"When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming to Him, He said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?' He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do." John 6:5-6 (Read v. 1-15)
Why does God test us in seemingly impossible situations? It's certainly not because God doesn't already have a plan in mind. And, it's not to see what we'll do, for God already knows that too.
So why does God test us? To teach us to trust Him in every situation! That's why Jesus questioned Philip as to where they could buy bread to feed a multitude of more than five thousand who had followed Jesus to this remote spot along the Sea of Galilee.
Philip's answer illustrated the seeming hopelessness of the situation: "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for each of them to receive but a little" (John 6:7).
A denarius is used in another parable of Jesus as a full day's wage, so Philip's answer is equivalent to saying that even 200 days' wages would not be enough to feed this crowd, even a little.
When Andrew mentioned the lad with five barley loaves and two small fish, the disciples assumed this was nothing compared to the need, but Jesus had the men sit down. He gave thanks to God for the food He had provided. Then Jesus distributed the food to His disciples and His disciples to the people. All ate to the full, and they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers.
In the book of Exodus, we see that God also fed the people of Israel in a seemingly impossible situation in the wilderness, providing manna in the mornings and quail in the evenings. But God also tested the people and taught them to trust by providing only enough manna for each day so that they might learn to trust in Him each day for their daily bread.
In Exodus 16:4-5, we read: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Indeed, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain amount every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall come to pass that on the sixth day, they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it will be twice as much as they gather daily.'"
God provided enough manna each day for His people and, on the sixth day, He provided enough for two days so they could rest on the Sabbath. Of course, some people did not trust in the LORD and gathered more than they needed for the day, and the leftover manna bred worms and stank. Some tried to gather on the Sabbath, but there was none (cf. Ex. 16:17-30).
So also, in the Lord's Prayer, we pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11).
Jesus also teaches us the same when He tells us not to worry about what we will eat and drink or what we will wear in Matt. 6:25ff. After telling us to seek first His kingdom (v. 33), He says, "Therefore, take no thought about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take thought about the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof" (v. 34).
When we consider the feeding of the five thousand with only five barley loaves and two small fish, we certainly see a miracle and proof that Jesus is the almighty Son of God in human flesh. But we also learn that God would have us trust Him in seemingly impossible situations, give thanks for what He has provided, and rely upon Him to care for our every need (cf. Prov. 3:5ff.). We are to "be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God " (Phil. 4:6). We may find the situation impossible, but God already has a plan in mind!
We remember also that as sinners, unable to measure up to the demands of God's holy law, we all stood condemned. Our situation was impossible and hopeless.
But God provided a way for us to be saved. He sent His only Son into this world as a true man. Jesus kept God's commandments for us, perfectly and without sin, and then He suffered our just punishment when He died on the cross for the sins of the world. Though all seemed hopeless, He rose again on the third day in triumph over sin, death, and the devil, and through faith in Him, we sinners are pardoned, forgiven, and given eternal life (cf. John 3:14-16).
Our situation was impossible, but God had a plan. He sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior!
Dear Lord Jesus, forgive us for failing to trust in Your power and willingness to help us in every situation. Teach us always to come to You and to trust in You for all our needs, both earthly and heavenly. Amen.
[Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House. Devotion is by Randy Moll. He may be contacted by email at [email protected]. More of Moll's devotional writings are freely available at https://mercifulsaviorlutheran.net. Opinions expressed are those of the author.]