the provision is on him. If one gets up early to seek Bread (from heaven), the provision is on God.
- Want to be a better provider? Want to be a better father, mother, teacher, student, nurse, business man, husband or wife? Want your finances to work for you instead of having to work so hard for your finances? The answer is the same. Gather manna daily. The priority is not to gather bread, but the Bread of Life from heaven. Start the day spending time with Jesus. Out of a strong personal relationship with God, Abraham was able to trust that He would provide. When I realized God was my provider, the pressure to produce melted away. He gave me wise counsel, opportunities, and strategies. The Bible says He provides seed, brings the rain, and enlarges the harvest. My job was to sow the seed He provided. He brought the harvest.