Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Exodus 16, 17, 18 Manna from Heaven: God's Provision

God rays in IsraelImage by wili_hybrid via Flickr

After two months into their journey to the land of Canaan, Israel complained about starving and speculated as to whether or not they would have been better off in Egypt because their pots were always full there.  God just rescued them in a miraculous manner from a cruel and hostile state, yet they fondly reminisced about meals they ate as slaves.
In response to their complaining, God patiently informed Moses that He would send bread from heaven (manna) each morning, so that each family could collect enough to feed the group.  Furthermore, God told Moses that he would send meat for that particular evening meal and bread for the morning so that Israel would know that it was the Lord who delivered them from Egypt. So, on the fifteenth day of the second month, Israel enjoyed a hearty meal provided by God.  This should have been a time of great rejoicing and thanksgiving, but there is no mention of that in Scripture.

Some time later, when the nation of Israel ran out of water, they again complained and grumbled against God.  “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and our livestock to die of thirst?” (Exodus 17:3) When I imagine this scene, I can hear the mob jeering at Moses and taunting God.  If I were in this crowd, would I too have forgotten how God provided manna every morning; how God brought the quail; how God caused the Red Sea to part; how God inflicted all of the plagues upon the Egyptians?  I don’t know. 

Even though God has often blessed me in extraordinary ways, when a new problem or difficulty arises, I often succumb to hopelessness and self-pity before turning to God for direction.  Maybe my memory of God’s blessings fades when supplanted by the demands of problems.  Problems can usurp my entire field of vision until I can see nothing good anywhere.  But, thankfully, God refocuses me.  When I look to God, the Creator of this Universe, for direction, my problems become the venue in which God can further reveal Himself to me; in which God can show His love.

So, God told Moses to strike a rock and water would flow from it.  Now Israel had enough water to drink.  Though God again provided for their need, the place was named Massah and Meribah, which means testing and rebellion. Though God was patiently teaching His people about Himself, there were some who just didn’t understand that Israel was a special nation, chosen by God to enter into a special and unique relationship with Him.  They didn’t understand that God was going to both provide for them and protect them. They yearned for the certainty and predictability of living in Egypt – even though they were slaves there.

As Israel was learning to trust God to meet their daily needs, the Amalekites came to the Israelite camp and attacked them.  Another problem.  Although Moses appointed Joshua to raise an army to fight the Amalekites, he stayed behind, with arms lifted up, in prayer. As long as Moses arms were up in prayer, the Israelites were winning.  When Moses lowered his arms, the Amalekites were winning.  Eventually, Aaron and Hur stood with Moses and held his arms up so that the Israelites won the battle.

Moses, Aaron, and Hur understood that God was fighting for them as long as they looked to Him in prayer.  It seems as though God was saying that even though some battles can go on for a long time, it’s mandatory to not stop praying for victory.  One quick prayer  would not have won the battle for Joshua – prayer had to be continuous until the battle was won.

Through the events depicted in these chapters, God taught Israel to trust in Him to meet their needs and to trust in Him to fight their battles.  I think that God deals with believers in similar ways – we often have problems so that we can turn to Him in prayer, trusting in His love for us.
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