In six accounts of Jesus feeding thousands from only a few loaves and fishes (Matthew 14:13–21, Matthew 15:29–39, Mark 6:31–44, Mark 8:1–9, Luke 9:12–17, John 6:1–15) the gospel writers recorded only that Jesus gave thanks for the food not that He prayed any special prayer of multiplication. If He did speak any divine words from the Old Testament at those scenes surely among the most appropriate would have been the words of the Creator spoken to the fish in the first chapter of Genesis: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:22). Just as the fish and other living things of creation week obeyed their Maker's commands, so the fish and the loaves obeyed on the hillside that day two thousand years ago, and so we are expected to obey today.
It can be hard to obey, even for Christians. Perhaps especially for Christians. God has given so many commands in the Bible that we argue endlessly over which we must obey, and which are acceptable to break. Even after we've eliminated Scripture's outdated civil, ceremonial, and health ordinances, reducing God's Law to a small set of moral commandments, we still search God's Word for what we get out of obeying. We want the rewards, so we fixate on the promises. Of all God's creation, humans are the only ones who demand recompense for obedience. All other created things obey their Maker for one reason: they were given a command.
When God spoke on the fifth day of creation and commanded, "Be fruitful and multiply," the fish in the seas did not obey because of what they would receive in exchange. They did not multiply to ensure the survival of the species. They obeyed because their Maker gave them a command. The same was true for the fish and loaves on those hillsides in Palestine. They did not multiply because obedience would earn a reward. In fact, their obedience would result in them being eaten many times more than what would otherwise have happened. Even in a sinful world, creation obeys its Maker.
Humans, however, have a choice.
Humans look for promises and rewards for our obedience. But as you read your Bible, rewards are the exception to the rule. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "'Honor your father and mother.' This is the first commandment with a promise" (Ephesians 6:2 NLT). The first commandment with a promise is the fifth. The four preceding it, about how to worship God, give no promises, only expectations. The five commandments after the fifth offer no promises either. Only the fifth commandment, one out of ten, offers a reward to those who obey it. The others are simply there, stated by our Maker, with no incentives. Whether or not we heed the commands is determined solely by our relationship with the Lawgiver, not by any reward we get out of obedience.
Often in the midst of a trial we search for Scripture's promises to us to get us through it, but even when there is no promise, when we fail to find the reward we're hoping for, we are still expected to obey. God expects such perfect obedience from His disciples, whether there is a reward for it or not. We must persist. God asks for an obedience that acts not because of what we get out of it but because we were given a command by our Maker. If we can persistently obey in all circumstances — the times when we gain, the times when we receive nothing, and the times when obedience costs us dearly — then we will be following God as Christ did, purely, serving only one master.
Call to Action
What is your motive for obeying God's commands? Do you obey because of what you expect to receive as a reward, or do you obey because He is your Maker and it is His right to ask anything of you? How do you respond to commands without a promise? How do you respond to Christ when He asks the utmost of you and offers nothing in return? Do you balk, or do you obey? Pray today for a heart and mind willing to do anything for your God, even if it costs you everything.
Unless noted otherwise, scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.