The Exodus was the seminal event of Israel’s history. Not only was it an astonishing deliverance, but God also made sure it defined His relationship with His chosen people.
God showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that He could provide for the Israelites in ways they couldn’t. He wanted them to realize that He was their only true source of help. That He was their only way through the wilderness.
The Israelites were slow to get the message. What should have been an eleven-day hike to the Promised Land turned into forty years of wandering. And the entire generation of Israelites that left Egypt—upwards of two million people—died in the wilderness.
God gave the Israelites everything they needed—not just to survive, but to thrive in the wilderness. His provisions for their physical needs (protection, light, heat, food, clothes that didn’t wear out) were merely a platform for inviting the Israelites to get to know Him in a personal way. But they persisted in their wilderness mentality. They remained in survival mode instead of worship mode.
Are we any different?
I can’t say I am.
I can remember amazing things God has done for me. I can praise Him for His goodness during tough times. Even so, doubt often lurks behind my present prayers. “Can you do that again?”
Of course He can. But a serpentine voice whispers in my ear, “Really?”
Can I get an amen if you’ve ever been in that place?
Wilderness rations: manna and quail
The Exodus contains many takeaways for us today; but for this blog, let me park on the manna and quail. That was a quintessential example of “give us this day our daily bread.” NOT “give us this week all we need to eat.” Similarly, we can’t “tank up” on Christ one day a week with church and expect it to sustain us through everything we’ll face in the week to come.
The Israelites grumbled about their daily diet. In one respect, that astonishes me. How did they think they would feed themselves in the desert after their supplies from Egypt ran out? Yet am I any different? I grumble against God when (IMO) He’s not doing anything about requests I’ve laid at His feet for months or years. I can’t see past my nose what He’s doing around me or behind the scenes for me.
God gave the Israelites familiar and otherworldly food. I’m not sure of all His reasons for doing so, but the Israelites’ grumbling gives a clue. “There we sat by pots of meat and ate our fill of bread,” they pined. What an exaggeration. They were slaves in Egypt. Slaves rarely, if ever, ate meat. And any bread they ate was gritty with pebbles from grinding the grain by hand. They, like we, embellished memories to paint a grass-is-greener scenario. Even so, God in His grace gave the Israelites quail, a meat that the poor could hunt. Contrast that “poorness” with the manna—God’s gift from His infinitely rich resources.
God wanted to reveal His character to the Israelites by giving them manna and quail, yet they focused on the gift instead of the giver. Do I get stuck on physical needs when He wants to teach me deeper spiritual truths? You bet.
God tested the Israelites’ obedience in following His instructions for gathering manna (Exodus 16:4). He also tested their faith by saying not to not use any leftover manna. Obedience and faith were foundational to receiving God’s blessings. Did the Israelites pass that test? Umm, no. (Read Exodus 16:19-20.) Do I do much better? Often, not.
But God didn’t give up on the Israelites. He won’t give up on you or me, either. His resources transcend all human effort; His creativity is infinite, and He yearns to reveal Himself to everyone.
That is very good news.
David Jeremiah says God has a way of turning a wilderness experience into a witnessing experience. “If you’ve never had a test, you can’t have a testimony.”
Are you in a wilderness today? God is walking with you through it. He’s providing for you during it. And He has blessings waiting for you beyond it.
He loves you too much to do any less for you.
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