Finding bread in the wilderness is not easy to do.
This was the second time the disciples had faced this challenge and they seemed unprepared. A crowd of 4000 men plus women and children had been with Jesus in the wilderness for three days with no provisions. Jesus, already motivated by the illnesses, the afflictions, and the spiritual vulnerabilities of the crowd, was moved with compassion for their hunger. He expressed this compassion to His men:
“I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
Although it seems amazing to us, the disciples seem to have forgotten about the feeding of a larger multitude just a few days before.
“Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?”
The only bread to be found in the wilderness is the bread someone had brought with them into the wilderness. The report was seven loaves of bread and a few little fish. Jesus took these meager provisions in His hands and blessed them. At this point surely the disciples remembered that they had done this before. They remembered the miracle in their hands as each piece of fish or hunk of bread they broke and gave to someone in the crowd was replaced by more when they repeated the process.
Food in the Wilderness, Take Two
If the disciples were slow on the uptake, so are we. We are a multitude in the wilderness, hungry for life. We are following Jesus and He is proving to be all that we need. He forgives us and sends His Holy Spirit to take up residence in us. He reveals His Word to us so we can know more about what life is and how it should be lived. He connects us with others on their own wilderness trek and adopts us into His holy family. He delivers us and heals us when are overcome or ill. He makes the wilderness into a garden. Isaiah prophesied this and it happens; time and again, it happens. We find bread where no bread should be. We place the little that we have into the Lord’s powerful hands and it becomes enough—more than enough! This slightly smaller multitude had 7 large baskets full of leftovers! Jesus sent them away, healed, delivered and picking fish out of their teeth with provisions for the trip home! Jesus was Jehovah Jireh, The Lord who Provides, in the flesh.
Sometimes we forget.
One of the most important forms of praise is thanksgiving—remembering what God has done for us in the past. Remembering past wildernesses that bloomed into beautiful gardens encourages us to face the wilderness that surrounds us now. We are not empty handed. We have something to give the Lord, even if it is only a heart full of good intentions. Remember that the contents of the heart changes things and the small, mustard seed-sized faith is enough to grow a mighty tree. The secret is to put what we have in our hands into His hands. With His touch we can see another wilderness become a garden.
Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” Then His disciples said to Him, “Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few little fish.” So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala.
Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord -Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, And to Sarah who bore you; For I called him alone, And blessed him and increased him.” For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He will make her wilderness like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in it, Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
Lord Jesus, You are the master of the wilderness! Your delight is to lead us someplace dangerous and then provide what we need to face that challenge. You have not called us to a life lived safely behind walls of fear. When we follow You we will find ourselves in a wilderness. We are not alone; You are there. We have something of value we can give You there in the wilderness. We will watch time and time again as You take what we give You and make it enough. Lord Jesus, You are the master of the wilderness! Amen.
Come and Dine
Words and Music: C. B. Widmeyer
1. Jesus has a table spread
Where the saints of God are fed,
He invites His chosen people, “Come and dine”;
With His manna He doth feed
And supplies our every need:
Oh, ’tis sweet to sup with Jesus all the time!
“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine”;
You may feast at Jesus’ table all the time;
He Who fed the multitude, turned the water into wine,
To the hungry calleth now,
2. “Come and dine.” The disciples came to land,
Thus obeying Christ’s command,
For the Master called unto them, “Come and dine”;
There they found their heart’s desire,
Bread and fish upon the fire;
Thus He satisfies the hungry every time.
3. Soon the Lamb will take His bride
To be ever at His side,
All the host of heaven will assembled be;
Oh, ’twill be a glorious sight,
All the saints in spotless white;
And with Jesus they will feast eternally
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.