In Exodus 16, we find the children of Israel in the wilderness. They have been freed from the Pharaoh’s grasp in Egypt and are on their way to the Promised Land. When they first set out, they think of traveling by way of the Mediterranean Sea, the quick route, which will take them about a month. Woo hoo! They will be there before you know it.
But then they discover that that’s not the route in which God wants to lead them. They have to take the long way around. Through the wilderness. No, this trip won’t be an easy one.
Have you ever set out for your favorite vacation spot an hour behind schedule, encounter a flat tire, too many needed potty breaks, speed traps, heavy rains, fluctuating speed limits that slow you down to 35mph in small towns, 18-wheelers everywhere that you have to dodge…? You know what I’m talking about, right?
Well, I guess we could compare that to the journey the Israelites had to face. Except their journey was IN THE WILDERNESS and not in the comfort of a four-wheeled automobile.
So here they are traveling along, hot, sweaty, tired, with sore feet and sore backs. And they are hungry. Starving! They are sure they will never eat again. They start griping and complaining to Moses and Aaron and they even have the audacity to say that life was better while enslaved.
I don’t know about you but when I’m hungry I turn mean. I need some protein or I can’t think straight. And when I have a bare pantry and I think my family is going to go hungry, well, then I become downright despondent.
Well, God heard their cries. He knew that in their humanness they could only take so much before their heads would explode and they tucked their tails and ran right back to Egypt. At that moment, he told Moses that he would provide exactly what they needed.
Exodus 16:4-5 says: 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. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
God hears our cries, too!
God delivered their food onto the ground for them and all they had to do was go pick it up. But only enough for that day. On the sixth day they gathered enough for the seventh day, the Sabbath, because they were not supposed to work on that day.
Here’s the kicker. Manna spoils. That’s why God only gave them what they needed for that day. The day before the Sabbath, He gave them what they would need to carry them through until after the Sabbath, when they could pick up fresh manna from the ground.
I don’t know about you but I don’t like to wait for things. It’s not because I’m greedy. I think maybe it has a little to do with fear. I want to hoard all the food and money I can so I won’t be caught without it. Isn’t that what we learn in our churches these days? We must have our emergency fund and our apocalyptic shelves of food ready.
A little storing for the future isn’t bad. You see in the story of Joseph where he prepared for the upcoming famine by storing the food that his nation would need.
But here in Exodus, God wants to teach his children that he will provide for them daily. He knows that if he lets them take the short route to the Promised Land and if he lets them have all the food they want, they will stop trusting in him. They will think it is by their own power and might that they have survived.
I’m learning every day to be thankful for what God gives us and for what he makes us wait.
To not panic when we have $4.00 in the checking account.
To not freak out when the last potato has been mashed.
To be okay when the email I’m looking for, which proclaims my next successful step in my writing journey, doesn’t come.
All of those things will come when God knows we are ready to handle them. He provides just the right amount of food to keep us going, yet keeps us hungering for more. And I’m perfectly fine with waiting for these things and with having a bit of a growl in my spiritual and physical stomachs because I don’t have room in my house or my heart for a bunch of spoiled manna.