George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
Our Daily Bread
Give us this day our daily bread--Mat 6:11
Every Harvest Is Prophecy
Once more in the kindly providence of God we have reached the season of the harvest. The reaper has been busy in the fields, and sower and reaper have rejoiced together. Many a day in the past summer season we wondered if the corn would ever ripen. There was such rain, so pitiless and ceaseless. There was such absence of sunshine and of warmth. Yet in spite of everything harvest has arrived, and the fields have been heavy with their happy burden, and in the teeth of clenched antagonisms the promises of God have been fulfilled. Every harvest is a prophecy. It is the shadow of an inward mystery. It cries to us, as with a golden trumpet, "With God all things are possible." And so in days when all the world is dreary, and excellence seems farther off than ever, the wise man will pluck up heart again, as not despairing of his harvest home. Well, now I want to take our text and set it in the light of harvest. I want to look upon our daily bread against the background of the harvest field. A thing seems very different, does it not, according to the light in which you view it? Suppose then that in this light we look for a little at these familiar words.
First then in that light let us think of what the answer to this prayer involves.
The Tiniest Petitions
Now when you read it unimaginatively, this seems an almost trifling petition. It almost looks like an intruder here, and men have often spoken of it so. On the one side of it there is the will of God, reaching out into the height of heaven. On the other side of it there are our sins, reaching down into unfathomed depths. And then, between these two infinities, spanning the distance from cherubim to Satan, there is "Give us this day our daily bread." Our sin runs back to an uncharted past, but in this petition there is no thought of yesterday. The will of God shall be for evermore, but in this petition there is no tomorrow. Give us this day our daily bread--supply us with a little food today--feed us tilt we go to rest tonight. As if a tiny cockleshell should be sailing between two mighty galleons, as if some hill that a child could climb should be set down between two mighty Alps, so seems this prayer for our daily bread between the will of the eternal God, and the cry for pardon for our sins whose roots go down into the depths of hell.
But now suppose you take this prayer and set it in the light of harvest. Give us this day our daily bread--can you tell me what is involved when it is answered? Why, if you but realized it, and caught the infinite range of its relationships, never again would it be insignificant. For all the ministry of spring is in it, and all the warmth and glory of the summer. And night and day, and heat and cold, and frost, and all the falling of the rain. And light that has come from distances unthinkable, and breezes that have blown from far away, and powers of nourishment that for a million years have been preparing in the mother earth. Give us this day our daily bread. Is it a little thing to get a piece of bread? Is it so little that it is out of place here where we are moving in the heights and depths? Not if you set it in the light of harvest, and think that not a crust can be bestowed unless the sun has shone, and the rain fallen, and the earth been quietly busy for millenniums.
I think then there is a lesson here about the greatness of the things we pray for. Our tiniest petitions might seem large, if we only knew what the answer would involve. There are things which you ask for which seem little things. They are peculiar and personal and private. They are not plainly vast like some petitions, as when we pray for the conversion of the world. Yet could you follow out that prayer of yours, that little private prayer, you might find it calling for the power of heaven as mightily as the conversion of the nations. "Thou art coming to a King, large petitions with thee bring." Only remember that a large petition is not always measured by the compass of it. It may be small and yet it may be large. It may be trifling and be tremendous, for all the days beyond recall may somehow be implicated in the answer. You are lonely, and you pray to God that He would send a friend into your life. And then some day to you there comes that friend, perhaps in the most casual of meetings. Yet who shall tell the countless prearrangements, before there was that footfall on the threshold which has made all the difference in the world to you? Give us this day our daily bread, and the sunshine and the storm are in the answer. Give us a friend, and perhaps there was no answer saving for omniscience and omnipotence. Now we know in part and see in part, but when we know even as we are known we shall discover all that was involved in the answer to our humblest prayers.
The Toil It Cost
In the second place, in the light of harvest think of the toil that lies behind the gift.
There are some gifts which we shall always value because of the love which has suggested them. There are others which mean much to us because of the thoughtfulness which they reveal. But now and then a gift is given us which touches us in a peculiar way, because we recognize the toil it cost. It may be given us by a child perhaps, or it may be given us by some poor woman. And it is not beautiful, nor is it costly, nor would it fetch a shilling in the market. And yet to us who know the story of it, and how the hands were busied in the making, it may be beautiful as any diadem. It was not purchased with an easy purse. The purses that I am thinking of are lean. It was not ordered from a foreign market. Love is not fond of trafficking in markets. In that small workshop where your boy is busy, in that small room where the poor sufferer lives, it was designed and fashioned and completed. Such gifts are often sorry to the eye. Such gifts are never sorry to the heart. Poor may they be and insignificant, yet never to us can they be insignificant. We know what they have cost, and knowing that we recognize an unsuspected value. We know the toil that is behind the gift.
I want you then to take that thought and to apply it to your daily bread. It is a gift, and yet behind that gift do you remember all the toil there is? I could understand a man despising manna, even though manna was the bread of angels. It came so easily, and was so lightly gotten, and was so lavishly and freely given. But daily bread is more divine than manna, for it like manna is the gift of heaven, and yet we get it not till arms are weary and sweat has broken on the human brow. I think of the ploughman with his steaming horses driving his furrow in the heavy field. I think of the sower going forth to sow. I think of the stir and movement of the harvest. I think of the clanking of the threshing mill, and of the dusty grinding of the corn, and of all those who in our bakeries are toiling in the night when we are sleeping. Give us this day our daily bread--then it is a gift, that daily bread. It comes to us from God, in His great bounty, and in His compassion for His hungry children. And yet it does not always come through an opened heaven, But more often than not, it comes through the sweat and labor of humanity, through men and women who are often weary after bearing the heat and burden of the day.
And is it not generally in such ways that our most precious gifts are given us? Every good and perfect gift is from above, yet is there something of heart-blood on them all. A noble painting is a precious gift. It is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Look at it, how calm and beautiful it is. There is not a trace of struggle in its beauty. But had you lived in communion with the artist, and had you been with him when he was painting that, what strain and agony you would have seen! So is it with every noble poem; so with our civil and religious liberty. They are all gifts to us; they come from God; they are ours to cherish and enjoy. Yet every one of them is wet with tears, and charactered with human toil and pain, and oftentimes, like the Messiah's garment, dipped in the final ministry of blood. Into that fellowship of lofty gifts I want you, then, to put your daily bread. It is not little, nor is it insignificant when you remember all that lies behind it. And do you not wonder now to find it here between the will of God and our transgressions, though the one rises to the height of glory and the other tangles in the pit of hell.
By Lowly Hands
Lastly, in the light of harvest think of the hands through which the gift is given. Give us this day our daily bread we pray, and then through certain hands it is bestowed. Whose hands? Are they the hands of God? "No man hath seen God at any time." Are they, then, the hands of the illustrious, or of those whose names are famous in the world? All of you know as well as I do that it is not thus our bread is ministered; it reaches us by the hands of lowly men. Out of his cottage does the reaper come, and back to his cottage does he go at evening. And we halt a moment, and we watch him toiling under the autumn sunshine in the field. But what his name is, or where he had his birth, or what are his hopes and what his tragedies, of that we know absolutely nothing. So was it with the sower in the spring. So is it with the harvester in autumn. They have no chronicle, nor any luster, nor any greatness in the eyes of man. And what I want you to realize is this, that when God answers this universal prayer it is such hands as these that he employs. Once in Scotland we had a different case. We had a genius at the plough. And he saw visions there and he dreamed dreams until his field was as a lawn of paradise. But for that one, who has his crown of amaranth, are there not tens of thousands who are nameless, toiling, sorrowing, rejoicing, dying, and never raising a ripple on the sea? Give us this day our daily bread--it is by such hands that the prayer is answered. It is by these that the Almighty Father shows that He is hearkening to His children. It is His recognition of obscurity, and of lives that are uncheered by human voices, and of days that pass in silence and in shadow into the silence and shadow of the grave.
Now have you ever quietly thought of what we owe to ministries like that? One of the deepest debts we owe is to those who are sleeping in unregarded graves. It is not the rare flower which makes the meadow beautiful. It is the flower that blossoms by the thousand there. It is not the aurora which gives the sky its glory. It is the radiance of the common day. And so with life; perhaps we shall never know how it is beautified and raised and glorified by those who toil in undistinguished fashion. Such men may never write great poems, but it is they who make great poems possible. Such may never do heroic things, but they are the soil in which the seed is sown. Such men will not redeem the world. It takes the incarnate Son of God for that. But they--the peasants and the fishermen--will carry forth the music to humanity. Give us this day our daily bread. Are there not multitudes who are praying so? And you, you have no genius, no gifts? You are an obscure and ordinary person ? But if there is any meaning in our text, set in the light of sowing and of harvest, it is that the answer to that daily prayer will be vouchsafed through lowly folk like you.
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