“I reckon I could use a good barrel.”
This was what Abraham Lincoln shared, referring to how he responded to a poor sojourner and his family who were down on their luck and out of money while traveling out west.
He reached in his pocket and gave the man his last fifty cents.
While for this family, the story may be reflected on as the good will of a store owner in Illinois whom God used to provide their food, Abraham Lincoln may have reflected with a different perspective.
You see, a few minutes before this encounter, Lincoln and his business partner had just resolved that their business venture had to end due to poor business. This experience led the future President to share his dream of going into law and his wish for just one book, Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law. Unfortunately, the circumstances of their failing business would not afford him the resources to buy this book to begin his study.
Abraham Lincoln told the story of him later opening the barrel he had purchased with his last fifty cents in an act of goodwill. Surprisingly, and in the providential work of God, lying in the bottom of that barrel was a copy of Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law! This powerful testament of God’s provision is an example of how God uses ordinary encounters of life to answer prayers and orchestrate His ultimate plan.
In Acts 23:12-35, we read of a similar work of God. While the blind eye may write it off as coincidental, the eyes of faith will read of God using Paul’s nephew, a Roman tribune, and a Roman governor to orchestrate His predetermined plan for Paul to go to Rome. They didn’t know that God was using them in the moment.
You and I can rest in the promise and providence of God, that He is at work around us, even when we cannot see. God uses you and me in His plan, even though we may not know it. The power of walking in rhythm with the Holy Spirit and trusting the all-knowing and all-powerful hand of God is a peaceful life that will ultimately lead us in paths of righteousness.
Take some time to reflect on an example in your life, and share with others how God has used others to provide and to point people to Him. Our response should be one of thankfulness and joy.
Thank you, God, for always providing, leading, and guiding. Forgive me when I doubt and fail to trust. I pray I will always listen, even if I must use my last fifty cents to buy a barrel.
The Holy Bible: Holman Christian standard version. (2009). (Ac 23:12–35). Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.
Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Acts of the Apostles (Vol. 2, p. 213). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
Chung-Kim, E., Hains, T. R., George, T., Manetsch, S. M., & Ellis, B. (Eds.). (2014). Acts: New Testament (Vol. VI, p. 321). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.
Peterson, D. G. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles (p. 621). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Barrett, C. K. (2004). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Acts of the Apostles (p. 1080). Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, p. 388). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Providence. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, pp. 1792–1793). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.