10. Surprising Provision

Lessons from the Nativity: 10:  Surprising Provision

Matt 2:11   On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh

We thought previously about surprises, for the Nativity story is full of them. The last one we considered was the greeting the young family received when they went to the Temple in Jerusalem to give thanks for the safe birth of baby Jesus. Now the above events may occur straight after that, which is at least forty days after the birth, or it  may be even later than that. The only clue we have is in the word ‘house’. We can only assume that they have found shelter with a family friend or even rented a house for a short while to carry them through the waiting period after the birth. It may be that as Joseph was a carpenter he earned money by performing carpentry services around Bethlehem, we just don’t know. All we know is that they appear to still be in Bethlehem when the camel train of the Magi, the ‘wise men’, turns up.

Now I don’t know if you have ever wondered just why they came? Yes, they were searchers and seekers and they followed a mysterious star and were then helped on their way by the officials in Jerusalem, and they said they had come to worship the king that had been born, but what was behind it? I would like to make a suggestion: they were God’s financial providers for this little family. They come bearing ‘treasures’.

Now we don’t know just how much of these three commodities they left with this little family but if they had come with a heart to worship this little king, it is unlikely that they would be skimpy in their giving. Now if you go looking in commentaries you will find that from the early church on scholars and teachers have focused on the symbolic meaning of these three sets of gifts and in so doing, I suggest, they miss the most significant thing – these are things of great value and as such could be sold off to provide finances for daily life. This little family is shortly going to have to escape to Egypt where they will have to live before returning later to Nazareth, and once they get back home they will need resources to set up home. Couldn’t Joseph’s carpentry skills be sufficient? Even asking the question suggest we are looking for minimal and forget we are dealing with a God of bounty, a God of generosity.

I was cured of my negative feelings about wealth by reading about Solomon and all the wealth he accumulated by the use of his God-given wisdom. Solomon was the peak of kingly ruler-ship in Israel; no subsequent king ever came near him, and it was God’s wisdom that enabled him to become what was undoubtedly the richest person in the world at that time. Read 1 Kings 10 and the visit of the Queen of Sheba who was almost overwhelmed by what she saw. Now this is not to take away words of caution found in the Bible about making money your god, and so we are to hold these things in balance and see that, according to the Law at least, when the people were living wholeheartedly for God, His promise to them in the blessings of Deut 28 was that The LORD will grant you abundant prosperity.” You cannot escape it, and perhaps we have much to learn here. To say we are a spiritual people and that physical blessings don’t apply, denies the Creator God who has given us all good things to enjoy.

No, the truth is that by these gifts brought from afar, God was leaving Joseph and Mary with resources which would keep them secure for many years to come. The Lord was looking after His Son.

Now even what I have written above may raise issues within you because in a Fallen World where one of the fruits of sin is low self-esteem, that low self-esteem is so often seen in the attitude of “Oh, I can’t do it, I’m no good,” and that produces  an outlook that fails to rise to potential. How many of us settle for being something less than is on the Lord’s heart for us? Even more, how many of us shy away from thoughts of comfortable provision in the material realm because we have been taught that it is ‘worldly’ to think like that. No it isn’t!  Consider the wonderful world God has given us, full of such incredible variety and He has given us five senses – taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight – all of which enable us to experience pleasure. Yes, seeking after these pleasures and putting them before the Lord is a recipe for disaster but when we put Him first, then surely according to His word, we may expect His blessing on our lives that enable us to enter into the enjoyments He has designed us to receive.

We said earlier that it was Solomon’s wisdom from God that enabled him to prosper.  Isn’t there a picture for us there?  Do we read James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him,” – and immediately let our unbelief limit the outworking of that? There is of course the condition that follows that verse which speaks to our unbelief: “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” (v.6,7) So isn’t wisdom a provision of God, a gift enabling other things to follow? Have we become so saturated with the materialistic view of the world that “the Lord our provider” is limited to purely spiritual salvation that makes you a spiritual child of God. Heaven forbid! That is a worldly-cum-spiritual form of godlessness. We push God out of His material world, the world He designed, the world He created, all for our enjoyment.

The lesson of the Wise Men is that God will provide material provision. For some that material provision will be described as adequate or sufficient while for others it will be abundant. It is not to be our goal, God is, but He IS a provider if we let Him. Once we acknowledge that (and this may be a reason we hesitate over this) we see that there must be no limit to what we put under His direction, and so our very jobs, our careers, our very goals in life, may perhaps need to change, for these all come under the ambit of His wisdom and His provision if we will but let Him.

6. Christ’s Treasures

Meditations in Colossians 2: 6:  Christ’s Treasures

Col 2:2,3   that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

I worry sometimes (as you may have gathered if you have followed these studies through Colossians) that we Christians so skim read the Bible that we fail to ponder upon the amazing things that are being said there. It is not always easy; in fact without prayer and seeking God for wisdom and insight often we can be left floundering, wondering whatever it was that, say, the apostle Paul was saying. For instance, whatever does it mean when he speaks and says, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”?

Let’s take it in bits. In Christ there are hidden treasures. Fine so far. Perhaps we might say that about a person we know: “If you knew them, really got to know them well, you would come to see there is more in them than meets the eye, they have got so much, they are an amazing person really.” We come across an aged person who is gentle and gracious and we wonder about them. Someone else tells us, “They were in a death camp in the war and went through terrible things, but they have come out of it so gracious and humble and thankful. He (she) is such a beautiful person that you’d never guess what they had been through.” They contain such treasure, some of it (the memories) not good but others of it so wonderful.

And in Christ, Paul says are these treasures and they are wisdom and knowledge – and the way he says it suggests they are unlimited wisdom and knowledge. Perhaps there are two ways of seeing this. The first is to see in the person of Christ that we observe in the Gospels, hear about in the prophets, and who is now seated at the Father’s right hand to return at some future date, all the wisdom and knowledge that God has. While he was on earth in a single human form, it appears that he was limited to the revelation the Spirit in him released. Perhaps it was a case that he only became aware of the wisdom and knowledge as he needed it. For a human mind to cope with every bit of knowledge that exists (which God has) would be too mind blowing, so he was limited, purely to be able to cope in human form with human abilities as well as the divine flow. As the Son of God he had access to everything the Father knew and in the human body could draw on it through the Spirit as and when he needed to. Perhaps this is one meaning of Jesus containing “all the treasures of wisdom and understanding.”

But maybe there is a much bigger way that this applies, a much bigger meaning that in fact refers to the very fact of his existence. Does it mean that the very fact of the actual existence of a Son of God, to start with, is an example of all of God’s knowledge and wisdom coming together to bring him about. In a previous study in chapter one we considered the fact that Jesus was begotten (“formed out of”) and not created, so that he came out of the Father and was still one with the Father. Was there a moment in the existence of God when He was aware of all that He could create in the material realm (or was it even before that) when He decided that the wisest thing that He could do in the light of all He knew, was to bring forth ‘a Son’, a second identity that had unique personality but separate (while still one) existence?

My wife and I were talking about this and I speculated on God thinking as Spirit. One set of thoughts, but then He formed two sets of thoughts at the same moment (for He can do that as God) and the two sets of thought exist from then on as separate identities – “In the beginning was the word”. But as these two ‘Spirit thoughts’ pondered they saw all that could ever be that they could create in the material world, and they saw that if they made ‘human beings’ with free will, then they would use that free will to turn away from God’s perfect design for them and go their own way, causing mayhem and destruction of that material world. And seeing that they ‘saw’ that the only way for justice to be appeased, in order to bring this fallen mankind back, it would be necessary for ‘the Son’ to take human form and take all the punishment  due to humanity in order to put it back on a right footing able to stand before God without condemnation.

This plan before anything else, this thinking is based on having complete knowledge of everything within and without time, past, present and future, of possibilities and of realities. But more than that it is based on pure wisdom. Wisdom is the knowledge of how to act, what to say or do, and God, who sees everything, knows exactly what is the right thing, the perfect thing, the thing that cannot be improved upon, knows what should be- and it was all that we know of about Christ.

When we look at Christ we see in him are hidden all the outworkings of God’s knowledge and wisdom. How incredible!