Summary: Many of the promises of God's protection or provision in the Bible are actually conditional. They absolutely don't apply to anybody and everybody. Jesus shows us in John 6 exactly what kind of people can expect His protection and provision, and what kind of people can't.
Psalm 91 has always, from very early in my Christian life, been one of my favorite Psalms, because it speaks so beautifully and certainly of the Lord’s protection. I mean, just listen to it—it’s makes for beautiful poetry as well as for comforting thoughts—“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the Shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust. For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions and under his wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. And it goes on to say, that a thousand may fall at your side, then thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” O what wonderful words to hear, what we want to hear about our Lord and his relationship to us.
But this week I’ve found myself asking, are these promises good for anyone, anyone who might read them and claim them. Or are they for just certain kinds of people? Are there qualifications or conditions?
When I think of other blessings promised in the Bible, it’s struck me that there are conditions, there are qualifications. For instance, when it comes to provision—the promise that God will provide for our needs, the promise actually comes with a condition in Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all other things will be added unto you.” And even when it comes to the matter of providing wisdom, there’s a condition, at least if you look at James 1. Ask, with faith, not doubting, not being a double-minded man. Trust God w/a whole heart, follow him, not the world, with a single-minded devotion to Christ. And then there’s Romans 8:28 that tells us that all things work for the good. For the good of just anyone. No, for the good of those ho love God and are called according to His purpose.
And so, I want to suggest to you, that God’s promises of protection are also conditional, also conditional on the relationship that a person has with God—whether he loves and serve God or not.
God’s promises of protection are for those who love him and live for Him with a single-eyed devotion to His Glory and His Kingdom.
Now this morning we come to a story that illustrates this truth in a pretty dramatic manner. Because in this story we encounter two very different kinds of people. Two kinds of people who at least initially are attracted to Jesus and who follow Jesus. But they are different in one very important way. One of these kinds of people can be described as users of Jesus. And the other kind of people can be described as servants of Jesus, those who live to be used by Jesus.
And the story actually begins in verse 15 in John 6. If you’ll remember from our last time together in John, Jesus is now at least two years into his ministry. He’s been ministering in Galilee and at this point He’s riding the crest of a wave of popularity that is unprecedented even in His amazing ministry. He and his disciples have been busy ministering to crowds consisting of thousands of people and in the midst of this incredibly busy time they depart in boats for a lonely region on the northeast section of the Sea of Galilee, only to be followed around the northern coast of the lake by at least 10,000 people And what has just happened is that he has fed these 10,000 people late in the day with five small loaves of bread and two small fish. And in addition to all the miracles and healings he had been working, this event has excited the people to a near frenzy. They are deciding that this Jesus is truly the Messiah, the prophet that Moses predicted, and now verse 15 tells us that this popularity has now resulted in a threat to Jesus’ God-ordained Mission. For there is a plot afoot to kidnap Jesus and by force, make him King of Israel.
We pick up the narrative there, in verse 15: “So Jesus, perceiving that they (some of the people in the crowd) were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.”
Now three different Gospels tell this story of Jesus walking on the water, but only John provides this critical detail about what the multitudes who were following Jesus were about to do. And he uses an interesting Greek Word here to describe the would-be kidnapping of Jesus. It’s the Greek Word harpazo. And it’s used two other times in the gospel of Matthew. One time in Matthew 11:12 when Jesus says, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.” And another time it’s used in Matthew 13:19 with regard to how Satan snatches or takes the Word of God away from those who don’t understand it in the Parable of the Sower. And so clearly, what’s about to happen is a very violent sort of thing in which men would take Jesus against His will and make Him their puppet king over Israel. And if Jesus perceives this is about to happen, and He is the Son of God, then it’s a fact, it’s about to happen. And it his knowledge that this violent thing that is about to happen to him that motivates all of his actions at this point.