Leftovers – Matthew 16:1-12

“Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?'” (Matthew 16:9-11, NIV).

When I was a kid my dad was a school teacher and since school teachers didn’t make very much money, my mom also worked to supplement our family income.

In the summer when school wasn’t in session my dad was a stay-at-home parent and it fell to him to fix lunch each day. He would always gather the leftovers from various, unrelated meals and warm them up for our lunch. Oh, how I loathed leftovers!

Perhaps the disciples felt the same way about leftovers in this story from Matthew 16 when they forgot to take food with them on their boat trip across the Sea of Galilee.

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Pursued By Love – Psalm 23

ShepherdandSheep“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever” (vs. 6).

This well-known psalm of David describes how God watches over and cares for His people like a shepherd for his sheep.

It was a common analogy for people in this culture in David’s time to view rulers as shepherds. But the Psalmist raises the stakes with his analogy by declaring that the Lord not only watches over and cares for His flock, but He also pursues them with His unfailing love.

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Supply and Demand in God’s Economy – 2 Kings 4

supply_and_demand“And when they gave it to the people, there was plenty for all and some left over, just as the Lord had promised” (2 Kings 4: 44, NLT).

In 2 Kings 4 the prophet Elisha performs two miracles that demonstrate the principle of supply and demand according to the economy of God’s Kingdom.

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The Secret of Happiness – Philippians 4:11-14

Happy-and-Sad-Faces“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance, or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-14, HCSB).

In response to their faithful financial support of his ministry, the Apostle Paul expressed his appreciation to the Philippians by making the well-known and oft-quoted declaration that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.

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More – Leviticus 19:23-25

moneyfromheaven“When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, you are to consider the fruit forbidden. It will be forbidden to you for three years; it is not to be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit must be consecrated as a praise offering to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way its yield will increase for you; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25, HCSB).

The prohibition from eating the fruit of a newly planted fruit tree may have had to do with the fact that the fruit of a young tree was not well formed and did not taste good in the early stages of its life.

Since the firstfruits belonged to God (see Numbers 18:12-17), the fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God as a praise offering to indicate that the Israelites recognized that God was the One who gave them the good things the earth produced and blessed them with increased production.

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What? – Exodus 15:15, 31-32

“When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, ‘What is it?’ because they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat’… The house of Israel named the substance manna. It resembled coriander seed, was white, and tasted like wafers made with honey.” (Exodus 15:15,31-32, HCSB)

The word manna is the anglicized form of the Hebrew word man, which is the interrogative “What?”

God sent manna in response to the Israelites complaining that began not long after escaping from Egyptian bondage. The Israelites complained that in Egypt they had all the bread they wanted (vs. 3).

God continued sending manna and Israel continued eating it for forty years until the day following the first day they ate food grown in the promised land (vs 36; Joshua 5:12).

“What?” was probably a pretty good name for manna because no naturally occurring substance matches the description, constancy, and duration of manna well enough to account for it other than as a supernatural phenomenon.

During the earthly ministry of Jesus the Jews were still questioning “What?” and alluded to manna and these verses when they asked Jesus what sign He would show them to prove He was the Messiah. (John 6:30-31).

Jesus reminded them that it wasn’t Moses but God who gave the Israelites the manna and that manna typified the giving of eternal life.

In contrast to the manna, which lasted only during the Israelites’ forty-year wilderness wandering, Jesus said He was the real Bread of Life because He gives eternal life to those who believe and follow after Him!

Jesus is the answer to our “What?” He will save us and provide His loving care to us, not just for a while, but for all the days of our life on this earth and for eternity!

“For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:60, HCSB).

Filling Empty Pockets – Matthew 14:19-21

“Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers”  (Matthew 14:19-21, NLT).

We sometimes think the way God provides for His people is to give us what we don’t have or more of what don’t have enough of.

Our pockets are empty and we expect God to fill them.

For example, if we are experiencing financial difficulties, we pray for a miracle to increase our income; if our car is broken down, we pray for a new one.

However, God’s care over our lives is more often provided by extending the resources we already have as they are offered totally and willingly to the Lord than by giving us what we don’t have or more of what we already have.

God’s provision is demonstrated by the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four gospels (cf. Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13) and is recorded with substantial narration in each of the gospels, which may suggest its importance among the supernatural events of Jesus’ ministry.

Undoubtedly, the miracle itself was significant based solely on its scale–feeding an estimated 15-20 thousand men, women, and children from five loaves of bread and two fish and then having 12 baskets of leftovers!

Jesus had been preaching to the large crowd for an extended period of time in a remote location and the people needed to eat. When the disciples indicated the unavailability of food at the location, Jesus suggested how He might intervene: “Bring them here,” he said (vs. 18) referring to the loaves of bread and fish.

In these three words—BRING THEM HERE—we see the practical application for receiving God’s provision:
Bring everything you have to Jesus and when you offer any and all of yourself and your possessions totally and willingly to God, His care is provided by extending or expanding your possessions and capabilities even to an abundance.

The Principle of God’s Provision – 1 Kings 17:8-16

“For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” (vs. 14).

We sometimes think that God provides for us by giving us more of what we already have. For example, if we are experiencing financial difficulties, we pray for more money; if our home is too small, we pray for a bigger one; if our car is too old, we pray for a newer one.

In God’s Kingdom, however, God provides for us by increasing or extending our need or deficiency rather than giving us more of what we already have in abundance, especially when our deficiencies are offered totally and willingly to the Lord.

The story of Elijah and the widow of Zerapheth demonstrates this principle.

The prophet Elijah encountered a widow and her young son during a severe drought in Israel. The widow and son were about to eat their last meal using the last remaining flour and oil left in the house.

Elijah asked the widow to first feed him before feeding herself and her son. Although the widow was not herself an Israelite and a child of God’s promise, she recognized Elijah as the representative of God’s covenant and obeyed Elijah’s request to give the very little she had to feed the prophet of God.

The demand of total surrender of everything to God—even her last means of subsistence—was not given without the promise of God’s blessing and provision as stated in this verse.

God’s pattern for supplying His provision is to supply deficient resources that are offered totally and willingly to the Lord.