Jesus Saves... Leftovers

Scripture: Deuteronomy 26:1-2, Deuteronomy 26:10, 1 Corinthians 4:13
Date: 11/26/2011 
We are called to bring Jesus our best and not our leftovers.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Good morning! I trust that you folks this week have thought about your blessings and all that we have to be thankful for. Now, when we come together during the Sabbath immediately following Thanksgiving, in some ways it may seem a little bit anticlimactic because the Thanksgiving feast is over. So I was praying about what I might say, and I thought, “It would certainly be relevant if I talk about leftovers at this time,” so hence the title of today’s message, “Jesus Saves Leftovers.”

I was surprised as I delved into the Scriptures how many examples there are of this truth. We’re going to look at some of those and see if we can glean some spiritual lessons along the way. We’re all thankful for many blessings, and we all have Thanksgiving blessings, and I trust that some of you have thought about some of the things. It’s not that once a year we decide we’re going to be thankful, but at least once a year it reminds us to be thankful all through the year for all the good that God has given us.

A mother trying to educate her son said, “Do you understand the meaning of Thanksgiving?” He said, “Yes, it’s when we’re supposed to start our Christmas shopping.” So as time goes by, it seems like sometimes we forget what all of that is about.

When you say “leftovers,” people have mixed feelings about leftovers. Sometimes they have a negative connotation. If I say, “There’s a little leftover cake,” it doesn’t seem to bother anybody because sugar will preserve things pretty well. Leftovers left over too long can be a bad thing. I remember hearing about some women that were visiting together, and they were grousing a little bit that their husbands always complained whenever they got any leftovers. One of these ladies said, “You don’t understand. My husband’s a TV producer, and he always refers to them as ‘reruns’—‘Are we having reruns?’” And the other lady said, “Well, my husband works in a factory in quality control, and he says, ‘What? Rejects tonight? We have rejects.’” And the third lady said, “You don’t have anything to complain about. My husband’s a mortician. He says, “Are we having remains tonight?”

Leftovers aren’t so bad. I’ve had some really good leftovers before, and we’ll probably have some this week before it’s over. But when we think about the leftovers, in Bible times, it could mean life and death if you had something left over. In preparing for this, I remembered that verse that said (Ecclesiastes 3:6) there is “a time to keep, and [there is] a time to throw away.”

The pastor who baptized me, his wife was cleaning dishes one day, and there were a little leftovers from the meal, and she was nibbling on the leftovers, and she quoted a little quip that I thought was cute. I guess it’s an old one. She said, “Too little to save, too much to dump, that’s what makes a housewife plump.” She said, “I don’t want to put it away, and I don’t want to throw it away, so I’d better eat it.” But there’s a limit to what you want to save as leftovers.

I also want to add, before I go any farther with the message, when we talk about leftovers, we’re not suggesting that we give God leftovers, because actually there’s a Bible principle called the firstfruits, the offering of firstfruits. When we love the Lord, we’re supposed to provide the best and the first for the Lord. Let me read you a few verses on that.

Exodus 23:19, “The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.” It was to be the first of the land and their flocks—they came to the Lord—not the last.

Again, Deuteronomy 26. You can read several verses here in Deuteronomy 26. I’m going to read verses 1 and 2 and then verse 10. “And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.” In other words, wherever He was, to set the temple. They’re still in the wilderness when He gives them this law. They didn’t know where they were going to build the temple yet. He said, “Wherever that place is, you bring of the firstfruits of your land.” Go to verse 10. When they would bring it, they’d then proclaim, “‘And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’ Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship … the Lord your God.”

We are to bring the Lord our firstfruits, not our leftovers. Now, I’m not talking about that there’s anything wrong with having a goodwill ministry where we give extra clothing or if we have extra food. We often share things at Thanksgiving. But when it comes to bringing your offerings to the Lord, it should be calculated that you give Him of the first. It’s not like we then pay all of our bills, and if we have anything left over for the Lord we’ll make an offering. If you want the Lord to bless your leftovers, you need to give Him your firstfruits, which is in the next story, leftovers from firstfruits.

This comes to us from 2 Kings 4:42-44. This is an experience of Elisha the prophet, and it was during a time of famine. But even during this time of famine, someone brought their firstfruits to Elisha. He was the only prophet of God in the northern kingdom. The southern kingdom, they brought it to the temple. The northern kingdom didn’t go to the temple. They’d been separated. So they brought it to Elisha the prophet. “Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought the man of God [Elisha] bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread.” Barley bread came in little round loaves that were pretty humble, a little bigger than a hamburger bun in diameter, not as thick as a hamburger bun, just little tortilla chapatis. They weren’t very big. “And [some] newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And [Elisha] said [to him], ‘Give it to the people, that they may eat.’

“But his servant said, ‘What? Shall I set [these twenty loaves] before one hundred men?’

“He said again, ‘Give it to the people, that they may eat; for thus says the Lord: “They shall eat and have some left over.”’ So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.”

Here’s the principle, friends. If you want the Lord to bless you with leftovers at the end of your month (sometimes you have more month than you have paycheck, and there’s nothing left over), if you want the Lord to bless so that you have something left over, then make sure you don’t give God leftovers. Bring Him the firstfruits, and He will bless and provide something left over.

Sometimes our survival depends on leftovers. Have you ever thought about that, living on leftovers? You have an example of that in the book of 1 Kings with Elijah, similar to the miracle of Elisha. 1 Kings 17:14. Finally Elijah is told to leave the brook because the brook dries up, and He says, “There is a widow near Zarephath. I have commanded her to feed you.” He knew it, but she didn’t know it yet. So Elijah is outside the town, and he encounters her. She comes out to gather sticks, and she’s going to prepare her last meal for her and her son. There’s still a little water left in the well in the town, but there’s no food. And Elijah says, “Can you bring me a drink of water?” She goes to bring him a drink of water, and as she’s going, he says, “And can you also bring me a cake of bread?” A cake means a little one; it’s not like a loaf—just a little handful of bread.

At that point she stops, exasperated, and says, “Oh, man of God” (she could tell from his attire he was one of the prophets of Israel), “Oh, man of God, I have nothing at home but a handful of flour at the bottom of the barrel and a little bit of oil in a vessel.”

And he said, “You do as I have said. You make me a loaf first” (remember what I said about putting God first?), “and see if God doesn’t bless you so you’re able to survive as long as you need on what’s left.” You can read it here. He said (1 Kings 17:14 [KJV]), “For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal,” of flour, “shall not waste,” it will not go away, “neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.” It was probably another year. “And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house,” not only her son, her whole household—she may have had servants, “did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake by Elijah.”

How many of you would like to have a cupboard like that, where there’s always something there? You know why there was always something there? Because she had “My God is Jehovah” in her house, when everyone else was dying of famine, because she had Elijah, the man of God, in her house—that’s a type of Christ—in her home, she ate. King David said, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread,” and if we seek first the kingdom of God, and if we always have a place for God in our hearts, will He sustain us? Not only with physical food, but will He provide for us spiritually what we need, until He sends those showers of blessing, that latter rain? So they were sustained through all this.

As a matter of fact, none of us would be here today if it wasn’t for leftovers. How did Noah survive? Think about that. They were eating sea biscuits for a long time on that boat. How long did it rain? Forty days and forty nights. But how long were they on the boat? Nearly, just under, a year. So they were having to eat these… Can you imagine after about nine months what that food started tasting like? Have you ever read any stories of some of these explorers and English sailors and conquistadors, after they’d been at sea for about four months, what their water barrel looked like, and there always seemed to be rats on the boat that somehow got into their stores, and it was pretty bleak. Can you imagine being on a boat with not just two rats, but you’re on a boat with two rats, two rabbits, two beavers and two giraffes and two elephants, and you have to feed all of them? And everybody’s living on leftovers for a year. Genesis 6:21 [KJV], “And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.” Noah had to think ahead and store away some food, because they were going to have to survive on those leftovers the whole time they were on the boat.

I have a couple of stories here that illustrate this point, but I believe it’s true that we need to be storing away food now, the bread of life, to help us get through a time of famine.

Have you ever felt like leftovers? Now there’s a switch in theme. Remember our sermon title, “Jesus Saves Leftovers”? Have you ever felt like leftovers? How many of you ever stood on the sidelines when teams were being picked, but you maybe were not really good at soccer or basketball or dodge ball or whatever it was, and you’re saying, “Pick me, pick me, pick me!” And all of a sudden everybody’s picked and you either don’t get picked, or you’re picked last, and you know what that means. I was that way when it came to basketball, because I was even shorter then than I am now, and I felt like leftovers. Or maybe you’ve watched as all your friends got jobs and you still didn’t get one after high school or college. Your friends got married, and you didn’t, and there might be some area in your life where it seemed like everyone’s getting ahead and you’re getting left behind. People are progressing spiritually, and you’re still struggling with the same problems, and you start feeling like leftovers.

Paul says that Christians are always going to sort of have that sensation. Compared to the world, we are like the castoffs. 1 Corinthians 4:13 [KJV], “Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” Actually, Paul was quoting Jeremiah. In Lamentations 3:45 [KJV], he said, “Thou hast made us as the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people.” But, good news is Jesus saves leftovers, and my next story bears this out.

Jesus was going through the coasts of Tyre and Sidon, and He was ministering right to the edges of where the territory of Israel was, and a lady who was not an Israelite, who had heard about Him being in the area (someone had told her, evidently, about Christ), had a daughter that was terribly vexed by a devil, knew that Jesus could heal. She came to where Jesus was and began to follow after Him and His disciples saying, “Have mercy on me! Please heal my daughter.” And He ignored her; didn’t say a word to her. This seemed very out of character for Jesus.

Sometimes Jesus made people wait. Even Bartimaeus cried out a long time before He was finally called. Sometimes the Lord will test your persistence, and He wants you to pray, ask and ask and ask, like that persistent widow. Keep praying. Jesus might test. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t love, it means He’s trying to grow your faith.

The disciples, finally, amazed at how Jesus was not saying anything, said, “Say something to her. Just send her off. She’s following us. It makes a spectacle.” Finally He stopped, and He said to the woman (Matthew 15:25-28 [KJV]), “It is not meet,” it’s not appropriate, “to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.” How would you feel if Jesus said, “Look, I’ve come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. God has made a covenant with Israel. There is no covenant with the Gentiles. It’s not appropriate. We have no contract with you folks, no obligation. Please leave us alone”? That’s exactly what the disciples and the religious leaders of the day would have expected Jesus to say or would have expected one of the Pharisees to say. Christ was trying to show them how they sounded.

But you know what? As soon as she heard Jesus stop and talk to her, her hope rose. When He was ignoring her, it looked hopeless. As soon as He engaged her, she thought, “He’s willing to talk about it. There’s hope if He’ll dialogue with me.” So He started to talk to her, and at that point she said, “There’s hope!” and she threw herself down at His feet to worship Him, because now He’s at least talking to her.

“And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs.” Can I get a doggie bag? Do you have anything for me? “The dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

You think about the Lord. You might think, “He doesn’t owe me anything.” But God even gives leftover blessings to people who maybe don’t deserve it, who maybe really don’t have any right. How many times has God blessed you when you weren’t even praying, you didn’t deserve it, but He brought you something home?

God’s plan was Isaac, not Ishmael, but did God have a blessing left over for Ishmael? He did. And when Esau came in late, and Isaac had given the blessing to Jacob, he said, “Don’t you have any leftover blessing for me?” Did He bless Esau? He did. That means there’s something for everybody. If the Lord says, “I am so longsuffering and loving and merciful and good that I even have leftover blessings, even if you don’t deserve it.” He shows love sometimes by leaving leftovers for us. You know the laws of gleaning that you find in the Bible? They had a law in Leviticus, gleaning leftovers. Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly”—don’t thoroughly, meticulously, fastidiously—“reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger,” and then He punctuates that by saying, “I am the Lord.” In other words, “I’m God. I’ll take care of you. Don’t harvest every single grape. Do not pick up every single sheaf or sprig of wheat. Leave something for others. Don’t take it all for yourself. Don’t be greedy,” God is saying. “I’ll provide for you. Trust Me. I am the Lord.” This is a command.

With that in mind, you go to the book of Ruth. Another famine. Leftovers are really important after a famine. As a matter of fact, Naomi had to leave because of the famine. You know the story. She comes back to Bethlehem. Interesting that there had been a famine in Bethlehem. Bethlehem means “house of bread.” A famine in the house of bread. That’s a paradox! So finally the famine was ending, and they were getting the first harvest in, which was a harvest of barley, not quite as nice as the harvest of wheat. They used barley a lot for the cattle. Naomi is a little older, and Ruth goes out, and they used to glean.

So Boaz saw this Moabite woman. She may have been attractive, too. I’d like to think so. Ruth is my mother’s name. He says, “You glean in my field after our reapers.” Whatever the reapers dropped, the gleaners could pick up—the poor could pick up. They were not to go into the fields and take things before the harvest, but once they began harvesting, whatever lay left behind was fair game, and that’s why they were told, “Don’t go into the little corners.” Have you ever seen these farms from the air where these tractors drive? They always have kind of rounded corners, because it’s hard to turn a tractor around and back up to the corner and get it all square. Some of them can’t harvest them that way.

“Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, ‘Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece … in the vinegar.” He said, “You can eat with our harvesters.” “So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her.” They used to kind of just fry some grain and eat it. “And she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, ‘Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her,’” and I love this, “‘Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her.’” I’d like to have seen a video of how the reapers did that. They’d try to act like they’re clumsy because they have these poor back there, and Boaz said, “I don’t want that Moabite lady there going home hungry, so let a little extra purposely fall so that she has something to pick up.”

You realize that Boaz became an ancestor of Jesus. He’s sort of a type of Christ. His name means “strength.” He becomes the redeemer in this story. Boaz redeems Ruth in the family. He’s in the house of Bethlehem. And he says, “Make sure and leave something for her.” How many times has the Lord let something fall off the wagon so you had something to pick up, or had the reapers drop something? “Let grain … fall purposely for her … that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”

Then later, the other that she had kept, you can read in Ruth 2:18, “She took it up and went into the city,” and she said to her mother-in-law Naomi—she showed what she had gleaned, and they’re just praising the Lord because they had so much, it was like their own little harvest. “So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back.” When Ruth was eating there… If you were helping the harvesters, you got to eat lunch, and they gave her some parched grain. Remember we just read that? And it says she kept some back. Who was she thinking of when she kept some back? She thought, “Naomi is going to be hungry. I’m going to keep some back for her,” and so she brought her a doggie bag, so to speak, and she “gave … her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.” When you eat in the house of Jesus, are you satisfied?

The children of Israel experienced leftover miracles for 40 years when they were going through the wilderness. Manna was perishable, wasn’t it? Every day, when they went through six days a week, and they collected the manna that would rain from heaven in the morning, it would be miraculously preserved one day a week. If they tried to keep it over during the regular weekdays, what happened? It would breed worms, and it “stunketh.” I like the King James, “it stinketh.” It was rancid; they could not eat it; except, a miracle happened on Fridays. On Fridays they’d gather twice as much, and they would bake it, and somehow the leftovers were good on Sabbath. They were still fresh, and it tasted like angel food, which means that God can bless leftovers, can’t He? So I hope you always say prayer over your leftovers when you eat. But you know what I’m talking about. It’s more than that. It’s the leftover bread, talking about the Word of God. It’s the leftover oil, the Holy Spirit.

There was one day in the week when they weren’t to go out and gather. They were to live off what they had saved. Did I just remind you a minute ago when we talked about Noah? The day is coming where we’re going to have to live on blessed leftovers. But the ones who had blessed leftovers on Sabbath had to be out gathering it on Friday. If we’re ever put in prison for our faith, are called before the world to give a reason for our hope, have you stored away enough where the Holy Spirit will be able to recall something? You can’t go gather it then. We need to be storing away that Word of God.

Maybe I could also end with this point, then. God saves leftovers. There’s a people in the last days, and they are the leftovers. They’re called the remnant. Revelation 12:17, “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant,” the leftovers, “of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.” This is really an encouraging verse.

It’s also a very sad verse. A leftover means a remainder, a remaining piece of fabric, where the rest has been used, a surviving trace or vestige, or a surviving group of people. The fact that the ones who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus are the leftovers in the last days is pretty sad. That means the main course is all gone. But God is going to have a people. When God saved Noah, Noah and his family were the leftovers of a whole race of people that were gone. That was all that was left, eight people. When the children of Israel came out of Babylon, 10 tribes were gone. Most of Judah was gone, but a remnant, some leftovers, came straggling back because they had faith, and they rebuilt the temple of God. Even in the time of Jesus, out of the whole nation, it was only a remnant that accepted Christ.

Then you can see through the great church that grew, a remnant came out and began the Protestant Reformation. And here we are in the last days. There is going to be a remainder. There is going to be a group of leftovers that are faithful, that are blessed, that the Lord is watching over and protecting, and He’s going to save them, because Jesus saves leftovers. He cares about leftovers, doesn’t He? Do you think He wants to save you?

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