Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Provision's Blueprint

Through the years, there are some things I have asked the Lord to provide:
  • a starring role in the school play 
  • a boyfriend/husband- both specific people and generic ideals, for myself and for friends
  • a guarded heart around boys who weren't good news - both for me, and others
  • a functioning car 
  • meaningful ministry 
  • salvation for my Grannie - and for many others 
  • healing for a close friend's terminally ill husband  
  • a healthy self image 
  • opportunities to talk about Jesus 
  • the ability to speak French well 
None of these requests have been granted in the way I hoped they would when I asked for them. 

Now with some of them, I understand the Lord's response: given the hash I made of being Chorus Child Number 3 in Fantastic Mr Fox I am sure He graciously shielded me from further humiliation in a more central role (I lost my flip flop on the way to the stage and spent my brief sung performance wriggling around trying to subtlety disguise this. I was unsuccessful. Both in terms of the disguise and in terms of the subtlety).

For some requests, I can see how they were answered eventually, or unconventionally; I see the wisdom and purpose in the response. No, God didn't grant me all the boyfriends/husbands I've asked for, and I can see quite clearly why in most cases! I'm also grateful for what battling with singleness has taught me- that being "alone" with Jesus is better than any relationship without Him. No, God didn't give me impressive French- yet it drove me to find my identity in Him instead of my words- and in that there was a deeper quality of joy.

But some of these unmet desires have left me with questions.

Top of the list being: why are Citroen still allowed to make cars?!

But other, harder questions, include:
- How could it not be my Father's will to grant this?
- Don't the alternatives seem more like stones than bread, more like snakes than fish?
- How do I go on asking if God's provision seems so unlikely?
- Why did that answer take so long? Was it really worth the wait?
- Is the benefit of that unanswered request worth the cost-to myself and others- of not having it?
- In what sense is God my Provider if he says no to all these things?

These questions are still big questions for me.

But I have recently been encouraged by Abraham's revelation of Genesis 22: "The Lord will provide!"

Abraham waited years for a son. He pleaded and wrestled and longed that the Lord would provide in this way, according to His promise. And the Lord did. But that was not when Abraham understood most profoundly that it was the very nature of the Lord to provide.

The declaration "the Lord will provide" comes later- on the mountain of the Lord.

Here Abraham sees his most profound need by far: a substitute. He has been asked to sacrifice his precious son, and his only hope for his redemption is that "God will provide the lamb for the offering." (verse 8) For Isaac to live, a substitute is required: and then- at just the right time- an offering is supplied. Because the Lord steps in, Isaac is spared. And in this moment, Abraham sees the truth about who God is: on the mountain of the Lord, the Lord will provide. (verse 14)

So that's Abraham, then- but how can I answer my big question? If the Lord has said no to these things, where can I get the conviction that the Lord is a provider?

If I search for it at the foot of my opening list, I'm bound to grumble and say: "No, the Lord withholds!"

But if I seek it at the foot of the cross- on the mountain- his revelation is loud and clear. Because Abraham's words are not just a declaration, but a prophecy. On the mountain, the Lord will provide: generously, eternally and at great cost to himself.

His provision is abundant: He does not spare His Beloved ; His precious, glorious Son is crushed so that deviant sinners like me will never be.
His provision is complete: He makes the life of Jesus a sin offering; the Father gives us His death, His righteousness, His resurrection life, His glory.
His provision is eternal: a future and a hope and in the end, all things.
His provision is ineffable: He gives us, in all these things, through all these things- Himself! 

This is the ultimate and unfathomable revelation of the Lord's character; this is the assurance that he is a Giver of bread and not of stones; this is the fundamental demonstration of his tender kindness, and excessive generosity and sky-high love.

If Abraham could declare on his mountain, "the Lord will provide"- how much more can we, at Calvary!? If every item on my list had been given to me the first time I asked for it- that bounty could not be near to half as compelling a testimony to the abundance of God's generous nature as the cross is.

Some of my questions remain unanswered. There is still a struggle with unmet desires. But can I confidently declare, "the Lord provides!"?

On the mountain of the Lord, a thousand times, yes!

"He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

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