Friday, May 17, 2013

Scriptural Lessons from the Natural World: All Creatures Eat (Part 2)

You’ll find an explanation of this series here, and the first part of this lesson here.

Scripture uses our knowledge that both humans and animals have food to teach us about God—or, more precisely, to remind us of what we already should know about God. We can know that God exists, and that he is good, wise, and powerful because he feed his creatures.

But there’s more. That God has revealed himself by providing food for us ought to influence what we do. I’ve found four biblical commands based on our knowledge of God's food provision. The first two apply to everyone, but the last two are especially for believers.

We Should Be Thankful
If we know God exists, and know some of his attributes, too—and his gift of food leaves us with no excuse for not knowing—then we also know that we ought to be thankful to him (Romans 1:20-21). That we owe God praise is commonsensical—or it should be. If the mother who serves supper to her family deserves praise and thanks, how much more God, who sends the sun and rain to give fruitful harvests worldwide, who satisfies our “hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:15-17)?

The Psalms instruct us in the proper response to God’s food gifts.
I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season. (Psalm 145:1-3; 15-16)
See Psalm 147:7-9, 12-14 and Psalm 104, too. Our God meets his whole creation's need for food. How can we not praise him?

We Should Repent
One of the reasons for universal condemnation is that all people naturally respond improperly to God’s providence. He has shown himself in his good gifts, but we don’t “honor him as God or give thanks to him,” but express our rebellion instead (See Romans 1:18-21).

But God continues to feed us, even in our rebellion, a grace that is an invitation to turn to God in repentance, seeking forgiveness for not acknowledging him and his provision. Speaking to idolaters, Paul uses the existence of plentiful harvest to support a call to turn to the living God (Acts 14:15-17). Then in Romans, he writes that God’s kindness is meant to lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4). We might say that our food should take us to the gospel: God keeps feeding sinners instead of destroying them because in Christ there is a way of forgiveness for those who repent (Romans 3:25).

We Should Not Worry
[D]o not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! (Luke 12:22-24)
These reassuring words of Jesus to his disciples are an argument from lesser to greater. God feeds the ravens and they’re just birds, so those who belong to him can trust him to take care of their needs, because they are much more important than birds.

This doesn’t mean that God's people will never go hungry. “Life," Jesus reminds us, "is more than food.” It does mean that God will give his own everything they really need. Believers should not worry about having enough. Our God feeds the ravens; he will certainly care for us!

We Should Love Our Enemies

God sends the sun and rain to grow food for everyone, even those who hate him. He gives blessings to his enemies, and those who belong to him will show love to their enemies, too:
I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.(Matthew 5:44-45)
Sons do what their fathers do. Those who are true sons1 of God do what God does: They love their enemies. God blesses those who hate him, and his children pray for blessings on those who hate them, even those who treat them cruelly.

When I serve dinner, or harvest something from my garden, or spy an eagle with a rodent in it's mouth, it is—or should be—a reminder to me. God’s food blessings tells me he is there and he is good. In his wisdom and power he sustains all his creatures, including me. And in response I owe him allegiance and thanksgiving—and repentance for my failure to give him his due.

That God feeds his creatures also assures me of his care. If he can be trusted to supply their needs, he can certainly be trusted to supply mine. What’s more, his providence for all people, even those who hate him, should spur me, as his child, to love my enemies, too.

1Women and girls can be sons in this sense of the word.

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