Tons of Grace in Ounces of Bread (Exodus 16)

Think of all that God gives you when you put a piece of bread in your mouth. He’s given you wheat. He’s given you a farmer, his health, and hours and hours of a season of sowing, growing, and harvest. He’s given you rain and sun. He’s given you a tractor with a plow and seed drill. He’s given you a combine to harvest it and trailers to transport it. He’s given you diesel, oil, grease and the refineries that produce them. He’s given you rubber, tires, and sleepy truck drivers. He’s given you factories with hundreds of laborers: factories to produce the farm equipment, factories to make the bread. He’s given you thousands of years of history, for, behind all of this are centuries of sweat and labor to invent, innovate, and refine. He’s given you a grocery store and stockers. He’s given you a job, life, and health to purchase and eat the bread. And we’ve only dealt with the wheat. We haven’t considered the salt, the water, the butter, the sugar, or the yeast. When you eat one bite, just one bite of bread, you are immeasurably wealthy and incomprehensibly blessed. There are tons of grace in ounces of bread. The only proper response to such lavish generosity is gratitude. Even when we are grateful, our gratitude never matches up to His generosity. Sadly, were often presumptuous. Worse yet, we grumble. And yet, the bread is still there.

God saves. Then, Israel grumbles. Yet, God is gracious. Still, Israel grumbles. Still, God is gracious.

When Israel eats this manna, think of all that God is giving them. This manna is epic. This lengthy account doesn’t begin to match their lengthy experience. “The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan (Exodus 16:35 ESV).”

Yet, the true magnitude of the mann isn’t found in it’s duration, nor it’s delicacy, but it’s meaning. Like the Supper, the true feast can only be had by faith. Manna was spiritually enriched and nutrient loaded.

Jesus feeds the five thousand in the wilderness. Later he tells the crowds that the bread and the manna both testify of Him, the true bread from heaven (John 6). How do they respond? With grumbling. The crowds leave. Many of His disciples leave. Jesus turns to the twelve and asks if they will leave also. Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God (John 6:68–69 ESV).”

This was the test of the manna.

“And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” —Deuteronomy 8:2–3 (ESV)

Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the Bread of Life. The manna was epic. There were tons of grace in every ounce.

Not a Dainty Grace (Exodus 4:1–17)

As Moses’ sinful questions mutate into brazen objections, God’s grace grows more firm. God’s grace isn’t fragile. It isn’t a dainty grace. When God sets His covenant love on sinners, sinners’ sins don’t change His covenant love; God’s covenant love changes sinners. We’re told Moses’ sins aroused God’s anger, and what do we see next? Preplanned grace (4:14). God’s grace is always preplanned. To put a spin on Spurgeon, if God didn’t love His people before the foundation of the world, it’s certain He’d never see cause, in them, to love them afterward.

God’s grace isn’t a dainty grace. You can’t shatter it. It’s child proof; indestructibly designed by a Father who knows us. You can’t break this grace. It breaks you. This isn’t the kind of grace that sweeps sin under the rug, but propels us out the door. This is persistent and insistent grace that covers and refuses our objections.

God’s grace throws us in the deep end and then is there to keep us from drowning. Remember Jonah? God’s firm grace got Jonah to Nineveh. The book ends with Jonah rebelliously pouting. Or does it? Who wrote the book of Jonah? I believe it was Jonah. The book ends then as Jonah’s expression of the ugliness of his sin and the beauty of God’s grace. Good parents often make their children do things they’re fearful of and the children are often thankful after the fact. I’m sure, once Jonah set his pen down, it was with a contented sigh of thankfulness that God threw him in the deep end and was there to keep him from drowning, even in his own sins. Once Moses returned to Sinai, certainly, he too was thankful that God’s grace was made of adamant.

There is grace for those who are ambassadors of grace. Not a grace that excuses our sins, but a grace that leaves us without excuses.

There’s an Ocean in Those Pints (Psalm 4)

“You have given me relief when I was in distress.”

David cries out to God to answer his prayer concerning his present. He asks God for grace in his now. Sandwiched between, he remembers the past. David doesn’t bank out of the past; he banks out of the future confident because of his past. David has reasoned this way before.

“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God. …The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:31–37).”

It would be a poor decision to start making withdrawals from an account based upon old bank statements. But, if a rich benefactor has told you that he has a limitless money, there when you need it for the cause that he loves, then looking to past withdrawals assures you of the future. You wouldn’t banking out of the past, you’d be banking in hope of the future. The past would bolster your confidence in the availability of future funds. The past proves your benefactor is reliable concerning the future.

This is what John Piper calls living by faith in future grace. God has promised that there’s an infinite ocean of grace for us in Christ that’s ours to draw from by prayer. We cannot see this ocean of promises except by faith. We can see the collected pool of past grace and the river of presently flowing grace such that it builds assurance that the ocean is as big as He says. We cannot sustain today’s faith on yesterday’s grace, but recalling yesterday’s grace can strengthen our faith that the promises will not fail us today. Piper explains,

“The infinite reservoir of future grace is flowing back through the present into the ever-growing pool of past grace. The inexhaustible reservoir is invisible except through the promises. But the ever-enlarging pool of past grace is visible; and God means for the certainty and beauty and depth to strengthen our faith in future grace.”

This is part of the logic of Romans:8:23: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all [past grace], how will he not also with him graciously give us all things [future grace]?” It’s paramount to realize this doesn’t denigrate the past accomplishment of Christ crucified. All the grace that ever has or will flow into the Christian’s life flows from the crucified and risen Christ. Looking to the cross assures us of today and forevermore. If it doesn’t, we’re hopeless. We’re to be pitied. Our faith is vain (1 Corinthians 15:19).

Reminisce on the past grace poured into your life. Behold all the grace that has flowed from the fount of Christ recorded for us in both testaments of the Holy Scriptures. Read church history and see the pool swell further. Fellowship with the saints listening to the testimonies of you brothers and sisters. When you do, you will see a sea of collected past grace that dwarfs the Sun, and then Christ will turn to you and say that it’s as nothing compared to the universe of future grace that will one day swallow up that Sun, and all this future grace flows from His past wounds. When Jesus bled, those few pints of blood were the spilling of a infinite universe of grace—all the grace that ever was and forever will be for the redeemed.

A Religious Assassination (1 Timothy 1:12-17)

Why was Paul saved? “I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Paul’s salvation wasn’t accidental. Paul didn’t chance upon the opportune place at the opportune time where and when grace happened to burst through the earth’s crust. Nor was it that Paul had a core of virtue beneath a veneer of vileness so that universal grace found a ready subject.

Saving grace isn’t a shotgun; it’s a sniper rifle. God is a hunter, a sniper, who has a specific target to make a loud statement. This is an assassination to make a religious statement. The assassination was followed by resurrection. Saul became Paul because of Jesus, and Jesus killed and resurrected Paul to communicated this to wretched sinners: He can kill and resurrect any one of you.

God has a galaxy of grace to match your Jupiter of sin. Do you feel the crushing, unbearable weight of your sins? Do distress if God’s grace can match them? This is as brainless as fretting if there is enough Milky Way for Jupiter. Jupiter’s covered, and so are you if you are in Jesus.

Your thirst isn’t bigger than this ocean. Your darkness isn’t as potent as this Son’s light. Your stain is not as set as His blood is cleansing. Your sin isn’t bigger than Jesus’ atonement.

Blessings Fall Like Rain, not Missiles

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
—Psalm 67:1-2 (ESV)

Blessings fall like rain, not missiles. The immediate power of a missile may be more impressive, but the rains’ power is the more impactful. The missile hits, and its power is soon exhausted. The rain falls, and its life-giving impact continues on for ages. Because of the rain, a fruit seed germinates, a man is later nourished by that seed, that man then works to provide for his family, his nurtured son finds a cure for some disease, many are then healed. Blessings fall like rain. Blessings are not a zero sum game. When someone else is blessed that does not mean you’re not. When God blesses the farmer, others eat, and even more benefit from those others eating. When God blesses one man on this earth He blesses them all. When God blesses Abraham, He blesses the world. Not all know God’s saving grace, but all men know varying degrees of common grace on this earth because of God’s saving grace. When God blesses His people, they are the light and salt of this earth; the earth benefits from their being blessed.

We’re saved to the praise of God’s glorious grace. Grace need not fall directly on us for us to rejoice in it or benefit from it. Grace is often like fireworks. It’s when it goes off over there, that you can most behold its glory. Our joy should be in the magnifying of God’s grace, so that wherever it falls we rejoice, “Look, more amazing grace! There, there, and there too.” When God’s grace falls on others, do not be jealous for self, but zealous for God.

The Pilgrim: No Back Door to the Throne of Grace

I must come by his blood, through his flesh, or I cannot come at all, for here there is no back door. —John Bunyan, The Saints’ Privilege and Profit

Grumbling at Grace (Matthew 20:1-16)

If you are honest with yourself you cry out with the first hour laborers, “Hey, not fair!” Jesus, as Nathan did David, causes us to indict ourselves. This is what this parable reveals about every fallen son of Adam—we hate grace! Adam wanted to be like God, and he wanted to be like God because he did something.

Douglas Wilson uses the following illustration. Say it is family movie night. Your wife is getting the movie ready, the children are getting situated just right, and you go to the kitchen. You make one of your children a big bowl, the biggest bowl of ice cream they have ever had. What do your other children say? “Hey!” The first child looks at their siblings with a insincerely confused look that asks, “What’s the big deal? The universe is as it should be. Shalom has come.” So you go back into the kitchen to make each of the protestors even bigger bowls. What then does the first child say? “Hey!” The issue isn’t the amount of ice cream in his bowl, but the amount in everyone else’s. The issue is the same as that of the “man” in Matthew 19:16-22, namely, covetousness, which is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5).

The point of this parable isn’t that heaven is a communist regime where everyone gets one scoop. The first hour-ers complain that they have been made equal but really they haven’t. The point here isn’t equality. It’s more radical than that. The point is that the last are first and the first are last. One group gets paid a Benjamin per hour, while another gets seven and a quarter. Things are not equal. But things are just. The first hour-ers think they are demanding justice, but really they are grumbling against grace. They howl, “We deserve grace too, No! we deserve more grace!” But that is as nonsensical as a child throwing a temper tantrum saying, “But I wanted a square circle!” Deserved grace isn’t even on the level of a mythical creature. God could create a unicorn should He desire to do so. Deserved grace however is a logical impossibility. As soon as grace becomes deserved it un-defines itself.

What is the point? Those who receive the most grace, receive the most grace. No one can bark against that. If it is justice you desire, you may have it, hot and eternal. So, next time you worship with God’s little ones, look around. Is there anyone there that it would bother you if they got a bigger bowl of ice cream from the Father?

If you are properly seeking the reward, this means you are seeking the biggest possible thing God could give you—Himself. This means when God glorifies Himself in being gracious to the least, you get exactly what you want—God glorified. It does not matter where the grace is dumped. God is glorified, and thus, you are satisfied. There is no grumble in your stomach. There is no grumble in your mouth. Grace anywhere, is grace everywhere to little ones.

The Pilgrim: If I Had a Thousand Gallons of Blood

CHR. This was a revelation of Christ to your soul indeed; but tell me particularly what effect this had upon your spirit.

HOPE. It made me see that all the world, notwithstanding all the righteousness thereof, is in a state of condemnation. It made me see that God the Father, though he be just, can justly justify the coming sinner. It made me greatly ashamed of the vileness of my former life, and confounded me with the sense of mine own ignorance; for there never came thought into my for there never came thought into my heart before now that showed me so the beauty of Jesus Christ. It made me love a holy life, and long to do something for the honour and glory of the name of the Lord Jesus; yea, I thought that had I now a thousand gallons of blood in my body, I could spill it all for the sake of the Lord Jesus.  -John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

Matthew 15:21-28 & The Grace of Hunger

A father might be delighted or annoyed by his child’s persistent cries. You are at task and single focus is necessitated. You have explained this once to your son. Shortly “dad, dad, dad, dad, dad, dad…” are said in rhythm with a drumbeat of taps on your back. No emergency need be declared, and they do not want you, they just want some of your stuff and they want it now.

“Let’s play Nerf guns,” they later beg. And it is clear it’s not playing Nerf guns that they want, but playing Nerf guns with dad. You draw them out. You say no, but in such a way and in such a tone that they get what is happening. They persist and cry out, “please, please, pleeeeease?” The child wants their father, and the father wants to give himself, so what is a father doing in such instances? He is soaking in the moment, and heightening their hunger to maximize their shared joy at his yes. Which one is closer to what Jesus is doing in this text? I believe the point of this text isn’t simply that Jesus answers the humble, persistent cries of Gentiles, but that He loves to do so.

Jesus intensifies the hunger of this “dog,” so that she might rejoice all the more in the “crumb” that she receives from her “master’s table.” While this woman is shown the depth of her need and the extent of her unworthiness she is receiving God-glorifying backdoor grace that sees Jesus as her only hope, and keeps her coming back.

Jesus is glorified in our hunger as well as our satisfaction. Jesus is glorified in our groans as as well as our “ahhhs.” He is glorified when we long for Him in the valley of the shadow of death as well as when we rejoice that our cups run over. Whatever drives you to Jesus, whatever makes you grasp for Him more vehemently, whatever turns your casual prayers into earnest screams – is grace! So if you are crying out for the salvation of the Lord, keep crying out. When you sense your need, cry out. When He is silent, cry out. When conviction lays you prostrate before Him, keep crying out all the more. He is magnifying His name in you. He is increasing your hunger to maximize your shared joy at His yes.

Tolle Lege: Rid of My Disgrace

Readability: 1

Length: 209 pp

Author: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Statistics say one in four women, and one in six men have been sexually assaulted. If you are one of those women or men buy this book. If you know one of those women or men, buy two copies, one for yourself and one for them. The damage of sexual assault is often intensely compounded by friends and relatives who don’t know how to respond appropriately. As a pastor I am so profoundly thankful to have such a Biblical and therefore, grace-filled resource as Rid of My Disgrace at hand.

Sin and the effects of sin are similar to the laws of inertia: a person (or object) in motion will continue on that trajectory until acted upon by an outside force. If one is devastated by sin, a personal failure to rise above the effects of sin will simply create a snowball effect of shame. Hurting people need something from the outside to stop the downward spiral. Fortunately, grace floods in from the outside at the point when hope to change oneself is lost. Grace declares and promises that you will be healed. One-way love does not command “Heal thyself!” but declares “You will be healed!”

The cross is God’s solidarity with and compassion for the assaulted, and the resurrection is this promise that he can heal and redeem your suffering.

WTS Books: $10.71               Amazon: $10.87