God Is Our Provider!
God Is Our Provider!
The Gospel of Matthew
Sermon by Rick Crandall
(Prepared September 23, 2022)
*Please open your Bibles to Matthew 17:24, and we will study another of Jesus' countless miracles. Today's miracle happened a little after the mountain-top transfiguration of our Lord. Most of you know that by this time Jesus was in the 3rd year of His ministry, and J. Vernon McGee estimated that the Lord was only six months away from the cross. (1)
*This miracle is only reported here in Matthew's Gospel. And this isn't one of the Lord's most fantastic miracles, but it's one of my favorites. One reason why is because it reminds me that God has a sense of humor. Think about it. If God didn't have a sense of humor, would He have created anything that looked like a duck billed platypus? Or a zebra, or a giraffe, or a penguin?
*Also think about Jesus walking on the water. This happened just after Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 men plus women and children. John 6:19 tells us that Jesus walked 3 or 4 miles on the water to catch up with His disciples out on the Sea of Galilee. Matthew and Mark also reported this miracle, but Mark 6:48 gives us a remarkable detail. There God's Word says, "Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, AND WOULD HAVE PASSED THEM BY."
*Of course, Jesus calmed their fears, got in the boat, calmed the storm, and got them safely to shore. But I can picture Jesus smiling and waving as He was about to pass them by. God surely has a sense of humor.
*This miracle is also one of my favorites because it reminds us that the Lord has full control over nature. But most importantly, this miracle reminds us that God is our provider. Please focus on this great truth as we read Matthew 17:24-27.
*In Genesis 22:1-14, God tested Abraham in a way that would stretch our faith to the limit. God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the only son that had ever been promised to this very old man. God told Abraham exactly where to go. And Abraham got up early the next morning to go and offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord.
*Three days later, they got close to the place, and in Genesis 22:7-8, Isaac spoke to his father and said, "My father!'' And he said, "Here I am, my son.'' And he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?'' And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.''
*And in Genesis 22:9-14, that's exactly what the Lord did:
9. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood.
10. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!'' And he said, "Here I am.''
12. And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.''
13. Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.
14. And Abraham called the name of the place, Jehovah-jireh; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided.''
*In this story, skeptics only see cruelty from God. But believers see the cross, because what Abraham was asked to do, God has done for us: He sacrificed His only Son. The Lord provided a Lamb. And from this story we get one of the favorite names of God: He is "Jehovah-Jireh", the Lord, our Provider.
*Our God is the greatest Provider of all! There are a million examples we could share today, but the greatest thing God ever provided was salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ! And the Lord wants to provide us with everything else we will ever need.
*In today's Scripture Jesus miraculously provided Peter with a piece of money. It was a silver "stater" or "shekel," exactly enough for two people to pay the Temple tax.
*William Barclay explained that the Temple in Jerusalem was an expensive place to run. There were the daily morning and evening sacrifices which each involved the offering of a year-old lamb. Along with the lamb were offered wine and flour and oil. The incense which was burned every day had to be bought and prepared. The costly hangings and robes of the priests wore out, and the High Priest's robe alone was worth a fortune. The actual Temple building itself could have fit in a baseball infield. But the large structures all around the Temple, like the storerooms, porticos and courts built by King Herod filled an area the size of 24 football fields!
*Think of the cost to keep up a facility like that. Plus, there was a force of Temple police officers who protected the Temple grounds, and carried out judgments of the Temple Court of Law.
*All of these things took money, so based on Exodus 30:13, every male Jew over 20 years of age had to pay an annual Temple tax of one half-shekel. The value of the tax was equivalent to two day's pay for a working man. And the Temple authorities had power to seize a man's belongings if he failed to pay.
*The collection was highly organized every year, and carried out in the month of Adar that overlaps our March. They announced in all the towns and villages that it was time to pay the tax. On the 15th of the month, booths were set up in each town and village, and the tax was paid at the booths. If the tax wasn't paid by the 25th, it could only be paid directly at the Temple in Jerusalem. (2)
*This was the money that Jesus provided for both Himself and Peter. But as we look at this Scripture, we can see how Jesus provides for us.
1. FIRST: JESUS INVOLVES HIMSELF IN OUR LIVES.
*Jesus wants to be deeply involved in the lives of His followers. Think about this as we listen again to vs. 24-25:
24. And when they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?''
25. He said, "Yes.'' And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their own sons or from strangers?''
*In these verses it's easy to see the Lord's involvement in Peter's life. But I want you to notice that the Lord was involved in Peter's life, EVEN WHEN PETER COULDN'T SEE IT. Jesus didn't have to ask Peter where he had been, or what had happened, or how the tax collectors had quizzed him. Jesus already knew what was on Peter's mind when he walked in the door.
*God's involvement in our lives may not be seen, but it is going on behind the scenes! The Lord's involvement is supernatural, steady, and sure. Jesus is never selfish or unconcerned like we can be. And the Lord never gets too busy for us. He never gets distracted. He always has His eye on us. And He anticipates our every need.
*Jesus knew that Peter was going to need that money before Peter did! Remember what the Lord said about prayer in Matthew 6:7-8? "But when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him." God knows our needs before we do! And He is able to meet every single one of them.
*And never think that God has forgotten you! He is always involved in your life, even when you can't see it. But sometimes He does let us see it in big and small ways.
*About 8 years ago, I was headed down to New Orleans for a follow-up visit on one of my elbow surgeries, and the Lord confirmed His love for me in an unusual way. I was driving on I-10, and turned to a radio station playing Chris Tomlin's song, "Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)." Just at that moment, I passed a tanker truck, and the name of the company was "Grace."
*Then a little while later, I was going into an out-of-town Walmart, and passed a 40-something man coming out. Out of the blue, he walked over to me and said, "I just want to remind you how much the Lord Jesus loves you and cares about your needs." Wow. No doubt the Lord was involved in my life that day. But the truth is that He is always involved in our lives. And when we get to Heaven, we will get to see the countless ways.
2. HOW DOES JESUS PROVIDE FOR US? -- HE INVOLVES HIMSELF IN OUR LIVES. HE ALSO INSTRUCTS US.
*The Lord instructs us about the most important spiritual truths. And we see Him instructing Peter right here. In vs. 25 Jesus anticipated what was on Peter's mind, and He asked Peter this question: "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their own sons or from strangers?''
*Jesus wasn't trying to get information from Peter. He was trying to give instruction to Peter. Jesus loved to ask questions. Tom Gilson thinks the Lord's favorite question was "Why?" And Tom gave a few examples:
-In Matthew 6:28 Jesus asked, "Why do you worry about clothing?"
-In Matthew 7:3 He asked, "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?"
-In Matthew 8:26 Jesus asked His disciples, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?''
-In Matthew 9:4 Jesus encountered some of the hard-hearted scribes. And "knowing their thoughts," the Lord asked, "Why do you think evil in your hearts?"
*Tom Gilson explained, "Jesus wasn't asking out of confusion or even curiosity. He knew their thoughts. He knew what was going on under the surface. He wasn't asking because He needed to know." Jesus asks questions to help US think about who we are, what we believe, and what we should be doing with our lives. (3)
*Jesus loved to ask questions. And we need to pay attention to His questions, because the Lord always asks the right question at the right time. Jesus always asks the questions we need to hear. The Lord has so much to teach us!
*In vs. 25-26 Jesus asked Peter, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their own sons or from strangers?'' Peter said to Him, "From strangers.'' Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free."
*There is a magnificent truth wrapped up in that little comment: Jesus said to him, "The sons are free. In other words, "Peter, you are free from the Temple tax. You don't have to pay it, because you are part of the Family of God!"
*Christians: God wants us to know who we are. We are children of the King! We are part of God's family! And we need to let the Lord instruct us on the things that matter most.
*As King David prayed in Psalm 25:4-5, "Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day."
*Then in Psalm 25:8-9 David gave this testimony for the Lord, "Good and upright is the LORD; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way."
*And in Psalm 32:8-10 God makes this commitment, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked; But he who trusts in the LORD, mercy shall surround him."
*We all need to let the Lord instruct us. He will never steer us wrong. He will always teach the right way to go.
3. HOW DOES JESUS PROVIDE FOR US? -- HE INSTRUCTS US. HE ALSO INSPIRES US.
*In vs. 26, Jesus told Peter, "The sons are free." But then in vs. 27, we see the Lord's servant-hearted compassion come through. Jesus said, "Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.''
*"Lest we offend them," Jesus said. The original word for "offend" there is "skandalon," and that's where we get our word "scandal." The idea behind this original word is to trap someone, trip them up, put a stumbling block in their way, cause them to sin, or cause them to distrust and desert a person they ought to trust and obey.
*The Lord didn't want to do anything that would keep those tax collectors from doing the right thing. Above all, Jesus didn't want to do anything to keep them from trusting in Him. So, Jesus inspires us to care for other people, and go out of our way to help them, even those who are enemies of the cross.
*It's the same spirit Paul had in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, where he wrote:
19. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
20. and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
21. to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
22. to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
*Paul was willing to do any good thing he could do to help other people be saved, both Jews and Gentiles. And why was Paul like that? -- Because Jesus is like that! He was inspired by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
4. HOW DOES JESUS PROVIDE FOR US? -- HE INSPIRES US. AND HE INCREASES OUR SUPPLY.
*I love the way that Jesus decided to meet this need! He gave a supernatural, miraculous increase! You can do that if you are God. And it reminds us that Jesus is able to meet every need we will ever have, even in miraculous ways.
*So in vs. 27 He told Peter, "Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.''
*Now, one thing this verse of Scripture teaches is that fishing is good. -- Right? And ultimately, everything in this verse was provided by God. That includes the sea, the hook, the fish, the ability to pull it in, and the silver money in the fish's mouth.
*God provided it all, and He promises to provide everything we will ever need in life. As Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
*This means if we are 5 or 35 or 105, God will supply all our needs! And He can do it, because the whole universe belongs to Him! Christians: Jesus never runs out of what we need! And this is true on every level: Physically, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually.
*If we need forgiveness, Ephesians 1:7-8 tells Christians that in Jesus Christ "we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence."
*If we need peace, Philippians 4:7 promises us that God can give us the peace that passes understanding.
*If we need strength, Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
*If we need comfort, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds us that God is the God of all comfort. There Paul wrote: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."
*And if we need wisdom, Proverbs 2:6 tells us that Jesus is our supply! "For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding."
*No wonder Paul said, "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." God is more than able to meet every need we will ever have. He can bring water from a rock, and He can feed 5,000 men with a few fish. He can even put money in a fish's mouth, if that is what we need.
*Billy Graham once shared this amazing testimony: "I recently heard the story of a mother in an African nation who came to Christ and grew strong in her commitment and devotion to the Lord. Unfortunately, this alienated her from her husband. And over the years he grew to despise and hate her devotion to Christ.
*His anger and bitterness reached their climax when he decided to kill his wife, their two children, and himself. But in his twisted mind, he wanted a motive, so he decided that he would accuse his wife of stealing his keys to the bank, the house, and the car.
*Early one afternoon he left his bank and headed for the tavern. His route took him across a footbridge over the headwaters of the Nile River. He paused above the river and dropped the keys. Then he spent all afternoon drinking and carousing.
*Later that afternoon, his wife went to the fish market to buy the evening meal. She bought a large Nile perch. And as she gutted the fish, she was amazed to see that in its belly were her husband's keys!!! How in the world had they gotten there? Of course, she didn't know, but she cleaned up the keys and hung them on the hook where they belonged.
*That night, her drunk husband came home, pounded open the front door and shouted, "Woman, where are my keys?"
*Already in bed, she got up, took them off the hook in the bedroom, and handed them to her husband. When he saw the keys, he immediately sobered-up, and instantly turned his life over to the Lord. That man fell on his knees sobbing, asked for forgiveness, and received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior." (4)
*That is an amazing story. But it shouldn't surprise us, because we have an amazing God! He is our Provider. And Christians, the Lord wants to provide us with everything we will ever need. Best of all, He provided Himself to die on the cross for our sins. And today the Risen Christ provides Himself to be our Lord, our Savior, and our very best friend. Let's praise and thank Him for it all.
*And if you have never put your trust in the Lord, if you have never received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, call on the Lord to save you right now, as we go back to God in prayer.
(1) THROUGH THE BIBLE WITH J. VERNON MCGEE by J. Vernon McGee - Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville - Copyright 1981 - "Jesus Announces His Death and Resurrection" - Matthew 16:21-28 - Downloaded to e-Sword by Rick Meyers - Copyright 2021
(2) Adapted from Sources:
-BARCLAY'S DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES - NEW TESTAMENT by William Barclay - Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - "The Temple Tax" - Matthew 17:24-27 - https://bibleportal.com/commentary/section/william-barclay/the-temple-tax-matthew-1724-27
-PBS Frontline - From Jesus to Christ - Jesus' World - "Temple Culture - Why the Temple symbolized the nation of Israel and, collaboration with Rome" - by Shaye I.D. Cohen - Published April 1998 - http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/temple.html - Wrong estimate on size of Temple area
-"What Did the Temple Look Like in Jesus’ Time?" by Justin Taylor - July 13, 2010 - https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/what-did-the-temple-look-like-in-jesus-time/
-"Sparkling Gems from the Greek" by Rick Renner - http://www.crosswalk.com/devotionals/sparkling-gems/sparkling-gems-from-the-greek-week-of-january-30.html
(3) Adapted from: daily press.com - "Jesus asked questions to teach" by Tom Gilson - February 8, 2009 - Veteran of 34 years of ministry with Cru, founder of the Apologetics Leadership Group, and now a writer/editor with The Stream
(4) Billy Graham, Prayer Letter from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, July 1989 - Source Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations & Quotes, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers 2000.