The more I read about the adventures (and misadventures) of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, the more I see myself reflected in their attitudes and actions! Actually this is supposed to happen; 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us“.
One episode in particular has made a real impression upon me – the story of the manna in Exodus 16 (Here is a quick summary in case it’s not familiar to you.)
The Israelites are travelling through the wilderness on a lengthy journey to their new home. God has demonstrated his power repeatedly and promised to provide for them and lead them. But they remain suspicious of God’s power and motivations, and quickly lose faith in the face of hardship. They panic because they don’t know where they will get food from in the desert. They grumble:
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. Exodus 16:3-4a
So God graciously provides mysterious bread that appears on the ground each morning. They are instructed to collect as much as they need one day at a time. . .
But many of them do not trust that God will continue to provide bread, and so they try to store extra manna for the future. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t go well. God is explicit about his provision. His people need to trust him day by day to provide. And he does. Every day. They will have all the food that they need for what turns out to be 40 years in the desert.
Manna, Day By Day
I am often just like the Israelites. I want to trust in God’s provision, but I also want to hedge my bets by trying to provide for myself as well. I want God to provide all the resources I need for the future instantly (so that I can stop trusting him and start trusting in visible tangible resources.)
How foolish and how insulting! This amounts to a refusal to live by faith. And when I live this way I exchange all the calm and rest that could be mine, for peering worriedly at my dwindling resources (of strength, wisdom, finances etc.) when I could simply trust that when I wake up tomorrow there will be fresh manna, just like there was this morning.
To get this into my head and heart I’ve started praying in these terms when I’m worried or stressed. “Lord, I don’t know where I’m going to get the resources for X tomorrow, please provide the manna that I need, just as you have graciously provided today.”
This is what it means to trust in our good God, to believe that he will provide for us.
I wanted to stop writing here – but there is another vital angle that I mustn’t neglect. . .
When Hunger Strikes
God is our King and not our servant, and his plans for us are not always in line with our plans for ourselves. Moses reminds the Israelites (and us) of this in Deuteronomy 8, when he reflects on their wilderness experience, saying:
“ He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna. . . to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.”
I mention this because it’s important for us to understand that sometimes there is a purpose in our hunger or lack. God may allow us to ‘hunger for bread’ for a time, to train us, to test us, that we might grow in faith and likeness to Christ. He wants us to hunger for more than our immediate needs. He wants us to long for him because he is ultimately who and what we truly need! [I write more fully about this passage here]
I don’t say this lightly,I know that an acute need for anything can be terrifying when God seems silent!
Yet the Bible illustrates powerfully and repeatedly that we can trust the God who is sovereign over our wants and needs. As I often quote on this blog: He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
Let’s trust him for manna, both physical and spiritual.