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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:In the midst of a secular world we still pray the fourth petition
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Added:2013-08-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps. 104: 1

Ps. 127: 1, 2

Hymn 8: 3, 4

Ps. 78: 7 – 11

Ps. 104: 7, 8

 

Scripture reading:       Deut. 8: 1 – 20; Mt. 6: 19 – 34

Text:                              LD 50

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


LD 50 – Daily Bread                                

Ps. 104: 1

Ps. 127: 1, 2

Hymn 8: 3, 4

Ps. 78: 7 – 11

Ps. 104: 7, 8

 

Scripture reading:       Deut. 8: 1 – 20; Mt. 6: 19 – 34

Text:                              LD 50

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Since the so called “enlightenment” of the 18th century, where man made all reality subject to his own reason and intellect, man has become more and more emancipated – at least in his own eyes.   Man has come of age.   Man, in his own eyes, has grown independent of God.  

It followed logically in the 19th century that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, was explained away by the theories of Charles Darwin.

The universe was created by itself!   And science had to prove it!

The world, also the western world, has since become increasingly secular: a world without God.

 

It is no longer God who sends the rain; it simply rains because of the laws of nature!

Science will explain everything!

Dear congregation, we are well aware of such an ungodly worldview in the society in which we live.    Anyone who has eyes to see will also note that the whole world, including Australia, is becoming more and more secular by the day – openly and blatantly.

The world in which we live has no room anymore for the God of the Scriptures, for the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.   His Name and His Word are no longer honoured in parliament, or in the lawgiving, in education, or in any sphere of government.

 

But what about the church?   What is the worldview of church members?   Many theologians, and even large bonds of churches, have been infected by an increasingly ungodly and secular worldview as it developed over the last centuries; and it still continues to develop like cancer.   Many try to match Scripture with secular science in order to keep the church “relevant”.  

In order to stay relevant, they say, the church must re-think its theology.   We may have to start thinking differently about God, they say.   And we need to re-think our view of creation, they say.  And we need to re-think the whole doctrine of God’s providence – for science has proven that this world is able to run by itself!   And so we need to re-think our view of God and re-formulate our doctrine, they say, if we want to remain relevant in the world in which we live.

 

We will become too isolated and irrelevant if we still proclaim that God made this world in six days, and if we are still so childish as to believe that Balaam’s donkey really spoke to him, or that the sun really stood still in the days of Joshua, or that Jonah was really three days in the belly of a fish before he went to Nineveh.    We know that such things do not happen in the real world, don’t we?

And our faith should be compatible with modern science, should it not?

 

Dear congregation, to bring this a bit closer to ourselves – it happened recently that professors at a Reformed theological university have become very excited about a new perspective on the emancipation of this world.   There is now an alternative option whereby the church may view the emancipation of man as a positive development in the world!

 

The new perspective is actually not so new.   It was already formulated by a German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died in 1945.   According to Bonhoeffer the church has always been opposed to new developments in the world, and always last to follow new developments in the world.   This is not to the advantage of the church, he says.   Now that there is a great development in the world towards self-sufficiency and autonomy, a world that can function without God, the church should not oppose this emancipation of the world.   It is God’s intention, says Bonhoeffer, that man should become autonomous; self sufficient.   Mankind is growing towards manhood and independence, he says.   We should then not see the emancipation of this world as something negative.   No, the church has to learn from the world, and learn to appreciate this development in the world.

 

Yes, theologians, who still call themselves Reformed, are now rediscovering these ideas of Bonhoeffer with much appreciation.

 

Dear congregation, seeing that we live in such a context and time in which man has become so enlightened and emancipated in his own eyes, yes, so independent, standing on his own two feet in a world without God, and knowing that such secularisation has not left the church unaffected – what do we do with Lord’s day 50?  

Can we still expect that modern man should ask his daily bread from God?!

 

How do you understand this petition?

Do you still pray this petition, asking for daily bread, while you know that you have a healthy bank balance?   Do you still ask for rain when the weather forecast says that it will rain anyway?   Do you still live like a small child in your Father’s house, receiving everything from His hand, now that you are grown up?

Is the fourth petition still relevant in a world that has become self-sufficient?

Or is it maybe a petition only for the poor and the needy?

 

Dear congregation, I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

In the midst of a secular world we still pray the fourth petition

We note…


1.      That we are to depend completely on the Lord’s provision

2.      That we are to seek and acknowledge His fatherly care


In the first place we note that…

We are to depend completely on the Lord’s provision

 

This afternoon we read that well known passage from Deuteronomy 8 where Moses said to the people of Israel:

“So the LORD humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He may make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”

These words were spoken to Israel shortly before they entered the land Canaan.   And the LORD knew that when they enter the land that flows with milk and honey, and become rich and prosperous, they would be in danger to become proud and forget the LORD, and think in their heart:

“… ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’” – Deut. 8: 17

Now, lest that would happen, He instructs them to remember the lessons He taught them during the 40 years in the wilderness.   He reminds them of how He cared for them.   There was no food in the desert to feed a gathering of at least 3 million people – 600 000 men above 20 years; not counting the woman and children and not counting the tribe of Levi (Ex. 38: 26; Num. 1: 46, 47).   And yet, there in the barren desert, the LORD fed this enormous gathering – for forty years!  

There was no means in the desert to satisfy their hunger, therefore the LORD did it directly from heaven.   He just spoke and manna rained down on them.

Yes, they received their daily bread directly from heaven.

It was not nature that provided for them.   It was not the abundance of fruit trees and golden harvests that fed them.   The LORD fed them in a way that they could not imagine; a way that was never heard of.

 

In this way He taught them that they should not depend on the means and provision of nature, or the favour of Baal.   He clearly showed them that it is He who feeds them.  Even when all natural means are cut off, the LORD has no difficulty to care for us.

 

In this way He taught them two lessons.   First of all they had to withdraw their trust from all creatures.   They had to withdraw their trust from nature.   And they had no choice, for in this place nature was barren and empty.   They had to depend on the LORD alone for their daily bread.  

 

The second lesson He taught them was that when they do enter the land of milk and honey, and find that the land produces in abundance, that they should remember that it is not the many fruit trees and the good soil or even their own labour that provides for them.   Also when the LORD does make use of means, it is no less He who cares for them.

When the Lord uses natural means to care for us, then it still remains He who cares for us.

When He cares for you by providing you with a job and good health, then the salary cheque that you receive is no less His caring, than when He would feed you in a miraculous way directly from heaven.

If we don’t understand this, or don’t believe this, then our trust in natural means is nothing but idolatry.

 

It is not nature that cares for us.  It is not the natural production of bread and wine that feeds us.  It is not the sun that gives life and growth.   It is not the rain that causes a good harvest.   It is God.   And without His care nature cannot provide us with one meal.

 

Yes, if we would have any other perception, and somehow trust in the natural course of nature, or in our own labour, our trust would be nothing but idolatry.

This world is not self-sufficient, and man is not autonomous.

 

Brothers and sisters, we have to know that whether God feeds us directly from heaven with manna, or whether He gives you a salary cheque, there is really no difference.   In both cases the bread on your table is His doing; and His doing only. 

 

Do you still believe this?   Do you still consciously live from the hand of our heavenly Father? 

 

Furthermore we also have to note how the LORD worded this instruction to Israel.   Moses says:

            “…He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna…”

 

He humbled them, and caused them to experience hunger, and then He fed them with manna.   

So, first He humbled them.   He caused the children of Israel to realise their need for help.   He brought them to a point where they had to see and acknowledge their total dependence upon Him.   That was actually the first lesson.  

He led them into a situation where they could not turn to nature, or any natural means or natural source.   There in the desert they had no option but to turn to the LORD.   And so He brought them to a point where they could be stripped of all false confidence.  

He purposefully led them into the desert where there was no means to sustain them, where nature had nothing to offer, that they may learn to live by faith, in dependence on the LORD, trusting in His care only.

 

Yes, man is not autonomous; he is totally dependent on the Lord – whether he wants to know it or not.   And it is grace when we are brought to the point where we acknowledge this.

The LORD does not seek a proud, independent, emancipated people!  

He gathers for Himself a humble people who receive their bread daily from His hand only.  

 

Brothers and sisters, the Lord continues to teach this also to His church in the New Testament.

We read a second passage from Matthew chapter 6 where the Lord says that our heavenly Father cares for everything.   He cares for the birds in the air and for the grass of the field.   And He cares even more for us, His children.  

And that passage He admonishes us for our little faith, and exhorts us to put all our trust in the care of our Father in heaven.  

He teaches us to live consciously in total dependence upon our Father in heaven, and not to worry like the heathens about food and clothing and the provision of all our bodily needs.      

Our heavenly Father knows that we need all these things; and He will provide. 

 

Shall we then show appreciation for a doctrine that teaches the independence and emancipation of man, which imagines that man can be autonomous?  

They may use many arguments and great and learned words to make such a doctrine sound acceptable; they may use much plaster and make up to cover its ugliness, but such a lifestyle where man imagines some kind of self-sufficiency in this world is godless and ungodly.  

 

Dear congregation, God has not abdicated His throne, nor has He resigned as our God and Father, nor does He seek an arrogant people who count themselves self-sufficient.  

He gathers for Himself a humble people who seeks Him and acknowledges Him as their God and Father in all things and in all of life, even for our most basic bodily needs: food and drink and clothing!  

 

Brothers and sisters, without the fourth petition there is no true faith.

Without the fourth petition there is no Christianity.

 

Where the fourth petition becomes absent, idolatry is present.

And therefore we note in the second place, that…

We are to seek and acknowledge our Father’s care

 

Here in the fourth petition the Lord teaches us that we are daily to ask our heavenly Father to provide in our bodily needs.

We may accept it with our mind that we are dependent upon the Lord for food and clothing, and for all our bodily needs, but it goes one step further to actually seek the face of our Father in heaven and to ask Him for my daily bread.

 

Our daily bread, as you know, refers to all our bodily needs.   It refers also to the literal food on our table, but here in the Lord ’s Prayer it should also be taken broader: it stands for all our physical needs.

Scripture often speaks in this way.   In the first place both the Hebrew and the Greek word for bread often refer to food in general.    And thus the phrase, “eat bread”, may simply mean: have a meal. 

Furthermore Scripture often uses the word bread to refer to that which we need to support our physical life.    When the LORD says in Ezekiel 4: 16, “…I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem…”, He means: there will be famine and people will die of hunger.   It means: I will cut off their life support – the supply of their physical needs.

 

“Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it.” – Ezek. 14: 13

 

And when Scripture speaks about “abundance of bread”, it refers to prosperity.   For example in Ezekiel 16: 49 where we read:

 

“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: she and her daughter had pride, abundance of bread, and abundance of idleness…”

 

There the prophet refers to physical prosperity with the words “abundance of bread”.

 

One last example – in Prov. 30: 8 we read:

 

“…give me neither poverty nor riches – feed me with the bread allotted to me…”

 

There the “bread allotted to me” refers to a moderate income, a moderate living, in opposition to riches or poverty.

 

That is how we understand the expression “our daily bread” as we confess here in LD 50:

 

            “What is the fourth petition?”

            “Give us this day our daily bread.   That is: provide us with all our bodily needs…”

 

But then our confession also goes further to explain the purpose of praying this petition:

 

“… so that we may acknowledge that Thou art the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also Thy gifts, cannot do us any good without Thy blessing.   Grant therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in Thee.”

 

With this petition we entrust ourselves entirely to the Lord’s care.   With this prayer we confess our total dependence on the Lord.  

He is the One who provides the bread on my table; and He is the one caring for all my bodily needs.   Without His daily care for me I will lack everything, and have nothing.  

And not only do we acknowledge our total dependence on Him, but we also actively seek our bread from His hand.

 

We pray: Our Father in heaven, help us to live in such dependence upon You.  

“Grant that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in Thee.”

 

Help me, Father, to live this way, seeking Your grace and care when I rise in the morning, and when I go about my daily task, that in everything I may seek Your face, expecting nothing apart from Your hand and Your blessing, not daring and not wanting to live without Your personal care for me.  

 

Brothers and sisters, we don’t need God only for our soul, or only for salvation; while we ourselves can take care for the rest!  

We may not restrict God to the sphere of religion and the private sphere of the soul, and for the rest trust in the course of nature and the abilities of man.  

 

Our prayer, here in this petition, is the opposite of emancipation, and the opposite of seeking autonomy.   We pray: Father, I can’t care for myself, only You can.   Father, with all the knowledge and all the abilities You have given me, I am still not able to provide one piece of bread on the table.   Without Your personal care for me I can do nothing; will You in Your mercy provide for me.

 

It is not a prayer for proud modern man.   It is the prayer of a humble people who live before the face of God, seeking His help, and with prayer and thanksgiving receive everything from His hand only.

It is the prayer of those who have become like little children in their Father’s house.  

 

My Father will care for me.   And I know it, for He told me so.

In Him I trust.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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