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Lesson 8: Jesus, Provider and Sustainer *

Introduction: There is an old saying that if we give a person a fish, that will help for one meal. If we give them a fishing pole and tackle, that will make the person self-sufficient. How does God take care of us? Is He handing out fish all the time, or has He given the universe a "fishing pole?" Although I think we can only scratch the surface of this because of limited human understanding, God has shared some information with us. That information guides us as we carry on God's work of provision for those less fortunate. Let's jump into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Provide and Sustain

    1. Read Colossians 1:16-17. This text is about Jesus. What two roles do you see Jesus playing in our world? (He created it - even things we cannot see. And, He continues to "hold" the creation together.)

    2. Read Hebrews 1:3. This adds some detail about Jesus "holding" the creation together. How is this done? (By "His powerful word.")

      1. What do you think of when you read about Jesus' "powerful word?" (Genesis 1 - where we read that God spoke the creation into existence.)

    3. Read Genesis 1:29-30 and Exodus 16:14-18. What do you see as different in these two ways God devised to sustain His people? (One was self-sustaining. The specific reference to "seed-bearing" highlights the means of reproduction. The other required God's daily provision.)

      1. Our first two texts introduced the idea that Jesus has a continuing role in holding the universe together. Part of this is sustaining the creation. What do the creation of plants and the provision of manna teach us about God's current role in providing for us? (It appears to have two sides. One is a system that is self-sustaining, and the other is a system in which God is more actively involved.)

        1. Is the self-sustaining idea an illusion?

  2. Nature of the Provision

    1. What do Genesis 1:29 and Exodus 16:17-18 teach us about God's generosity towards us? (In both situations humans had all they needed.)

      1. Look again at Exodus 16:17. What is your reaction to the fact that every person had as much manna as that person needed - regardless of the amount gathered? (It appears that God supernaturally adjusted the manna to the amount the person needed.)

    2. Read Genesis 2:15-17. We discussed that the Eden approach was self-sustaining. Is that completely true? (It apparently required some maintenance. God gave that task to humans.)

      1. Why? (God wants us to participate in our support. God has a role for us.)

        1. Consider the implications of this. Should we sit around and wait for God to find us a job? Should we ignore the quality of the food we eat? Should we be actively involved in the state of our health?

      2. Read Matthew 6:25-27. Does this contradict the idea that we need to be co-laborers with God in providing our food? (No. The point is that we should not worry. Consider what you know about birds. They are constantly looking for food. They clearly are co-laborers when it comes to food.)

    3. Read Genesis 3:17-19. How did God's role as provider and sustainer and our role as co-laborer change after the introduction of sin? (Our part of the job became more difficult.)

      1. How can you reconcile our "painful toil" obligation with Jesus' assurance ( Matthew 6:26-28)that He will provide for us just like He provides for birds who don't sow or reap and lilies who don't labor or spin? (It seems a contradiction on the surface. However, I think Jesus was making a point about worry, not a point about whether we are obliged to work. Neither lilies nor birds have hands.)

    4. Read Leviticus 19:9-10. What is God's plan for us when it comes to feeding the poor and the aliens? (It seems that we are co-laborers with God not only in providing for ourselves, but also providing for the poor. The poor also have an obligation to be co-laborers.)

      1. Anyone have a farming background? What is the nature of the crop at the "very edges of your field?" (It is not as abundant. When I was a child, my folks let me pick berries to earn money. The person in charge of the berry picking would put me at the edge of the field, where the yield was less, so I would not interfere with the people who were picking berries to make a living.)

      2. What point do we find here about co-laboring and the poor? (God's plan for the poor requires them to work.)

      3. How is the "golden rule" ( Mark 12:31) applied here? (This is eye-opening. The poor did not have access to the best part of the crop. That was reserved for the farmer who owned the land, planted the crop and harvested it. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not (as illustrated here) putting everyone on the same economic level. Rather, it seems to say, "What would be appropriate for me if our roles were reversed?")

        1. How have we seen that God treats His people? (Generously.)

        2. Read Colossians 4:1. Is this something to keep in mind when we consider how to treat the poor? (Yes. God is generous to us, and the suggestion is that we need to keep in mind that the poor and rich have a common master - God.)

    5. As we review the Garden of Eden, the provision of Manna during the Exodus, and the rules for aiding the poor, what common elements do we see? (1. God is the source of the provision. 2. Humans are co-laborers in this provision. God places an obligation on us to work, and this obligation has increased as a result of sin. 3. God is generous. He provides what we need. 4. God is trustworthy, while we need to work, we do not need to worry.)

  3. The Provision and Evil

    1. Read Genesis 3:21-23. What is Adam's task? (To work the ground.)

      1. Has God's role as provider changed?

    2. Read Genesis 4:1-2. Is Abel violating God's rule? He is not working the ground, his brother Cain is working the ground!

      1. I don't raise any of the food I eat. Few people I know do. Are we violating God's rule?

    3. Read Genesis 3:18. What is Adam's diet? (Plants. He is a vegetarian.)

    4. Read Genesis 4:3-4. Is Abel a omnivore? If he is not eating his sheep, what is he eating? (In Genesis 9:1-3 God gives permission to humans to eat meat. If we did not have that information, it would seem that Abel was a meat-eater.)

    5. As I look at God's command to Adam (about working the land), and the chosen work of Cain and Abel, it seems that Cain is the one who is obeying God. Do you agree?

    6. Read Genesis 4:3-7. Why is God telling Cain, the son who is apparently most obedient, that he is not doing what is right? (Now the truth comes out. If Abel were disobeying God by his line of work, God would say it. However, Abel is working to create sacrifices to God. Cain is working to feed himself.)

      1. What does that teach us about the nature of the curse that we must work hard for food? (God is not literally commanding that we all grow food. Rather, He is telling us that our work, as a co-laborer with Him in providing for us, is more difficult post-sin.)

      2. Would this rule of difficulty apply to other aspects of life? (Review again Genesis 3:17-19. God tells Adam and Eve that they are going to die - return to dust. That would not have happened if they had trusted God and obeyed. While they live, life will be much more difficult than it was in Eden. I think God used work to illustrate the greater burden we face in living.)

    7. Friend, sin has made life more difficult. But, the good news is that our generous God is still our Provider and Sustainer. He demands that we be co-laborers with Him, and the extend of our part of the labor has greatly increased after the entry of sin. However, He asks us to trust Him that He will meet our needs. Will you trust God today?

  4. Next week: Marriage: A Gift from Eden.
* Copr. 2013, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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