What Does It Mean That God Is My Portion?

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What Does It Mean That God Is My Portion?

Portion.

That’s not a word that we use much these days. When I think of portion, I think of eating. We mostly hear it in the context of dieting. To have portion control, means that you make sure that you do not eat more than your allotted amount.

So, what does it mean then to say that “God is my portion”? And how does knowing this impact our spiritual health?

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What Does It Mean That God Is My Portion?

Bible on a plate turned to Daniel

To understand what it means that God is my portion, it is first helpful to understand the concept of a portion. The concept of a portion comes from the judicial system in allotting inheritance and land. In Luke 15:12 when the prodigal son tells his father, “give me the share of the property” he is asking for his “portion.”

Imagine that a family of five has a pot of stew. You could divide the stew into 5 equal shares — and that would be the portion for each person. We all get one 12 oz bowl. Or, the family might realize that the father needs a bit more to sustain him than a 12 oz bowl, and the 6-year-old girl needs a little less. In such a case dad’s portion might be 18oz and his little girl might only get 6oz.

Now, extend this to land or other property. It was typical for the eldest child to get 2/3 of a share. In other words, if you had 12 acres and two sons it wouldn’t be divided as an equal 6 acres. It would be 8 acres for the eldest son and 4 acres for the youngest.

But think about how important this inheritance/portion would have been to an ancient Israelite. It was their future. It would become to them as the Ring is to Gollum in “Lord of the Rings.” You would guard it. Your standing in society would often be determined by how much of a portion you would have. It became attached to your identity.

Thus, the concept of a portion also began to take upon a meaning akin to “treasured possession.” And for the Levites, they did not get a tribal territory like the other tribes. But it was said that the Lord was their portion. From this in Numbers 18:20, grew the concept of the Lord being the portion of someone.

For the Lord to be our portion it means that He is our inheritance. He is our treasure. He is that which we are allotted.

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Where Do We See This Phrase in Scripture?

The Bible opened to Psalms

We can see early on in Genesis the concept of a portion as an inheritance. In Genesis 14:24, Abraham uses the phrase to refer to spoils of war. In Genesis 31:14, Rachel and Leah speak of a “portion or inheritance” left to them in their father’s house. And in Numbers we see this phrase used often at the doling out of land. In Numbers 18:20 we read, though, that the LORD is the portion for the Levites.

The psalmists loved to used this phrase.

In Psalm 16:5 David says, “The Lord is my chosen portion.” When he says that “the lines have fallen for me in pleasant places” he is not talking primarily of physical land that has been granted to him, but rather that he is satisfied in the Lord.

In Psalm 73, Asaph bemoans the present prosperity of the wicked. It seems as if the curses and blessings are the opposite of what was promised in Deuteronomy. The wicked seem to be blessed and the righteous, like Asaph, are living out the curses. He becomes bitter – “a brute,” he says.

But when he goes into the sanctuary of God he begins to see with a new set of eyes. The life is all that the wicked will have. The fleeting pleasures and treasures are then contrasted with the eternal reward of God Himself. This is why in Psalm 73:26 Asaph says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” He is the treasure that will never fade.

Psalm 142:5 and Lamentations 3:24 are set against the backdrop of pain. In Lamentations it is the difficulty of exile. Things are horrible, but David and Jeremiah remark that they will hope in the Lord. He is their portion. He is the inheritance. And because this great inheritance is awaiting them it gives them hope to walk through present difficulties.

It is words like this that motivated John Newton to share an illustration such as this one:

“Suppose a man was going to New York to take possession of a large estate, and his [carriage] should break down a mile before he got to the city, which obliged him to walk the rest of the way; what a fool we should think him, if we saw him ringing his hands, and blubbering out all the remaining mile, “My [carriage] is broken! My [carriage] is broken!”

The New Testament continues with these promises. The inheritance of Israel was linked to the Promised Land. And the Promised Land was linked to God’s presence in the Garden of Eden. It is this rest which the entire story of the New Testament is driving towards. And we see that through Christ we indeed have this inheritance.

1 Peter 1:4 reminds us that we have a hope that will never perish, spoil, or fade. And Ephesians reminds us that in Christ we have all these riches stored up for us. In Christ, we have all the blessings. The Lord has made Himself our portion.

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Is God Really Enough to Sustain Us?

man praying with folded hands on top of bible

The psalmist, Jeremiah in Lamentations, and so many other biblical witnesses believed and taught that the Lord was enough to sustain them. Is that true? Can we say that when people do not have physical food or water? What does it mean for God to be their portion when the “portion” of food they have is meager?

My words carry far less weight than those of the suffering sojourner in 1 Peter 1:4. There he answers these questions for us. He reminds these suffering people that in Christ they have been “born again…to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.”

Everything under the sun can be described by these words, “perishing, defiled, and fading.” That’s really what Solomon found in Ecclesiastes. Everything under the sun — if viewed as the end all be all — is meaningless. It doesn’t last. Throw yourself into money and acquire a ton of wealth — you have no idea what your kids will do with it. Give yourself to knowledge — it dies with you. Give yourself to power — people don’t realize you even existed in 200 years…much less do they serve you. Your world is perishing, defiled, and fading.

If you leave an expensive steak out on your counter next to an inexpensive “steak” that you eat in a TV dinner, within a few weeks they will be very similar. They will perish and fade. Maggots will take over your lunch. That is the nature of the world in which we live.

We also saw with COVID-19 not only how inner-connected our world is, but also how fragile we all really are. I also have friends living in Germany who are refugees as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In one day, they lost almost everything. The fragility of life and possessions was quickly made apparent to them.

This is true of all of us, though. You can work really hard at your job but there are always things outside your control. You can do a great job of saving money and building yourself a wonderful house but at the end of the day you don’t get to decide if/when your house burns to the ground.

But that insecurity is not something that marks this inheritance. It is “kept in heaven for you.” And this is what sustains us in the here and now, and God Himself someday will fully and totally bring satisfaction to our souls.

Back to that Ukrainian couple I mentioned. They aren’t merely refugees. They’ve become missionaries. They were able to see God move hundreds of other refugees to them that they were able to minister to in this difficult season. They are seeing God’s sustaining of them in this season. And they will say with firm conviction that God is enough. God is their portion, and this is all they truly need. Sometimes it takes suffering as a sojourner to see this reality.

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What Does This Look Like in Our Day-to-Day Lives?

Woman thinking in coffee shop

I think about my own life as one of those plates with all the divided sections. You can have your meat in one section, the veggies in another (yuck!), a bread in one section, a place for your drink, and a tiny square for your dessert. If you’re dieting a plate like this can be helpful. Each section is your portion for that food group. You can’t extend beyond its borders.

You have to learn to be content with the amount of meat allotted for that day. And you have to learn to enjoy a smaller portion of the sweets than what you might desire.

But really this analogy doesn’t stretch over to thinking about the LORD as our portion. A dieting portion of strawberry cheesecake will always leave you wanting more. This is not the case with the LORD. We are satisfied in Him.

It’s also not a good analogy because we do not do well to think of God as one of our portions among many. God is the whole plate. He is our all.

So, what does this look like on a day-to-day basis? It looks like reminding ourselves of this truth. At the end of the day, the LORD is my portion. He is what I am allotted. He is the inheritance. He is the treasure. Everything else is enjoyed in the context of a gift from Him. I own nothing. It’s all His.

And He is enough.

When we come to grips with this, we find out that there are many things we call “needs” that aren’t really needs. Our one true need is God Himself.

Source
Richard Cecil, Memoirs of the Rev. John Newton, in The Works of the Rev. John Newton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985), 1:107.

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Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake.