LORD’S DAY MORNING SERVICE, 17 May 2020
Sermon Text: John 21:9-14
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I. The Lord prepares for you
II. The Lord provides in His care
III. The Lord provides the best for you
IV. The Lord provides rich fruit of faith
Our first Bible reading was from Exodus, the second book of the Bible. Many Christians call Exodus ‘a miracle book’ and I totally agree with them. So many amazing and marvellous miracles are recorded in Exodus. And all of them are beautiful miracles because they’re living evidence of God’s saving heart and hand for His people. Among those miracles, I’d like to point out one specific miracle and call it as THE miracle because it surpasses all the others in scale and effect. That is, the miracle of feeding Israel in the wilderness for over forty years. Why do I say that feeding the Israelites is the most outstanding miracle of all? Because it is a sheer example of God’s provision for His people, a proclamation that clearly reveals the God whose name is ‘Jehovah’ and especially ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ – ‘the Lord shall provide.’
Let me explain to you how God provided and fed the nation Israel who were minimum two million in number or four or five million maximum in the wilderness. Saying ‘wilderness,’ we’re talking about the region which was no better than desert with no water with minimum vegetation. That great number of people ate manna and quail, drank water for forty years. How much quantity of manna do you think God supplied every day for, say, two million people, the minimum estimation? Ex. 16:16 says that the Israelites were to collect an omer of the manna per person per day. Omer is a Hebrew measuring unit which is equivalent to present day’s 2.2 litres. So, counting for 2 million people, it’d be 4.4 million litres every day. Let me put 4.4 million litres in this way so that you might have a clear idea. If this quantity of manna is carried in the common international shipping containers, it’d fill 133 containers, and if these containers are carried by freight train, the length of the freight train would be almost 1.7 kms long. Every morning for forty years God supplied this much manna to Israel and on Friday, He supplied double. Can you picture that quantity of bread dropped from heaven every morning for 40 years? With this daily miracle, minimum two and surely three or four and maximum five million people were satisfied every day in that dry barren wilderness. So, they called it ‘manna,’ meaning in Hebrew, ‘what is it?’ Those people who ate it and not only survived but were satisfied for that long period of time didn’t know what it was not only in terms of its nature but also of its source. Because it was a miracle our human mind could not comprehend.
But that was not all. Man can survive without food but not without water. Especially in desert environment, water is the crucial element for life. Then, how much quantity of water do you think the Israelites might’ve drunk everyday? I’ve done a brief research and found out that drinking water requirement for an average person in our present day is about 2 litres per day. It means only drinking water. But because we are talking about life in the wilderness, let’s take only the half of that requirement for our calculation – that is, only 1 litre per person per day. So, everyday, the Israelites needed two million litres, that is, 2 mega-litres at least. Plus the water for their livestock to drink. No one knows how many cattle, sheep, goats and fowls they’d taken out of Egypt. So, taking a minimum estimation, they must’ve consumed at least four or five million litres, that is, four or five mega-litres per day. That’s about 160 shipping containers and about 2 km long freight trains supplied daily. That’s just for the minimum population estimation. We’re talking about this amount of water consumed not in the tropical region of Australia where there’s plenty of water around, but in the wilderness, dry as desert. Moreover, God supplied quails to those millions of people!
Can you picture the amount of water and food the Israel consumed everyday? Do you follow the logistics involved here for forty years? It’s a miracle which takes our breath away as we try to figure out what might really happened. That’s why I’d like to say that feeding Israel in the wilderness for 40 years, that is, about 14,600 consecutive days, is so greater in scale than any other miracle, even than the ten plagues fell upon the land of Egypt or the drying up of the Red Sea! It’s a sheer example of God’s love through His provision for His beloved ones.
A long introduction to today’s message but it is worth spending some time because that miracle of Exodus is the background of our Lord’s message with today’s text passage. This story of Jesus in Jn. 21:9-14 which happened by the Sea of Tiberias or of Galilee is a reminder to us of that great miracle of God. Providing daily sustenance to His disciples, Jesus reminds them and us of God’s promise and zeal for His people as Jehovah-Jireh, ‘The LORD who provides.’ So, let us hear our Lord’s voice that tells us clearly and shows us vividly how He is gracious and how sufficient His provision is for His people especially when we walk through an unchartered path of life.
I. THE LORD PREPARES FOR YOU
Let us now focus the first verse of our text passage. It begins from the scene that the seven disciples reached the shore where Jesus was. As you remember from last Sunday’s message, Jesus’ disciples had been waiting for their risen Lord at Galilee. Then, these men went for fishing overnight, but caught nothing. About daybreak, Jesus appeared and told them to throw the net on the right-hand side. They did and caught so many fish. Then, John noticed that it was the Lord, and told Peter. Hearing him, Peter jumped into the sea to go to the Lord and all the others followed carrying the net with them.
Now, they’ve reached the shore and gathered around the Lord Jesus. As they came, they found a charcoal fire and fish on it and bread. As I mentioned earlier, this charcoal fire with fish and bread signify the Lord’s provision for His people. Its spiritual implication for us is rich as is the aroma of grilled fish and fresh bread to the empty stomach. Seeing God who prepares and provides our daily needs is a great encouragement to our anxious mind and strength to our feeble hands and feet.
The disciples are tired and hungry after a long, unproductive night’s work. They are cold too. Anyone who has experienced a kind of work these disciples did, he’d probably understand how miserable they might be. Knowing what they’d need, Jesus has prepared food for them. Do you find anywhere in our text passage that any disciple has asked for it in prayer? No. But the Lord Jesus knew what they needed, what were the best for them. And He prepared what they needed because He is the Jehovah-Jireh.
As He prepared things for these hungry, cold, tired disciples, He does prepare for us too. And His preparation is the first step of His provision. How many times have you discovered in your life that the Lord had already prepared something for you even before you noticed your need? I guess, many times, if not always. When you turn a corner in your life, knowing nothing about what you’d face, you find something or someone that would carry you safely to the next phase. And surely that’s the Lord’s provision for you. If anyone says that he has not really found the Lord’s preparation for him in his life, that person has missed all those works of God for him. Like a man in this story who was repairing the roof of his house. All of a sudden, he slipped and began to slide down the roof. He cried out to God to save him. As soon as the last word was spoken, a nail caught his pants and stopped him. When he stopped, he looked up and said, ‘Never mind, God. I took care of it.’
The Lord prepares for us, His beloved ones, before even our mind ever embraces the necessity of anything in our life. A charcoal fire is a fire prepared well ahead of time. I think you know that. None of the disciples recognised Jesus standing there by the shore. So, no one knew how long He had been there. But we can see by this charcoal fire that He, the Lord, was there for a while preparing for His disciples to join Him. And He does the same for you and me and all who believe in Him. He did it on the day these disciples went out for fishing; He did it as He was leading the Israelites to the Promised Land through wilderness; He’s doing it to you and me today and the days coming till eternity. ‘The Lord God shall provide’ – He is our Jehovah-Jireh. And He begins it all with His careful preparation.
II. THE LORD PROVIDES IN HIS CARE
Let us think about this charcoal fire a bit more. As I said, charcoal fire is not something you immediately make. You need to collect some firewood. You start fire with them and need to wait for a while. Then, it becomes a charcoal fire. Jesus chose not a blazing fire but a charcoal fire for His disciples; and for us too.
Then, why charcoal fire? It is to let us know what sort of preparation He does for us. His preparation as the first step of His provision is not something decided hastily but through contemplation. As the result of that, what He provides us never overpowers us. Just like this charcoal fire did to the freezing disciples by the Sea of Galilee, it gently warms us up by its good and constant radiation of the divine grace. By this, our hardened hearts are melted and softened; our faith in Him grows and brings glory to the name of the Lord by bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
Think about the individuals in this group of seven disciples. Peter, for example. Just some days prior to this morning by the Galilean Sea, he denied the Lord Jesus three times in the court of the high priest. But where do you find the Lord’s reprehension for that? No, there’s none. We find instead in v. 9 of our text passage that he jumped into that cold water to be with the Lord. His heart is already filled with remorse for his sin, thus, sincere faith in his Lord and Master. Instead of whipping or pounding for correction, the Lord’s grace has gently but powerfully drawn Peter’s heart back to Him like a charcoal fire gently drew him near.
So, God’s provision through Jesus our Saviour and Lord is not like a blazing fire but like a charcoal fire. Unlike a blazing fire which licks and consumes aggressively whatever is close by, God’s provision warms us up almost without letting us notice the radiation of His grace. Although God’s holiness can instantly consume a sinner, He in His grace provides us what is necessary for us, not in a way that might overpower us but in a gentle way. So, our Lord is Jehovah-Jireh who provides for us through His tender and caring hand.
III. THE LORD PROVIDES THE BEST FOR YOU
With a charcoal fire, Jesus prepared fish and bread, and this explain what our Jehovah-Jireh does to us. Fish and bread was the ordinary daily diet familiar to these disciples in the first century Jewish life. The Lord provided for them what was ordinary and common instead of extraordinary. It was not a king’s feast but a peasant’s meal. To Israel in the wilderness, God did not supply fat grains of Egyptian futile land, but something they’d never seen before, thus, called ‘manna’ – ‘what is it?’ in Hebrew.
And He does the same for us. He provides for us ordinary things. Our ordinary food for daily meals, ordinary families and friends for our daily living, ordinary jobs, ordinary future like our ordinary present.
But one thing we must not forget is that all these our ‘ordinaries’ are the results of God’s contemplation, His deep thoughts and plans and a good purpose for us. Just like that grilled fish and bread by a charcoal fire, the Lord planned thoroughly, He has prepared it for a long period of time before He lets us eat of it, receive blessings from it and get strength. The ‘ordinaries’ we receive from God are, in fact, not just ordinary ‘ordinaries,’ but extraordinary ‘ordinaries.’ We must not forget this.
In other words, He provides us what is best for us! Look at the disciples. They didn’t expect anything like this fish and bread Jesus prepared for them. It was early in the morning, about the daybreak. They’d been fishing all night and there was none to prepare breakfast and no time to do that. But surprisingly, a tasty and satisfying breakfast was prepared by the shore, waiting for them. What would you say if you were one of the disciples? Wouldn’t you think and say, ‘What a great and blessed meal!’? I would, if I were that tired and hungry and cold among these disciples. It must’ve been the best breakfast ever for them. Freshly grilled fish and baked bread after a long night’s work. What a blessing! What could be better than that? To the disciples, this was surely the best breakfast by the sea – after all, they were having it together with Jesus their risen Lord! Our Lord provides us what is best for us, instead of what is fancy but useless. So, our Lord is Jehovah-Jireh who provides, through His tender and caring hand, the best for us.
IV. THE LORD PROVIDES RICH FRUIT OF FAITH
There’s still more for us to think about and receive blessings of the Lord. And that is, what Jesus says in v. 10 to the disciples in these words, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.”
I’d like to ask you to think about why Jesus asked them to bring some fish. Is it because there were eight men – seven disciples and Jesus – but only a fish? I don’t think that was why, because Jesus could easily multiply a fish not only for eight people but also for thousands. Then, why? I believe that Jesus wants to teach them to see the result of their labour in the Lord and enjoy what their obedience to His word has produced. This is what Ps. 128:2 points out and says, “You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” This is what the first psalm talks about when the blessed is planted by “streams of water,” or the 23rd psalm says, “my cup overflows.” Jesus earlier taught His disciples that he who abided in Him would bear much fruit. The 153 fish caught this early morning in our text passage is to be understood as another indicator of rich fruit of faith.
Another lesson for the disciples and us as well is to know and remember that the Lord Jesus is in control, He is the King. So, Jesus says in v. 10, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” In other words, ‘Remember your Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who shall provide you, through His tender and caring hand, the best thing for you, will deepen your joy of enjoying the fruit of your labour in Jesus!’
Israel in the wilderness was under God’s great and tender care, He supplied them over those forty years what was not known to man. He provided for them incomprehensible amount of food and water. The Israelites walked and camped and walked again, and did all their activities in the midst of that wonderful and great miracle of God. Their God was Jehovah-Jireh who provided all they needed.
By this shore of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was once again Jehovah-Jireh – He provided. And He is to us – to you and to me – the same Jehovah-Jireh; He provides for us. As He did, He’s doing it today and will continue to the eternity. This is the truth. God is Jehovah-Jireh who provides.
But, unfortunately, knowing this truth is one and living it out in our life is another like this simple illustration points out. A teacher was explaining to his physics class ‘the law of the pendulum.’ He explained the simple fact and truth of it, that is, a pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it is released. Because of friction and gravity, when it returns, the pendulum will fall short of its original release point. It swings and makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest.
When he finished this, he asked the class how many of them believe this law of the pendulum. All raised their hands. Then, this teacher walked to one side of his class room and brought a heavy pendulum attached to the ceiling. Pointing out a specially prepared, about 3 metre high chair at the corner of the class room, he asked, ‘Will anyone prove that this law is true by sitting on that chair and I’ll release this metal pendulum about 10 centimetres from his nose. This mass of metal will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger.’ What do you think how many would’ve volunteered? Yes, none!
Let us not treat what we’ve heard this morning in this manner. God provides for us! His name is Jehovah-Jireh. He’s done it; He is doing it; and He’ll continue providing for us what we need and what is best for us. Let us open our eyes wide and see our Lord, our Jehovah-Jireh and His hands preparing, providing because of His love for us. ***