Such a Short Time (15:22; 16:1)
You pull out of the drive way on a family vacation and the kids ask, “Are we there yet? How much longer? I’d rather play with the neighbor. I forgot my favorite hat (crying).” That is a small taste of what Moses experienced. Three days into their journey of freedom and Israel was grumbling. 45 days into the journey and they were saying they’d have rather died in Egypt.
It is not just gravity that makes it a short trip from mountain top to valley. Depravity and frail humanity also contribute. After Israel’s first grumbling, God revealed himself as “the Lord, your healer (Exodus 15:26).” Yet hunger shriveled their trust almost as quickly as thirst (not that I am writing with “stone-casting” tone).
Reflection: It is passages like these that make I Corinthians 10:12 come to light (“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”) and approach I Corinthians 10:13 with humility (“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”). Knowing our nature (sinful flesh and frail, finite humanity) let us give thanks for the God who patiently walked with Israel after the Exodus.
That I May Test Them (16:4)
[Side Note: Is it a sign of the times that I initially typed, “That I may text them”?]
This phrase of God testing Israel shows up several times in the book of Exodus (15:25; 16:4; 20:20). We know that God does not tempt (James 1:13). So what are we to make of this and how/when might God relate to us in a similar way?
It is worth noting that each of these “testings” has to do with the expression of faith not the committing of sin (i.e., would they only gather a days portion of manna vs. would they steal food from their neighbor). God was putting Israel in a position to reveal their level of trust and commitment to the Lord. We must take omitted righteousness and missed opportunities to share/express faith as seriously as we do moral violations.
Reflection: Another question is, “Who was the test for? Who needed to see the results?” With a bit of reflection we can easily see it was not the omniscient God who needed to see the results. It was Israel. After each deliverance they surely thought, “We won’t doubt God again.” As you begin to take opportunities for faith as seriously as sin, do not regard them as a pass fail test, but as a thermometer to gain an accurate self-assessment of your current temperature with God.
The Manna Lesson
What was the most challenging part of gathering manna? It wasn’t rare like truffles; it didn’t have briars like blackberries; it wasn’t heavy like a watermelon, it wasn’t fragile like a tomato, and there were look-alike poisonous varieties like mushrooms. Gathering manna was hard because it required daily faith in God’s provision.
God provided manna not merely to address hunger, but also grumbling that emerged from a lack of trust in God to provide. Manna not only fed Israel physically, it was intended to grow them spiritually. The spiritual growth was not an effect of being heaven’s bread, but because it required daily dependence without an alternative.
We still live by manna today – God’s daily provision. We just don’t see it as clearly. As you read the manna narrative, consider your greatest fear or insecurity. Is it a matter of survival or fulfillment? If it is only a matter of fulfillment, give thanks… but also learn to apply the manna lesson.
- How has God worked to supply this need or alleviate this fear?
- How do you try to brace against “God not coming through next time”?
- What “gathering manna” responsibilities do you have with this issue?
- Who are you surrounded by with similar needs (Israel was a community)?
- Do your conversations encourage faith or feed doubt and pessimism?
- When are you tempted to complain about God’s method of providing?
- What tangible reminders of God’s faithfulness can you keep before you (Exodus 16:31-34)?
Faith is scary because it is by definition out of our control. As you reflect on the lesson God was teaching Israel with manna in light of your own situation, rest in the fact that “out of your control” is not the same thing as “out of control.”