When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:5–9)
Philip should have taken his cue from the prophet Ezekiel’s response to God in the valley full of dry bones. We find their discourse in the following verses below:
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:1–3)
We discover great truth in the prophet’s words: “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.” Indeed, God alone knows. I love the command and promise presented to us in Proverbs:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
We see and reason imperfectly with our limited vision and understanding. Human insight and reasoning will always be found wanting; it is simply incomplete. Contrast, on the other hand, God’s ways, which are incomprehensible, His paths, beyond tracing out.
We read in Romans:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
Isaiah tells us:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28)
–Corrie Ten Boom
Needless to say, Jesus already knew the answer to His question before He even asked it. Our Savior was not searching for information; He was simply helping Philip to go deeper. Philip, who had been Jesus’ disciple from the first, and had been privy to His miracles, should have known without a doubt that Jesus could provide. Those who have witnessed and participated in God’s works should certainly maintain a deeper understanding of His ways.
Ever been with your back against the wall and nowhere to turn? Ever been empty of ability when presented with great need? Ever been clueless when the questions just kept pouring in? Jesus has asked His disciples where they can buy bread for 5,000 plus people. The disciples do not have the money. They are in a remote area. They totally lack the ability to do as Jesus has requested. It is no wonder the other three gospels tell us the disciples told Jesus to send the people away. That sounds like a reasonable response to me. Yet Jesus is not looking for my reasonable responses. He is looking for dependence on Him.
Oftentimes, when we are confronted by an out of our league need, our initial response is to send it away, get rid of it, flee, or turn a deaf ear. What we need to do is turn to the Lord! He gives His direction and power as we place our trust in Him. I can’t imagine Moses thought he would part the Red Sea, or Joshua thought he would level Jericho’s walls, or Gideon thought his three hundred men could lay flat an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Fact is, they did not have the ability in and of themselves, but God did. And because of His great love for His people, He chooses to use those who put their trust in Him.
It was Jesus’ desire to show His disciples–and us as well–not to look inward or outward for help, but to look upward. When we learn to lean into Him, He proves Himself faithful to either miraculously change the circumstance or change us by bestowing upon us the grace sufficient to meet the need.
Take It to Heart
“Confidence in the natural world is self-reliance; in the spiritual world it is God-reliance.” (Oswald Chambers)
“God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” (Hudson Taylor)