Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 32: “Our Daily Bread” 09.22.2018

Matthew 6:9-11 (NIV) “This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.”

Years ago, a visitor from Russia spent a couple of weeks with a family in our church. We enjoyed her company very much and were able to lead her to the Lord. Standing out in my memory was an amusing incident one day as I drove her to her guest family. We passed one of the large stores in the area. It sells everything from groceries to motor oil. You know the type. Anyway, she said “Oh, I was in that store. It was overwhelming!” I inquired “Why would you say that?” Her response was priceless: “Well, I’ve never seen fifty kinds of deodorant before! And acres of groceries and breads and things. In my country, we don’t have that.” Actually, now in places they do. But her comment was interesting. She was right.

Much of the world does not live as we live. In many places, the cupboard is almost empty most of the time. Such folks can truly relate to the words of our Lord “Give us this day our daily bread.” But let’s be honest. Few among us are dependent in that way for daily supply. Almost everyone I know could literally survive for weeks just on what is in their kitchen cabinets at this moment. Us too. So, what are we to do, realistically, with Jesus teaching us to pray for “our daily bread?”

Allow me to suggest that self-condemnation is not much help or necessary. Unless we are living lives of complete and grotesque over-indulgence, the words of our Lord were not meant to condemn. Accruing life’s necessities for the days ahead is commendable and even found in Scripture. Consider Joseph and the storage of grain for seven years. Common sense tells us that Jesus would not then find fault with our cupboards as long as we are generous to others. But let’s look at this petition in the great prayer…

It should go without saying that our Lord’s teaching points back to the situation found in Exodus Chapter Sixteen. While we are sitting on the mountainside listening to Jesus, he takes us back to the year 1500 BC approximately. Fifteen centuries have passed but as first century Jews, we have been taught all about what happened. God had delivered his people from the oppression of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Now they were on a journey to a homeland and safety but they began to complain. Moses is doing the best he can but sometimes leading God’s people is an impossible task. We read:

Exodus 16:2-3 (NIV) “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’”

They are grumbling and mumbling but here we see something that God often does. He is the ultimate “multi-tasker!” He is willing to provide food for His people and, at the same time, He will test them for the sake of their spiritual growth. He will let them see if they trust Him and are obedient to Him. We read:

Exodus 16:4-5 (NIV) “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.’”

God had it all worked out. They would learn dependence on Him and become certain that He could be trusted. It should have been wonderful. But, of course some of them broke the rules and went out on the seventh day and then later grumbled about how weary they were about eating the manna. Interesting that the word “manna” literally means “What is this?” (Any Mom whoever served a nice breakfast to school kids who were cranky in the morning can relate when they say “What is this?”) Anyway … at this point Moses is wondering how he got the job of shepherding these people! He is probably thinking seriously of a career-change! He speaks to God:

Exodus 17:4 (NIV) “Then Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.’”

So, Moses really deserves a front table seat at the great banquet to come someday with Jesus! But what shall we glean from the petition “Give us today our daily bread?” I have two thoughts:

FIRST, regardless of how much we have in the way of food or material provisions, it comes from God. He is always the ultimate source of whatever we have whether it be plenty or very little. I love this passage found in Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 (NIV) “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.’”

So, it turns out that even the wealthiest among us should thank God everyday for His provisions and ask Him daily for the same. After all, a tragedy or calamity can remove them from us in an hour. Just ask Job!

SECOND, It is a good thing … a VERY GOOD THING… for every believer to experience need and want and even poverty at some point. Put another way, if we never live through need and want we will never see God’s greatest miracles. The Israelites might have prospered and built ovens but they could not. Because they could not do so, they had to depend upon God. I sometimes pity those who have more than enough. They may never see God do His greatest miracles.

Need is humbling. Forty years ago, when I was in seminary with small children, both Donna and I had part-time jobs but we could not make ends meet. We praised God for food stamps and Wics coupons. We grew in humility (I hope!) and gratitude and dependence upon Him. Conclusion: no matter what is in the kitchen cupboards, we need to ask God to provide for today and tomorrow and see ourselves as poor without his mercies.

Next, the hardest part of the prayer: “Forgiveness!”

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

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