Reading: John 6:1-
Day after day, week after week, month after month we have food on our tables and drink in our cups. Here in the UK most if not all of us are not going to ask the question "Am I going to eat today?" unless that is we're trying to follow some strict diet. No, the kind of question we are more likely to ask is "What shall I eat today?" or "What is for dinner today?"
And because food is such a regular part of our lives and the shops are so full of so many different types of food for us to try we can easily overlook the simple but obvious fact that it is God who stands back of all this and is the One who ensures that we have enough to eat.
The world in which we live is incredibly rich and well-
When was the last time this country had to manage its food intake by means of a ration book? During the Second World War and in the years immediately following it. Famines in Africa can usually be linked to military issues as rebel groups fight it out amongst themselves or to overthrow crony governments that have promoted personal greed rather than serve their people.
The Irish potato famine that proved so disastrous in the Ireland of the mid 19 th century was serious because of the population dependence upon a single crop – the potato. Surely we can't blame humans for potato blight, the disease that destroyed the crops and which led to such misery! Well maybe not, but the dependence of the Irish population upon just this one crop had a lot to do with the Protectionist Corn laws that served to keep prices high for privileged land-
Doesn't it strike you as strange to read about hunger in parts of Africa and then find unseasonable vegetables on sale in our shops from places like Kenya, Egypt or Morocco. When you buy peas from Kenya in you favourite supermarket the producer will receive only about 10% of the price you have to pay at the till.
No, the world is not short of food – but it is short of honesty and uprightness amongst men and women.
In the beginning… when all was perfect
God is presented to us throughout the Bible as a good God and his provision for the world he has made has always been good.
Right from the very outset we discover that the world as God originally made it was wonderfully rich and varied, full of good things to meet the needs of the creatures he made:
After the Fall… when perfection disappeared and things got worse and worse
The entry of sin into the world brought about tremendous changes. And yet there would still be food available only man would have to work hard to secure it.
The record of the early years of mankind on the earth makes for sorry reading as the wickedness of men grew and grew. The time came when God decided enough was enough and he intervened with the judgment of the flood. An ancient world perished during that flood in the days of Noah but God provided for Noah, his family and for the animals in the ark.
When the flood subsided God pledged that he would not destroy life on earth again with another global flood and at the same time he promised that he would continue to make provision for life on earth:
Gen.8:22 "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."
God's Provision just went on and on
God's people remembered his promises and it became to them a great source of confidence.
God provides for men and women:
Ps.111:5 "He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever."
Ps.146:7b "who gives food to the hungry."
God also provided for all of his creatures:
Ps.147:9 "He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens that cry."
And on into the NT era
In the days of the Apostles God's people had not forgotten that it was the One True Living God who went on year after year meeting mankind's physical needs. When Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man at Lystra the crowds were amazed at what they had done and tried to worship them. Paul was horrified and replied:
And indeed this is his usual way of providing for his creatures. We hardly give it any thought at all just taking it as a given. However this succession of the seasons, with the planting and sowing and reaping of harvests, takes place year on year, decade on decade, century on century because God has promised that it will. Men may sow expectantly because God is faithful and gives the increase.
And right up to the present day too
You can see the evidence of God's remarkable goodness to the world he has made, evidence of his remarkable goodness to you too, every time you look out into a garden with fruit trees growing, every time you see a vegetable plot producing its crops, every time you drive past the fields of grain ready to be harvested, those fields of bright yellow flowers soon to be harvested for rape seed oil, every time you look along the shelves at Morrison's or Tesco's at row after row of Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies or Weetabix. Did you know if you look at Tesco's grocery website there are 324 different items on sale in the breakfast cereal section alone?
When we think about how God provides so regularly and so generously let us take time to give thanks!
God sometimes provides in seemingly extraordinary ways:
However the Almighty Creator God is by no means limited to meeting the needs of his creatures to these usual means of production! He has used other more extraordinary means as well:
Manna and quails in the wilderness:
When God set his people free from slavery in Egypt he had to lead them through an inhospitable wilderness. The journey should have been over pretty quickly but the people didn't trust God to give them the Promised Land. As a consequence the Israelites had to go round and round in circles for some 40 years. How could their physical needs be met?
It might have appeared an insoluble problem to men but it wasn't to God. A strong wind and flocks of worn out quails fall to the ground right where the Israelites could gather them!
But the Israelites weren't to be restricted to an Atkins-
The provision of this manna profoundly influenced the Israelites and they didn't forget what God had done for them:
If we move on a few years but still well before the days of internet shopping and supermarket deliveries God was already using his own chosen delivery agents – Ravens!
The bad King Ahab was seeking to take Elijah's life and God told Elijah to hide in a certain place where he would be taken care of:
The supplies of a poor woman would just not run out!
Just a few verses further on we read of another surprising event in Elijah's life. He went to stay with a poor widow but she had hardly any food left and a famine had stuck the country. God was about to perform one more miracle!
Elijah's successor Elisha was no stranger to God's ability to provide in unusual ways. He once visited a poor widow who was in desperate straights. She only had a little oil in a jar but God enabled her to pour from that jar so much oil that it filled all of the many pots and containers that she had been able to borrow from her neighbours. God regularly makes olive oil grow in olive trees but he doesn't need those trees after all he created everything there is from nothing so a little more olive oil when needed is hardly a big deal!
Such provision was by no means restricted to OT days and I'm sure you'll be able to remember some of things that Jesus did:
If Elisha could be used to help fill a few jars with oil we shouldn't be surprised to read the Son of God was both able and willing to turn jars of water into the best wine that the Head Steward had ever drunk in his life.
If ravens could be used to deliver bread to a hungry Elijah then why would it be surprising that a small boy's bread and fish lunch should be transformed by Jesus into a gigantic picnic for a 5,000 strong crowd? And that is just what Jesus did!
And it wasn't a fluke – he repeated it when another similar situation presented itself and this time there were 4,000 men with women and children there too.
What should make of all this? What should we do?
We should be thankful – God is good and generous.
We should trust God – because he is trustworthy having proved his faithful over and over again.
We should recognise Jesus for who he is.
We should be in turn be generous too.
To God be the glory.