He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. Deuteronomy 8:3-5
At first glance, God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness is astonishing, miraculous. Imagine not needing to go to the grocery store for forty years! Instead, all they had to do was walk outside and collect their food off the ground. It was always fresh, always sufficient. Not only were they provided with food, but their clothes never wore out. God provided completely for them in the wilderness. They needed NO THINGS. Nothing. Everything was taken care of.
But if you read Exodus 16, you’ll notice a lot of instructions (in other words, this was not a free miracle): Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days (Exodus 16:4-5).
Gather enough? What’s enough? And the kicker: if they kept any of it (expect for the 7th day), it spoiled. Hmm. So how does this apply to us Americans, who, even when we are jobless and penniless, still have a list of places to go to receive help and food? And, for those of us with jobs and paychecks and Costco memberships, what is enough?
I have been asking myself that a lot lately, and it is humbling. When Jack and I were first married in college, living on a tip-dependent, fluctuating budget, my knee-jerk reaction to an almost-empty bank account was always to skip class and go to the grocery store. I would go spend every last cent on groceries. I loaded up the freezer and fridge, cooked and PREPARED for the worst. What’s the worst? I’m not sure, but if it’s nuclear winter, we were not going to starve.
Although I am more aware of it now, I still find myself doing this same thing. When I am stressed or threatened, I want the security of fullness: my freezer stocked, my cupboards stocked, backups upon backups so I FEEL SAFE. But in all of this stockpiling, have I factored the God of manna and quail into the equation? Am I able to sit in today with what He has given me, give thanks, and trust that tomorrow He will provide for me and mine as well?
There is another piece to this that has downright leveled me in my Father’s presence lately: how much of my stockpile will expire while someone else remains in need? Does that just make you double over, too? I was hit with this question the other day, when asking God to show me how to help those around me with what I had? I looked in my cupboards, and I was embarrassed. Literally, there was manna—too much of it!—overflowing, and why wasn’t I sharing it? How many bags of quinoa and rice and flour sit in our cupboards while another family goes hungry? How many Costco packs of meat do we actually need to keep in our second freezer?
The Global Bible Commentary states this about manna: “Manna is also a miracle in that it became a test of solidarity and trust through food distribution,” (pg. 59). Every one gathered the same amount, and there was enough for all. That meant that the woman with less children shared with the woman who had more. That meant that everyone was intimately involved in making certain that those around them were taken care of. Storing it up meant that someone else wasn’t getting what they needed. Is anyone else feeling as convicted as I am about this?!
Manna and Quail has so much more to do with our obedience to God than it does our actual, physical need. That is why it’s talked about not only in Exodus, but also Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Nehemiah, Psalms, the Gospel of John, Hebrews, and Revelation. Over and over again throughout the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, God is trying to teach us this simple concept: He can provide all we need; all we have to do is trust and obey. Obey? Yes! Give away what we don’t need, share, take care of our neighbors, trust that He will rain down Manna when our coffers run empty.
Oh, this is rough. Because you know what? I like going shopping. I like when I’m in a store at the cash register and they wrap up my new little purchase in beautiful tissue paper, put it in a crisp handled bag, and walk around the counter to hand me my purchase. I love a full cart at Costco. But I think I have gotten rather confused about what I need. And, I know that this is different for every one of us, so please don’t think I’m preaching. But I know that I need to spend more time on my knees, more time asking to see the true need of my heart and others’. Certainly, the God who even kept the Israelites’ clothes from wearing out can provide me a wardrobe (and pantry and freezer) sufficient for my needs.
We do not need this physical world nearly as much as we think we do. This is very clearly a lesson we must learn in the wilderness and carry with us into the promised land. This is very clearly a lesson we MUST learn if we want to cross over into the promised land.
I will leave you with this quote from Psalm 37:25-26:
I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
They are ever giving liberally and lending,
and their children become a blessing.
Let us fashion a heritage of faith and giving liberally, trusting always.