Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?
In Psalm 78, Asaph gives us a portion of the history of the children of Israel. As we know, that history includes a lot murmuring, complaining, doubt, and unbelief. In that negative context, they ask this infamous question about God, followed by two more. “Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?”—Psalm 78:20. Before we judge them too harshly, we should remember that we do the same things on a regular basis. We know by reading the Old Testament, God still answered their questions in spite of their negative attitude towards Him. This morning I would like to trace this question into the Gospels and see if God continued to answer the question.
- Mark 8:1-4 – (Please read)
The word satisfy and its different variations is found primarily in the Old Testament. It is used in the New Testament only twice, here and in Colossians. In Mark 8:4, the disciples ask Jesus where they can get enough bread to satisfy this large crowd in the wilderness. To me, this is an Old Testament question using an Old Testament word. In other words, old habits are hard to break. When faced with situations that make us feel incapable, or situations that we don’t understand, we question God.
- Matthew 15:32-39 – (Please read)
Matthew’s account of the same event gives us a little more insight. In verse 33, the question is asked using the phrase to fill. Now we know what satisfy means. How can the disciples fill the need of an enormous crowd that is hungry? It’s a good thing they asked Jesus, right? Their question was one of frustration and confusion but Jesus patiently answered it in a miraculous way.
Jesus was moved with compassion for a crowd in need. They had traveled a long way to be with Him for three days and had nothing to eat. In order for them to be satisfied, the disciples had to be taught a very important principle. We cannot satisfy. Only Jesus can. He wants us to bring Him what we think we do not have (just 7 loaves and a few little fish) so He can bless it, break it, and multiply it. He wants to work a miracle but He wants to use us in that miracle. We have to trust Him for the ability that is far beyond our capacity. Our faith will be exercised by our offering to Him, our willingness to be broken, and then our distribution of His multiplication. By trusting Him for everything involved with our circumstance, we find complete satisfaction in Him and those around us are satisfied by Him as well.
Can God Furnish a table in the wilderness? Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people? Yes, God can… and He did. He did it back then in the wilderness journey and He did it again through His Son Jesus Christ. And, He is still doing it today for us if we will only trust Him and allow Him to take what we have, bless it, break it, and multiply it. God answered that question by giving us Jesus and He will still answer it everyday for us if we will let Him.
Photo credit: Painting by Debbie Grose