So we pick up the story just after the Israelites have been freed from over 400 years of oppression under Pharaoh. God heard their cries and saw their suffering and send Moses, through a series of twists and turns worthy of film by the great Cecil B. De Mill to rescue them. It’s been about 2 and half months since they left their homes, the only homes any of them have ever known, and set out in a bold step of faith based on nothing more than a vague promise of a better life in a land “flowing with milk and honey.” A land none of them, save Moses, has ever seen.
As they are fleeing Egypt they see first-hand the awesome power of their God in the parting of the Red Sea and the subsequent drowning the entire Egyptian army. But by now they’ve run out of food and are understandably getting a bit concerned that they may have been duped. So what do they do? They complain saying they were better off in Egypt, at least there they had enough food.
It’s easy to sit here with the knowledge of thousands of years of biblical history and first-hand experience of God’s grace to “tut-tut” at the Israelite’s lack of faith but truthfully can we really blame them? They had very little first-hand experience and since being oppressed in Egypt for 400 years had likely lost touch with their own history. My father once, tongue firmly planted in cheek, referred to the Israelites as notoriously slow learners but, were they really? Or did they have simply no idea what God was like?
So here, in the desert, God shows up and gives them a glimpse of His profound love for them and teaches a lesson in what it means to live under his economy.
In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death. 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. [Exodus 16:2-4]
God’s provision for his people is a daily act of grace and our acceptance of it is a daily act of worship. Here He very clearly tells Moses that the people are to go out each day and gather only enough for that day. There is to be no attempt to store it up. Those that doubt God’s promise and disobey this charge quickly learn that it’s futile, manna spoils overnight.
This point here is simple. God’s provision for his people is immediate and ongoing and it is not something that needs to be managed. The whole idea is contradictory to both our ruler and caretaker mentalities. The care taker says that we must protect this food source, gather as much of it as we can, store it away and preserve it for the future, while the ruler says we must take control of it, build walls around it and post a guard so that our enemies can’t get in. In the end however; all our attempts at management and control are for nothing because when we wake up the next morning yesterday’s manna has spoiled and just outside the encampment walls are miles and miles of fresh new manna just waiting to be collected.
Our modern society has becomes so entrenched in a need to for us to take care of ourselves that the idea of “letting go and letting God” seems nonsensical but here me out on this. It’s not until we release our hold on material things, even things that are viewed as necessities like food that we can truly begin to live under God’s Perfect Economy. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray for “our daily bread” it was in direct reference to this event. He was reminding them that just as with the Israelites in the desert God will provide for your needs if you earnestly seek Him and His will for your life. There is no need to hoard and protect these provisions from others, they are a gift from God and as such are meant to be shared generously.
Now I am not advocating that you walk away from your savings plan and start wandering around the back yard looking for manna every morning. There is still a strong case for the planning and management of the resources God has given you. Remember the ruler and caretaker mentalities are still God given traits of humanity they just need to be held in balance with God’s grace and love. What I am saying here is that God’s will is to continue to provide for your needs even in times of desperation when you have no hope of being able to do things for yourself. But remember, once the Israelites reached the promised-land and were able to establish fields of their own, the daily provision of manna stopped, and to my knowledge God has never again rained down bread from heaven.
So for forty years, manna rained down on the Israelites daily as they wandered through the desert, even when they were actively sinning and refusing to follow the rest of His commands.
About a month after God started to provide His people with daily provisions of food they arrived at Mount Sinai and Moses went up to meet with God face to face. While he was there God gave him the law, a code of conduct that was to provide a reminder to the Israelites of who He was and how to honor and respect Him for all that He had done for them.