We are currently hearing a lot about the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank and its potential effect on the world economy: another sheet of the thin ice of debt upon which our financial systems are built has cracked, and it won’t be the last. I’m about to go away for a few days and was glancing through my book “Two Seconds to Midnight” this morning (thinking ‘Should I read through this again and make sure I am practising what I preach??’) and landed on this passage in the section on God’s Provision. The wider context in the book is our priestly calling, but I am sharing it here as a signpost to all of us, in these times of financial shaking, of the certainties of God’s economy.
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
So we find our provision in the presence of God, and we receive His abundance when we take our priestly calling seriously and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of holiness within us. Indeed, unless we do “come to the waters” I don’t believe we can fully appreciate what it means to “buy and eat” without money. Before the Holy Spirit was sent, the twelve had given up everything to follow Jesus and spent every day in His company, yet they certainly had not grasped that He was Jehovah Jireh and that they could trust Him entirely for their needs. We see this clearly in Mark 8:14-21:
“Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. Then He charged them, saying, ‘Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, ‘Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?’ They said to Him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?’ And they said, ‘Seven.’ So He said to them, ‘How is it you do not understand?’”
We are not given any discussion of what they hadn’t understood, because the account moves straight onto the healing of a blind man. But we can read the context clearly enough. Jesus wanted to feed the spirits of His disciples, but they were too worried about their stomachs to receive what He was saying. Yet they had just witnessed Him miraculously providing a good couple of tons of bread (enough for 9,000 men, plus women and children), maybe more, for the needy crowds, with enough left over to feed the disciples for weeks. “Don’t you get it?” He was saying. “You’re sitting in the boat with Jehovah Jireh and you’re worried about food? Why do you think I told you back on the Mount of Olives not to worry about what to eat, or what to wear? You should know by now that I’ve got all that under control, so you can pay attention to the important stuff! ‘Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.’”
The Baskets Full
There is yet another layer to this story that concerns God’s supply for us. Take either of these two miracles: the sequence is exactly the same. Someone gives a tiny amount to the Lord; He multiplies it and involves His disciples in the miraculous distribution of the food, then there is an abundance left over for the disciples to enjoy. The first priority for the disciples was to give out what God had provided, and after the distribution they received their baskets full. In the world’s economy we receive first – income, wages, salary, etc. – then we give out of whatever spare is left in the baskets at the end. If we’re feeling generous there might be as much as half a loaf left out of our original five. In the economy of heaven there is a different dynamic: first we give what God tells us to give (if He is telling us, of course), then what is left in the basket afterwards is ours. But there is an additional element in the heavenly model: the loaves and fishes have passed through the hands of the Saviour, so what had been earth’s ration becomes heaven’s abundance. God wants us to give out of heaven’s abundance so He can multiply our portion accordingly: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38).
God’s provision is in His presence
The important lesson for us is that God’s provision is in His very presence. What He wants from us is our hearts: a willingness to trust Him with what is ours, and to place it in His hands. We catch a glimpse, literally, of God’s perspective on our economy when we see Jesus sitting outside the Temple watching people putting their gifts into the treasury. We know the story: the poor widow, whose two mites represented all she had, had put in far more than the wealthy who gave leftovers from their abundance. We don’t see that widow again, but we can be sure that God gave back to her in the same measure that she had given to the Temple. Wealth and poverty have traded places. Our God is a creator, and loves to create, and we can so easily forget that when we look at our bank statements. But if our hearts are rich towards Him, we will see Him create in our material circumstances and fill our baskets, whereas if our hearts are bound by our bank accounts we remain in poverty, and will only ever see the loaves and fishes that we can provide for ourselves.
(From “Two Seconds to Midnight,” pp 130-133. MD Publishing 2021)