Bread from Heaven
The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ” The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
Why is God so slow? The Hebrews waited three days without water before God showed them how to redeem rancid water. Then they live off rations from Egypt and whatever little bit they can find for almost two and a half months before God begins to show them his miraculous bread from heaven. Why didn’t God start with some of those important daily provisions from day one in the wilderness? God gave them meticulous instructions on worship and building the tabernacle… why did he not give them the same kind of help in their daily lives?
I am far from an expert when it comes to taking care of plants, but I know that they need water, air, and sunlight to live and grow. However, too much of those things are not good and can actually kill some plants. I cannot imagine how too much water (provided it was drank and not inhaled) could kill anything, but indeed it does. And it should make sense to us. We need food regularly, but too much food can kill us as well.
God is not a fool who would overfeed or overwater us, His children. I think He holds back His provision in order to shape and mold us in specific ways. He prevents us from taking Him for granted. Fools like us would worship the earth, the ground, the trees, and the animals if we got all of our food every day from them. And indeed we do. If we went three days without water and then found bitter water, we would be less apt to worship the streams and ponds in our lives. Likewise, we are going to be unwilling to worship the fields and trees if we go two and a half months without receiving any food from them. We will learn to worship God though if He intercedes in both of these situations, after a time, and creates provision where once there was none.
Is it cruel for God to train us, through our environment, to worship Him? Is it manipulative for parents to pick up their helpless children, hold them right in front of their face, and tell them to say “Mama” or “Dada” as they are feeding them their food or rewarding them with affection? Is it wrong to teach our pets to acknowledge our authority by giving them treats? Do either of these methods of behavioral training make a difference when we shout out a split second command to them in order to keep them from running across the road and being hit by a car?
I think there are some kinds of acts, particularly before we have come to recognize God as our source of provision, safety, and abundant life, that some level of manipulation may be necessary. God helps us to interpret the facts of life we experience in a way that puts our trust in Him… and He does so by holding back, knowing full well that we may resent Him for it. The plan may backfire at first, and lead us to resent Him. It does not stop Him though. God is in relationship with us for the long haul.
When have you been forced to go without provision in your life?
How did that affect your relationship with God?
How did you eventually receive the provision you needed?
How does that experience shape your relationship with God today?