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Mid Week Reflections

Servants of God,

“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”
-Recently freed Hebrew ex-slaves when they became hungry
(Psalm 78:19)

They were the words of disbelief. They came out of the mouths of people who had just witnessed miraculous signs and wonders done by the power of God. It is easy to be critical of the Hebrew children on their desert trek toward the promised land—unless we have a healthy level of self-awareness. It seems almost impossible that a people who had witnessed God’s power in humbling the great Egyptian empire could doubt that He could feed them in the wilderness, but they did. Fallen humans—even those who have been wonderfully plucked out of darkness and transferred to the dominion of the beloved Son—need to keep proper perspective. Humans naturally tend toward either delusion or presumption. That is the reason we need regular doses of truth and regular sessions of thanksgiving and praise. We may be living through a wilderness patch in our lives but we do not have to be disoriented and doubt God.

The wilderness journey has a tendency to reveal the hearts of the pilgrims. How do we react when things get hard or confusing or painful? Sadly, it seems that humans can easily follow God until a challenge pops up. Then we can quickly turn to despair because we are certain that the situation is hopeless. Unless our minds are regularly and rigorously being renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the agency of His word, we can inwardly harbor thoughts of doubt and despair. It did not make any sense that God who led Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm would abandon them and let them starve in the desert. But that is just the horrible picture the newly-freed Israelites conjured up. What many of them learned the hard way was that you can have plenty of physical food and be starving to death spiritually. This is a message that Jesus gave in John chapter six. We receive the true bread of life by receiving Him (John 6:29-35). Those who reject God’s gracious means of salvation by grace through faith in Christ are on a self-imposed spiritual hunger strike that finally leads to a horrible death.

The current morning sermon series on the ten commandments in the life of the Christian has reminded me of just how much I need instruction and direction for life. Afterall, being a pastor does not excuse a man from being a Christian! We know we do not live under the old covenant legal system, but we must not forget that the Law leads us to the Messiah. In the first covenant believers were “under” the guardianship of the Law; in the new Covenant believers live by faith “in” Christ (see Galatians 3).  Looking at the command to remember and sanctify the Sabbath has brought me face to face with how little I appreciate the grace in God’s commands. It is a gracious thing to be told the truth. It is a gracious thing to be instructed in proper life patterns. It is a gracious thing to be sure that everyone in our immediate sphere of influence knows that our life and their lives require both faithful labor in the areas where we have dominion and submissive rest on God’s terms.

Jesus regularly modeled and taught a true understanding of what a life lived to the glory of God could look like. He never worried about food or clothing or the things that often manipulate the trajectory of our lives. He trusted God for His provision. He was willing to skip a meal when necessary. He also was compassionately aware that the crowds who followed him needed to eat. He knew, as we should know, that our providential God knows what we need and when we need it.

Yes, God can—if we need it—provide a full meal in the midst of the wilderness. But remember that man cannot live by bread alone. We need every word from God’s mouth; we need the bread of life and living water. Only Jesus can provide that.

Just because we are Christians does not mean we are not susceptible to forgetting. One of the reasons I am so humbly thankful for each Lord’s Supper celebration is that the bread and the cup remind me in a tangible way. Not only does the word speak to me, the elements train my taste buds to be in submission to Christ. His death and resurrection must be remembered to give me hope and to keep me from presumption or despair. If we want true life, we must humbly receive it on Jesus’ terms: “Jesus said unto them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35). This should be the best of news to us—especially when we get hungry in the wilderness.


Pastor John
Coram Deo