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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Our Daily Bread: Trusting, Asking, Receiving
Text:LD 50 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's faithfulness
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-06-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 107:1                                                                                            

Ps 105:1  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Exodus 15:22 - 16:21

Ps 78:7,8,11

Sermon – Lord’s Day 50

Ps 107:3,4,12

Hy 76:1

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


Beloved in Christ, here’s a warning that you’ve probably heard before: “Whatever you do, don’t try this at home.” When someone says that, what you’re about to see should not be imitated. It’s either dangerous, or foolish, or it’s best left to those who know what they’re doing. Some examples, of course, are good to imitate. But then there’s examples to be avoided.

Reading through Scripture, we find many powerful lessons from the saints of long ago. How did they walk by faith? How did they do God’s will? How did they pray? In the Bible, we find these good examples, and also bad. For the Holy Spirit never gives halos and angel-wings to the people of God. God’s children rebel, and their faith wavers, and they fall into sin.

And when we read such accounts, we shouldn’t feel superior, but we should learn from these bad examples. Not to imitate, but to avoid. Learn how to do the opposite: to walk faithfully with the Father, who thankfully is so patient with his wayward children.

That brings us to the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread.” And in the Scriptures we find a decidedly negative example of how to approach such a prayer. In Exodus 15 and 16, the Spirit teaches us: This is what not to do, how not to ask for God’s daily provision. We consider this example on the theme:

A Bad Example & Good Lesson in Praying for Our Daily Bread:

  1. help us not to misplace our trust
  2. teach us to acknowledge you
  3. provide us with our bodily needs

 

1) help us not to misplace our trust: What does it mean to trust in God? If trust is not something that can be seen or touched, how do we know that we’re really trusting in him? It’s hard to see, and yet trust is not that rare of a commodity—you can actually find it every human heart. For everyone has a trust account. Everyone has settled on something in which they seek refuge and support, a place where they find comfort at the end of a lousy day.

So that’s the big question—it’s really the central question of our life: In what are we going to trust? We all look around and we wonder: “What can I count on, without fail? Who can I depend on? If I’m in need, where can I go?”

And we often give the wrong answer. We put our trust in things that merit no confidence at all. For we put trust in our talents and intelligence. We depend on our money and possessions. We centre our confidence in family, or we root it in the acceptance of friends. We count on earthly things, for we always feel best about what we can see and touch and control, “This’ll keep me safe. This’ll make me happy.”

This is why the Catechism teaches us to fight against a false dependence, a misplaced trust. We find it in the last line of our Lord’s Day. It’s crafted in the form of a prayer, “[Lord], grant… that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures” (Q&A 125). When it comes to the maintenance of our life and the provision of what we really need, we pray that we would not depend on creatures. For the LORD wants our trust placed wholly in him; here we have the good example of David, who sings in Psalm 56, “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid” (v 4).

Easier said than done, of course. The Israelites, slogging through the wilderness, show how hard it can be to trust sincerely and consistently. The passage we read from Exodus is a small part of the account of that long journey to the land—you remember how earlier God had delivered them from Egypt, sending plagues on their enemy, even opening the sea for the multitude of Israel to pass through.

Now they were in the desert, still being led by their faithful Lord. It hadn’t been very long at all, about a month and a half since leaving Egypt. And when the Israelites left, they’d taken plenty of food and water for their journey. They had a spring in their step and a song on their lips as they went forth into the wilderness. Probably a lot of camping trips begin that way…

Yet now, as the trip enters its second month, the fuel gauge is getting close to “Empty.” Stomachs are starting to rumble. Mouths have stopped singing, and are starting to get dry and parched. Some of the weaker ones are stumbling, and the families with small children are struggling to keep up.

How do God’s people respond? Notice that there’s no humble prayer to the Father, their Creator and Saviour. There is no “Give us this day our daily bread,” a quiet expectation in the care of the LORD. Rather, there is murmuring and complaining. The Israelites launch a grievance, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full” (Exod 16:3).

The Israelites do something that we’re all good at: they yearn for the good ol’ days, when things were so much better. They do it again later, in Numbers 11, where they say, “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (v 5). And it was probably true: back then, in the fertile lands along the Nile River, the food supply was better. But now they’re in the desert, and confronted with uncertainty. The question loomed large every new day that they were still in the wilderness: where would the next meal come from?

Why did they grumble? Like every sin, this sin is because of heart trouble. The Israelites felt a lot better about things that could be seen. It was the land that was so fruitful, it was their Egyptian masters who provided bread, and it was their full storehouses which would see them through the lean years.

But now they’re all going to die: “Have you brought us here to kill us?” We say it was terrible for the Israelites to wish they were back in Egypt. We say it shows a total lack of faith to grumble against the Lord who just saved them!

Yet how human, how normal, how much like us: to forget God, to trust in what is physical, to count on creatures and not the Creator. When we have security and peace, when we enjoy health and wealth—when we’re living along the Nile River—we feel pretty good. But two weeks later we find ourselves in the wilderness. There is trouble, and our circumstances have become a bit harder to face. We might grumble against God, because He hasn’t given enough to feel at ease. We might complain, because He hasn’t given us as much as we had before.

Yet God is gracious. He doesn’t destroy Israel for their shortage of faith. He could’ve let them starve but see what God does. He is patient, and what’s more, He provides. He hushes their grumbling by saying this, “I will rain from heaven for you” (Exod 16:4). He’ll feed and care for them, and not sporadically, but every day. They’ll be able to count on it. Without them doing anything for it, or even asking for it, every morning they’d wake up and smell the manna, and it’d be enough.

Still, it wasn’t automatic. In God’s provision there’d also be a test: “The people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (16:4). By gathering just enough for one day, God wants them to learn the hard lesson of placing their trust only in the LORD, to remember and believe that it all came from him.

This is still the lesson for us, for today. This is why in 1 Corinthians 10 Paul points to the Israelites as a bad example. That’s a chapter for you to read later, where Paul tells us: Don’t grumble and complain, like the Israelites did. Don’t be idolaters, like some of them were. As he writes, “These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition” (v 11). Be admonished, be warned: there’s an essential lesson in what happened to the Israelites, something we all need to learn.

The lesson is about misplaced trust. Don’t trust in what you can see. Don’t trust in your earning potential or your business prospects. Don’t trust in the economy, or the support of the government. Don’t trust in the things that we’ve stored up here on earth, for it’s all so uncertain and it will only disappoint.

Because if we’re the source of those things that meet our needs, what if the work dries up? What if the money runs out, or the economy slows down? If we are the source, where do we turn when God brings us into the wilderness? Learn not to trust in yourself, or in whatever else, but learn to acknowledge God. You can trust in him for He is faithful and good and He promises to provide.

 

2) teach us to acknowledge you: At the heart of every true prayer is the simple activity of acknowledging God. When we talk to God sincerely, we’re not ignoring him. When we talk to God daily, we’re saying that He has everything to do with our life, that we need his help, and that He is ready to help. This is how the Catechism explains the fourth petition, too. It offers this prayer to God, “Provide us with all our bodily needs, so that we may acknowledge that [you] are the only fountain of all good” (Q&A 125).

So how can we acknowledge the LORD? Let’s start with a negative example again: Don’t be like the Israelites! In their need, they complained. They started griping about their bad treatment and demanded something better. And grumbling is not praying.

Compare how the Israelites’ grumbled with how Moses approached God. In Exodus 15, the thirsty people came upon a spring of water, and thought they had found relief—but it was bitter and undrinkable. Imagine how distressing this was! Israel panics, but Moses prays: he “cried out to the LORD” (v 25).

The content of his prayer isn’t described, but I love the word which is used here. It really illustrates the attitude which Moses has in God’s presence: he cried out. When we “cry out,” we don’t hold back but we cast ourselves humbly on the LORD. We acknowledge that we need someone greater. Moses pleads with God, and his prayer is pleasing, for God quickly makes the waters drinkable. He will sustain their life!

Maybe we don’t expect the same kind of miracle today, but this is still true: the Lord answers those who pray sincerely. When we pray the fourth petition, we ought to confess that  God can make fresh the bitter springs! He can send bread from heaven, and He can also send money to pay our credit card bills. He can give drinking water in the desert, and He can also give new strength when we’re feeling weak and sick. We have to mean it when we say, “This God—my God—is the fountain of all good, and I trust in him.”

But acknowledging God means we first have to do our memory work. We should train ourselves to remember what the LORD has done, to recall what goodness He has shown. This is exactly what the Israelites failed to do. For how forgetful they were!

Not even two months before, they’d been delivered from Egypt with amazing signs and wonders. They’d been escorted safely across the Red Sea, and saw their enemies destroyed. They’d come through miles of wilderness, led by God himself in a pillar of cloud and light. Yet as soon as they came into a time of need, they completely forgot; it was as if they’d never experienced the greatness of his might.

When we consider this bad example, we should reflect on how often we do the same. Instead of acknowledging God for the food on the table, the roof over our heads, the car in our garage, the money in our account, don’t we sometimes forget to give him our thanks? And instead of being grateful for all his blessings, we wish we had better than this. Sometimes we wish that God had given us what someone else has, that we had their job, their car, their looks.

Despite daily bread from heaven, the Israelites took for granted even the most gracious of God’s blessings. If you can believe it, later they even started to complain about the manna that fell from the sky. It was a stunning miracle that God could feed so many thousands—day after day, so freely, so fully, so faithfully. Yet God’s people got tired of the miracle. They complained that the manna wasn’t meat. They longed for leeks and grumbled for garlic. They wanted some variety! They forgot.

I’m afraid that once again we can relate, all too well. No sooner have we received a blessing and we can find something wrong with it. We wish our security was a little more secure, our happiness was little more happy. It happened with the manna, and it happens with our money, and whatever else. We forget the goodness of God’s care, we doubt the greatness of his power, and so we worry.

But God wants his people to acknowledge him, to remember and believe! This is why He commands later in the chapter that a jar of manna “be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness” (Exod 16:32). This was a constant reminder of the God who provides.

The fourth petition reminds us to celebrate the LORD’s daily mercies. What has God given you today? Did your car start this morning? Could you take a big gulp of fresh morning air when you went outside, and have you kept breathing all day? Have you enjoyed your food and drink, and found shelter, and could you rest, and could you work?

Counting God’s daily blessings is like having “a jar of manna” somewhere we can see it. One gift from God, and another, and another, and one more—and the jar is full to overflowing. When we see the evidence of God’s faithfulness, we slowly learn that we don’t have to worry about our money or be anxious about our job. We don’t have to doubt that He’ll always provide. For God has taught us by experience, and He’s promised us in his Word.

This is what the Lord says in Hebrews 13, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because I have said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (v 5, NIV). That’s his promise. We know it. And now test it. Has God ever let you go hungry? Has God abandoned you in your time of need? Has He deprived you of what was truly necessary? Did the daily manna every fail? His care for you is constant and unfailing.

When we acknowledge God like this, we’re also eager to use his gifts in the right way, to put them to a good purpose. For in this petition, we confess to the LORD: “Our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing” (Q&A 125). God can grant us all kinds of good things, but our calling is to use them in obedience, in such a way that our God is greatly praised.

Consider the Israelites: the grumbling people would get what they wanted. They wanted meat, so God would send them meat—He sent them heaps of quail. Yet the very blessing that they craved turned into a curse. Numbers 11 tells how many of the people ate themselves to death, and they died with that tasty meal still between their teeth. God gave an answer to their prayer, yet they weren’t ready to receive it. The blessing turned into a curse, because their hearts had no room to acknowledge God.

It’s a lesson that what God gives isn’t for squandering or wasting. Whatever God gives isn’t so that we can stuff ourselves. He doesn’t give us money so that we can satisfy every physical urge or buy whatever we please. Today we can work, earn our pay, spend and save, but the Lord says to us, “What did you do with it? How did you use my money? What did you do with that cupboard which was always full of food? What did you do with all that time and energy which I gave you?”

God calls us to dedicate his gifts to the Kingdom. He’s given us wages, so that we can give back to him. He’s supplied our bodily needs, so that we can serve him humbly. He’s given us a home, so that we can open it to others. He has fed us, so that we can continue our journey.

 

3) provide us with our bodily needs: God said that He would test his people in the desert, so they’d learn that hard lesson of trusting in him alone. And so God set up his test in a remarkable way. God would provide for them—and they could count on it, that they’d receive manna from heaven. Yet they could only gather enough for that day. As they collected the manna, they weren’t allowed to keep any of it.

Once more, there’s an important lesson in the manna. The Father promises to provide, but He doesn’t promise to give everything all at once. He won’t necessarily stock up our bank accounts and our cupboards so that we don’t have to think about them for years.

And why not? Because God wants us to rely on his generosity, a single day at a time. Each and every morning for the rest of your life, God wants us to ask for his blessing, to ask for the gift of his daily bread. And He will give it! We don’t have to worry about tomorrow, because we know that tomorrow too, there will be manna on the ground!

As one of the final notes in Exodus 16, Moses tells us this: “The children of Israel ate manna forty years… until they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (v 35). What an amazing statement! For forty years, the people of God ate bread from heaven. Even though they were greedy and complained about a lack of variety. Even though they didn’t always acknowledge God, or trust in him, or obey him. In spite of all that, the LORD’s provision was never-failing! What amazing grace, and endless patience.

For this is what the Father promises. For the sake of Christ, He’ll never forsake us, but year in, year out, He’ll take care of us. For as long as we need it, He’ll provide. For as long as He is pleased to give us life, He’ll give us bread.

Like the Israelites, we’re on a journey. We’re on a journey to the glorious presence of God, heading through the wilderness to the Promised Land. And though we’re weak, though we’re sinful, though we’re sometimes ungrateful grumblers and caustic complainers, God will make sure that we have the strength to make it. It’s all from him, for Jesus’ sake.

So acknowledge him, brothers and sisters. Remember God’s gifts to you, and pray for grace to trust him more. And nourished by the Lord, keep journeying onwards through this life, onwards to the Promised Land!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2019, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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