Friday, April 28, 2017

The Vision (4.28.17): Cast thy bread upon the waters

Image Golden euonymus, North Garden, Virginia, April 2017

Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Ecclesiastes 11:1-6.

Ecclesiastes 11:1 Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.

The verse begins with what to modern ears is an enigmatic command: “Cast thy bread upon the waters….” It seems nonsensical. Throw bread on water! What does it mean?

This is a farming or an agricultural image, having to do with the sowing of seed (cf. vv. 4, 6). Casting bread on the waters means sow your seed—the seed that will produce grain or bread—on the waters.

Reformed theologian John Currid explains:

What is this picture? From ancient Egypt, we know of an agricultural practice in which farmers would scatter seed on top of the Nile River when it was in its latest stage of inundation. When the water receded, the seed would then be deeply deposited in the rich soil on the banks of the river. In due time, it would germinate and produce a rich harvest (Ecclesiastes, p. 135).

Part of the point is to say: Sow your seed even if the natural conditions might not seem right or favorable for so-doing. There is one thing for certain: If you never sow the seed, you will never see the fruit.

The second part of v. 1 is a promise from God: “for thou shalt find it after many days.” The one who labors faithfully for Christ should expect that there will be a return or a reward or fruit that comes from the Lord. But this comes only “after many days.” We live in an ‘immediate gratification” culture. We want to see results yesterday. But that is often NOT the way the Lord most often works with his people.  We must strive for faithfulness, whatever the immediate outcome, and take the long view on all our labors.

John Currid is again helpful here:

Much of our toil for the Lord may seem in vain, but we are to continue with it whether or not we see any immediate return. It will have consequences; however, it may be that your work may not have any result even until years after your death. But it will have results. We don’t know how it will return –that is in the hands of God—but we do know that it will return, and that is the mystery of providence (Ecclesiastes, p. 136).

This reminded me of the description of Abraham and Sarah in Hebrews 11. They were promised that from Abraham’s seed there would come a great nation, which would be a blessing to all the nations (Gen 12:1-3).  They saw, through hardships, the birth of Isaac, but, in their lifetimes, they did not see the ultimate fulfillment of that promise. Compare:

Hebrews 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Yet, they did not give up. The cast their bread upon the water. We should do the same.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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