God promises his children that he will provide for them like a good father provides for his children. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount not to be anxious, not even about basic necessities like what to wear and what to eat. Then Jesus offers a word of reassurance, “But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these thing will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). This sounds like an absolute promise of provision from God, just like so many other similar promises throughout scripture.
But here is the provision paradox: Although God promises to provide, still God’s children have often gone hungry and have not been provided for. God promises provision, yet his children experience privation at times.
David says he’s never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread (Ps 37:25). We might feel incredulous, sensing his naivete, because we’ve all seen people of God at times forsaken, forgotten, hungry.
God promises provision, yet we experience privation. How do we resolve this paradox?
- God often uses ordinary means for the fulfillment of the promise. If a man doesn’t work neither should he eat (2 These 3:10). Ordinarily, working will lead to eating. This is a proverbial perspective on how God fulfills his promise. It doesn’t turn his promise into a proverb, but rather explains one way the promise finds fulfillment. We should remember however, that even when we have our “daily bread,” it is still only sufficient for today. In other words, it is not an ultimate provision, only immediate. Any provision, even the best provision, that we may have in this life is all anticipatory, a dim precursor to the full experience that awaits God’s people with him in paradise. Which leads to the second point of resolution.
- God will ultimately fulfill his promises of provision in the new world. Jesus reminds his followers they are citizens of a new kingdom, which outlasts this temporary mode of living (Matt 6:19-21). This is both a worldview as well as a present comfort. There will not be hunger or pain or privation there. So when God’s people endure famine leading to death in the present world, they enter into a world of eternal satisfaction, fullness and pleasure. These promises find their ultimate fulfillment not in this age, but in the age to come.
The great men and women of faith in the Bible believed in this delayed fulfillment. Abraham “was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth” (Heb 11:10, 13).