Imagine wandering the desert without any food. Now, imagine you share that plight with one or two million other people.
That was the situation the children of Israel found themselves in as they fled Egypt to pursue the Promised Land.
It wouldn’t take long for some mumbling to start, right? After crossing the Red Sea, it only took three days of hunger and thirst before the people verbalized their frustration (Exodus 15:24, 16:3).
Looking back on the situation, it is easy for us to criticize the Israelites for their complaining and lack of faith. After all, God had just shown His mighty power in parting the Red Sea. Surely He could handle refreshments.
As tempting as it is for us to point the finger at the Israelites, we must recognize that we are guilty as well. Thankfully, God does not allow our complaining to hinder His faithfulness.
In Exodus 16, God provides food for the Israelites in the form of manna. Manna was a flaky substance that fell on the ground every morning. Every evening, God provided quail for meat.
Here are a couple of interesting lessons we can learn from the provision of manna and quail:
1) God’s provisions are often hidden. Most of us are not content with believing that God will provide. Instead, we want to know how, and when. Of course this is evidence of our control issues. The kicker is that while at the same time we are begging God for provision, we are fighting Him for control.
But God is sovereign –He never loses control and He certainly does not relinquish control to mortals. Instead, He faithfully provides for us –many times in ways that we never recognize.
Whether it is protecting us from an automobile accident by keeping us late in a meeting, or providing our light bill through an anonymous giver, God’s provision is constant. Even when the children of Israel received their manna, they didn’t recognize it. In fact, the word, “manna” actually means, “what is it?”
2) God’s provisions often work within God’s conditions. We all know the rest of the story, right? God gave the children of Israel conditions surrounding the use of manna. For six days, the people were to pick up just enough for the day’s usage and on the sixth day, they were to gather enough for two days (Exodus 16:4-5). If the people tried to gather more than enough, the extra manna would spoil (Exodus 16:20). If they didn’t gather enough on the sixth day, there would not be provision on the seventh day (Exodus 16:27).
Not every provision of God is conditional (ie. the rain falls on the just and unjust –Matthew 5:45). The problem comes when we question God’s faithfulness –even though we are the ones neglecting His conditions! Just like the children of Israel may have complained when their manna spoiled, or they were unable to gather on the Sabbath, we often complain about our finances even though we have squandered away our funds or neglected to tithe. We may even vent relationship frustrations to God when we have dated people with sinful lifestyles or complain about overwhelming demands when we have been guilty of laziness.
Perhaps, its time for us to proclaim a manna manifesto. It might go something like this:
1) I will trust God for provision, even when His timing is different from mine.
2) I will be thankful for God’s provision, even when I do not recognize it.
3) I will be responsible with God’s provisions according to His conditions.
4) I will rejoice, even when God changes the way He provides for me.