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II. [In ordinary times, use ordinary means]

For the second, we are to know, that where need is, (as the Heathen speaks) there a man may commit himself to the providence of God, & rely upon him[1]. For we have heard, that where the means fail us, God hath yet in store his four prerogatives: therefore, when it comes to a dead lift (as we say) then to have a strong confidence in GOD, is thank-worthy: and it is the practice & property of faith, to say boldly with Abraham when he saw nothing present, that even on the hill God will provide, Gen. 22. 14[2].

When our enemies are behind us, and the Red Sea before us, then to look for a way through the sea, and to expect Manna out of heaven, and water out of the rock, is much worth[3]. So, our Savior, when he and his company were in the desert, where no meat was to be had, fed them miraculous: but being near to the town where they might have it, he dismissed them[4]. When Elijah was in distress, & all meats failed him, then the Angel brought him meat, 1. Kings 19. 6[5]. When Hagar and Ishmael were in the wilderness, and the water in the bottle spent, and she in great heaviness, then GOD comforted her from heaven, Gen. 21.7. When the Israelites were in the deserts, then they had an Angel to lead them, Ex. 23. 20[6]. When Sidrach, Misach and Abednago were cast bound into the fiery furnace then God sent them an Angel to be their deliverer, Dan. 3. 38[7]. And so when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den (not when he put himself in) God sent his Angel to stop the Lions mouths, Dan. 6. 22[8]. When we are deserti in deserto[9], and all means fail, it is time to trust in God, as Jobdid[10].

Our conversation [conduct, not merely speech] therefore must be without covetousness, and we must be content with those things that we have: for he hath said, he will not fail us, nor forsake us, Heb. 13. 5[11]. This [takes] it out of the compass of tempting God, and this is as much as the Psalm could warrant him to look for[12]. Look upon it[13], and you shall see, that it expresses such dangers, as could not be prevented by man’s care & industry, as, from the snare of the hunter, v. 3. who uses to lay it so as we cannot see it to avoid it. Ver. 5. Thou shalt not feare the arrowe that flyeth by daye. An arrow (we know) will reach a man far off before he be aware. And so, throughout the Psalm, they are things out of our defense, therefore they need Angel’s help: but when we have means to help ourselves, God’s omnipotence is for the time discharged[14]. Eutychus that fell out of a window by heaviness of sleep, was restored to life by Paul, Acts 20. 9[15]. This then is Christ’s answer, If there were no stairs, and he must needs go down, it were a good Scripture to meditate on.


When may we look for God to miraculously intervene? When there are ordinary means to solve our trouble, we are to look to ordinary means. If you are sick and there is medical treatment available, look to the medical treatment. But when there are no ordinary means, we may look to God directly. If the medical treatment cannot save us, then we can look to God to save us.

This is good direction: There is a kind of Christian who looks to God to resolve our problems without normal human intervention: I will have money to pay bills without work. I will have health without taking care of my health. And so on. To do this is presume upon God, to “tempt” God.

There is another kind of Christian who will never look to God and will seek to solve all problems around God and without God. This is the temptation to turn stones into bread.

The temptation of the pinnacle offers a good illustration of this: If there are stairs, take the stairs: do not jump. But if you are pushed from the pinnacle, trust in God.

[1] “Where need is”: where there is a lack of something which puts someone in need. When we are truly in a circumstance where we cannot proceed or where we suffer the lack of something, we should properly trust God to care for us. We are to commit ourselves to the providence of God.

[2] When we have exhausted all of the ordinary means, or where there is no ordinary means to resolve our difficulty, it is appropriate to rely upon God to resolve our trouble. The passage referenced concerns God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. The command of God is twice troubling: First, there is the obvious problem of a human sacrifice, particularly of one who is beloved. But with Abraham, the command of God was to destroy the very thing which God had promised Abraham. God promised Abraham as a son. Abraham had waited decades for God to fulfill that promise. And only through Abraham would God fulfill the promises to Abraham of a land and a people. To kill Isaac was for all of God’s promises to apparently fail. However, God provided a substitute for the life of Isaac. “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’” Genesis 22:14 (ESV)

[3] Andrews recounts God’s miraculous deliverance of the Israelites in Exodus. First, Israel was pinned between the Egyptian Army on oneside and the Red Sea on the other. God provided an escape through the Red Sea.  (Ex. 14) Second, in the wilderness, the people ran out of food. God provided “manna” to feed the people. (Ex. 16) Third, when there was no water to be had, God provided water from a rock. (Ex. 17:1-7) From this Andrews concludes: When we have no ordinary means to go ahead, God has the wisdom and power to provide for us miraculously.

[4] For instance, in Matthew 14, the crowd remained with Jesus until the end of the day. Since they were in a “desolate place” (Matt. 14:15), Jesus did not send them away but fed them miraculously

[5] Elijah was in a desolate place and could find nothing to eat. There, God miraculously fed him.

[6] God says to Moses, “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20 (ESV)

[7] The three refused to worship an idol set up by the King of Babylon. For their refusal, they were cast into a “fiery furnace.” They miraculously survived the ordeal. And one “like the son the gods” (Dan. 3:25) was seen in the furnace with them.

[8] Daniel did not look for persecution or trouble. But when persecution found him, God saved him.

[9] Deserted in the desert.

[10] We are to use ordinary means.  But where there are no ordinary means, we are to rely upon God.

[11] We are to be content with what God provides. When God provides ordinary means, we are to be content. When there are no ordinary means to escape, we are to be content knowing that God has not deserted us: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

[12] The promise of the Psalm quoted by the Devil should not be taken as a blanket promise that no difficulty would ever befall Jesus (or us). But rather, a promise that God has the ability in the midst of extraordinary difficulties to provide an extraordinary remedy.

[13] Andrews quotes lines from the Psalm to prove his point. The troubles listed a “snare” and an “arrow” are both things that one might be able to avoid with ordinary means: A snare is unseen and an arrow can shoot you from a place you did not expect. God promises protection for these troubles we cannot avoid by ordinary means. Therefore, an “angel’s help” is offered.

[14] When we have ordinary means, we should not look to God to provide an extraordinary protection.

[15] Eutychus was a young man listening to Paul speak late into the evening. He would have without question have been working all day, the evening being the only time he could be free. Eutychus fell asleep and fell from the window. But God miraculously spared and raised Eutychus.