The Lord Will Provide.
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far. And His disciples answered Him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? And He asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes; and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and He sent them away. —Mark 8:1-9.
We are troubled about many things Our life is full of cares. On all sides we see danger that things will go wrong. We worry and fret about it, and have no peace of mind respecting the present or the future. Even when all is well we are afraid that the tide may turn any moment, and anxiety oppresses us. This comes, on the one hand, from a fond conceit of ourselves, as if everything depended upon our wisdom and management, and, on the other, from a lack of trust in God, who governs all things wisely and well. And with all the conceit of our own superior wisdom we do not feel safe after all. There are still misgivings as to our ability to control all the various forces of nature and will that shape the events of our lives, and we have endless fears coupled with endless cares. This makes life full of trouble. And for this there is no remedy but that which reaches the root of the disease, the sin of the soul. But such a remedy is offered us in the Gospel of the grace of God in Christ our Savior. That will enable us to cast our cares on Him and to have confidence in His government of the world and His providence over us and all things. This our text teaches us, and to this Christians must give earnest heed. Let us then take to heart the lesson that:
The Lord Will Provide
That we may lead a contented and devoted life in all godliness. Our Gospel teaches us 1. That He has compassion on His people; 2. That His help is sure and will not fail, 3. That He gives in overflowing measure. May His grace lead us to know and believe the truth!
Table of Contents
I. The Lord Has Compassion On His People
The Lord has compassion on His people in temporal as well as in spiritual things.
“In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him and said unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat.”
The multitude was gathered around Him for another purpose than that of having their bodily wants supplied. He preached to them the truth unto salvation. That was the object of His mission. On that everything depended. What would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul? The Lord Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost — to deliver the spiritually perishing from the doom that awaited them, and to lead them to the green pastures and still waters of His grace. His wisdom and His mercy are magnified in the rich provision which was made for the supply of our spiritual wants.
In that respect man was utterly and hopelessly helpless. He could do nothing for himself, absolutely nothing. The corruption of his nature left no possibility of amendment by any power in his possession. He was condemned, and both the holiness and the truth of God, who pronounced condemnation upon his sin, stood in the way of escape from his doom. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Sentence of death was therefore pronounced upon all men. There seemed no way of deliverance. So far as human wisdom and power are concerned there was no way. But what man could not do. God did. He provided. He sent His own dear Son into the world to save us. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten. Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “When we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Death is the wages of sin, and He endured it for sinners. He bought us with a price. He purchased us, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death. And that we might believe in Him who redeemed us, He gave us the holy Gospel, the holy sacrament of baptism, and the holy supper of His body and blood, in which His quickening Spirit comes to the soul to give it life and preserve it in Christ unto salvation. Thus He has provided richly for all our spiritual wants, so that today again, as every day, we can feed upon the bread of life. He has had compassion on us, and has compassion on us still. Cast all your spiritual cares on Him; He careth for you, and will not suffer any to perish who put their trust in Him.
But our text has special reference to the Lord’s provision for the wants of the body, and in that, as in every other respect, it is needful to have faith in God. He had Compassion on the multitude, Who had now been with Him three days and had nothing to eat. He was caring for their souls, but that did not render Him indifferent to their temporal wants.
“If I send them away fasting to their own houses they will faint by the way, for divers of them came from far.”
While He was feeding them with the bread of life, which is of infinitely higher importance than the earthly bread which nourishes the body, He was deeply concerned that they should not suffer for lack of such bodily nourishment. Nothing would be further from the truth than that our Savior, having come to furnish us with the greater, cares nothing for the less. He is our Shepherd, and we shall not want. This applies as well to our temporal as to our eternal welfare. Hence we are admonished to trust in Him for earthly as well as for heavenly things, and in quiet confidence pray to Him for all needful supplies. “Therefore take no thought,” our Master tells, us, “saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.) For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek. ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:31-33. The lesson which He thus teaches us is as important as it is comforting. We should not waste our strength in useless cares, but put our trust in God. If we are His children by faith in Christ Jesus, we have all that is necessary. He will provide for His children. They shall not want. Every day they ask Him for their daily bread, and every day He has compassion on them and hears their prayers. All anxiety about it comes from unbelief. Why should we doubt His tender care, when we have His promise that He will not forsake us and that we shall not want, and have all the experience of His people to confirm His promise? Therefore hear His word:
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7.
The way of trust is the way of peace. All our cares and all our worry bring no bread. The Lord cares for us: that is our comfort, and that quiets all anxiety, if we only believe it. Therefore “cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” 1 Pet. 5:7. His compassion fails not.
II. His Help Is Sure And Will Not Fail
His help is sure. His mercy endureth forever, and there is no limit to His power. His means are inexhaustible.
1. Tormenting Reason
“His disciples answered Him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?”
That is a natural question. Where the multitude was assembled to hear the Lord there was no visible way of supplying their bodily wants. Bread enough for such a large number of people was not to be had in such a place. The Lord had compassion on them, but what would that and against the manifest impossibility of securing the means in the time of need? In the spirit of that question men reason still, and that causes anxiety. When we have no bread and no money, and see no way of procuring them; when troubles environ us and we see no way of escape from the harassment; when all the ordinary means of earthly support seem to fail, and nothing but want and wretchedness are in prospect, — of what avail is the Lord’s compassion, even assuming that the assurances of Scripture in that regard are all true? So our unbelieving hearts are consumed with care, and the darkened understanding regards the tormenting sophistry reasonable. So foolish is man in his boasted wisdom that he cannot understand how God can furnish us with the necessaries of life when the requisite means are not before our eyes. These unbelieving hearts of ours, they cause all the trouble. Could we but realize the Lord’s compassion, and the Lord’s unbounded ability to do what His compassion suggests, how quietly and confidently we would cast our cares upon Him and let Him provide! Trust in the Lord; He has ways and means always, whether you have money or not, whether you have health or not, whether you have barns and larders full or not. He will provide, and does not need your wisdom or your labor to render His provision effectual. That He has commanded us to work, and has even ordained that he who will not work shall not eat, does not imply that He is dependent upon our management or our industry for the means to carry on His government. We are dependent on Him, but not He on us. Only have faith in Him and His promises: that faith will never be put to shame.
2. God Uses Ordinary and Extraordinary Means
If the ordinary means, to which we are accustomed to look for supplies, fail to meet the exigency, He has infinite resources besides. In answer to the perplexed question of His disciples about furnishing bread for so many in the Wilderness, where none was to be seen:
“He asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and gave thanks and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes; and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat and were filled; and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about five thousand. And He sent them away.”
See with how little ado the seemingly insuperable difficulty was overcome! To feed, such a multitude in such a place seemed impossible. To human power it was impossible, and human reason is accustomed to confine its view to human power. But here was one who had and still has all power in heaven and on earth, and He had compassion on the people and has compassion still. He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He is our Shepherd, and we shall not want. It is said, indeed, that. the age of miracles is past, and this is truly said. There were circumstances in those days which suggested the, need of resorting to extraordinary means for the accomplishment of divine ends. These circumstances do not exist now, and therefore the miracles which they rendered necessary are not necessary now. But the same Lord is living yet, and His power is in no respect limited. He can work miracles now as well as then, and there is nothing in the Scriptures to indicate that He has not now the will to work them as well as then, should the need for them occur. And the need for them would occur if the ordinary means proved inadequate to secure the ends of His compassion. He will provide. His promise will be redeemed. He will supply your bodily wants as surely as the wants of your souls. If there is no other way He will work miracles to supply them. Only trust in Him.
III. He Gives In Overflowing Measure
He gives in overflowing measure. The few loaves and fishes were multiplied so largely that not only were the thousands fed, but “they took up of the broken meat; that was left seven baskets.” So the compassionate Lord usually feeds His people still. It would be sufficient for our need, if every day He gave us simply enough to satisfy our hunger, and His children ought to be contented if they receive that. They need no more. But in most cases He gives more than that. Most of us have an abundance for days and weeks in advance. Some even have wealth. He richly as well as daily provides us with all that we need to support this body and life, and all this out of pure mercy and compassion, without any merit or worthiness in us.
1. He Supports Our Weak Faith
He thus supports our weak faith, that is so prone to waver or to fail when we have no visible evidence that His promises will be fulfilled. It is true, faith should cling to the Word, and no evidence can make that more sure; and even reason ought to be satisfied with the confirmation that the supply of our wants each day furnishes. But the Lord has compassion on us also in the conflicts of the Spirit with the flesh in our souls. He knows how frail we are. When we are in straits and cannot see how help is to be afforded, we become disheartened, and notwithstanding all the assurances of the Word the flesh suggests doubts. You know how it is, dear brethren. When we have plenty in advance it seems easy enough to trust in Providence, though but too often there is no faith in the Word, but only idolatrous trust in money or in the provisions laid up in store for future use. All these may perish any moment. Certain it is that they could not, though they seem enough to supply our want for many years, sustain us a day without His care and blessing who alone provides, and in whom we are commanded to trust. If He do not feed us we are not fed, whatever may be our stock laid up in store; and He can sustain us and will sustain us just as easily when we have nothing laid up as when we have abundance. What He desires is that we have faith, and that means that we trust His promises, whether we can see or cannot see how He will fulfill them. He will fulfill them; that is certain. But He pities our weakness that wants to see, and therefore not only shows us every day that He can and will give us our daily bread, but gives us enough to last for many days. By such goodness He would lead you to repentance for past doubtings and murmurings, and urge you not to give way to the tempter in future, but trust in the Lord, who giveth you all things richly to enjoy.
2. He Teaches Us Not To Waste
Furthermore, by such abundant supplies He would teach us not to waste, but to save the gifts that are not needed for immediate use. The Lord has infinite resources, yet He wants nothing squandered. He commands the surplus of His rich supplies to be taken up and preserved, that nothing be lost. Many a rich man thinks that there is no need for economy, since he has enough and to spare. He forgets that he is a steward only, not the proprietor of the goods, and that the Master will in due time call him to give an account of his stewardship. That Master is rich, immensely rich; but He wants nothing wasted. He has created all things for use, that the Maker may be glorified, and no one will be held guiltless that treats these gifts as if they were worthless. It is not only a privilege, but a solemn duty to save the fragments. But there are errors among men not only in the direction of extravagance and waste. Some save, but they save in a wrong spirit and for a wrong purpose. The erring thought that governs them is that they must provide for the future, as if the Lord God had committed His government to them and relinquished all care for His creatures. Know therefore that the Lord provides, whether He has given you much or given you little — that He does not cease to provide when He has committed much to your charge, as He does not cease to provide when He has committed little. He wants us to save, but not because He could not supply the necessaries of life without our aid. He is in no wise dependent on our care and our economy. But He would have us accomplish His will, that it may be well with us. Miserly hoarding, with a view of providing for ourselves, whatever may be the will of God, is damnable, because it uses God’s gifts as if we were lords over them and could do with them as we please; but saving all God’s bounties, that His will may be done with them and they may subserve the purpose for which He gave them, is right and good and blessed.
3. God Wishes Us To Save For Benevolent Uses
Those who save in that spirit will be almoners of God’s bounty, and in this way also be workers together with God. They will not lay up money or gather property for the purpose of seeking security or safety in their riches, but for the sake of preserving the gifts of God for benevolent uses. “Charge them that are rich in this world,” says the apostle:
“…that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Tim. 6:17-19.
The acquisition of riches must not be an object in our daily labor. They sin who work for that, instead of working that they may render their fellow men service according to the will of God.
“Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Tim. 6:8-10.
God does not give us abundance that we may substitute riches for the living God and thus practice idolatry. He gives us more than we need that we may have the joy of dispensing bounties in His name. That is something to delight in. Therefore we are commanded to:
“…labor, working with our hands the thing which is good, that we may have to give to him that needeth.” Eph. 6:28.
In that way the superfluous gifts bestowed upon us by God’s bounty will promote the welfare of our neighbor, glorify the gracious Lord who gives so richly, and afford us the pure enjoyment of exercising charity in giving. For He would have us follow the example of our Savior and have compassion on our fellow men, as He has compassion on us, using our spare means to help them spiritually and bodily in His blessed name.
We have thus seen from the Gospel lesson for the day that the Lord will provide — that He has compassion on man, that His help will never fail, and that He gives in overflowing measure. Let us take these things to heart, that our murmurings and complainings may cease, that we may be content with those things which we have, and eat our bread with thankfulness; and that we may never cease to bless His holy name, who offers us salvation for our souls and richly supplies the wants of our bodies out of His infinite mercy. Amen.
From. Loy, Matthias. Sermons on the Gospels for the Sundays and Chief Festivals of the Church Year. Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1888. This rare book of sermons from this beloved teacher and professor was a generous gift from a reader. It has been scanned and is being proofread and typeset for an upcoming print and ebook release by LutheranLibrary.org