Wednesday, December 18, 2013

God Provides Even Before He Tests Us -- Exodus 16:4-8


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.  And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”  So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?”  And Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him.  And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”
 
I find the beginning of this passage most interesting.  God tells Moses that He will provide bread for the ‘grumbling’ children of Israel even before they are tested – before they “walk in God’s instruction”.  So much for God being mean and austere.
God Himself will do this.  He will ‘rain’ bread from heaven for them.  But lest we think His help means we are to do absolutely nothing, the fact remains that the people had to get out there and collect the provisions themselves within a specific time.
Over the centuries of Christianity we find that there are people who sit and wait for God to take care of everything, not knowing when it is time for them to get out there and collect His provision.  I get particularly frustrated by those who want a job but just sit at home watching television because they believe if God wants them to work, someone will come asking for them and to boot, they’ll be offered a dream job with a dream compensation and benefits package.  Or there’s the person who really desires a godly partner as their mate for life, but they never go out to be with people.  They stay at home too, reading romance novels and waiting for Mr. Christian Dreamboat to ring the doorbell.  The only thing I can say to them and others in similar situations is “dream on”.  Life does not work like that and God does not work like that for the most part.  If you want to a complete a 26.2-mile marathon (42 kilometers), you need to first start working on running a single mile.
Notice God was very specific as to the requirement for people to gather only one day’s portion at a time – enough for them and their family.  That’s all that will be available each day.  Except on the sixth day, when God will see to it that He will “rain” a double-portion of the provision so that the children of Israel will not have to gather anything to eat on the Sabbath – they’ll have it in ‘good edible condition’ (i.e. no mold would form) from the day before.  This very instruction was part of God’s testing the people.
And then Moses and Aaron told the children of Israel “This very evening, you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt.”  Enough already – you would think the people knew that.  But they kept forgetting.  Let us not be too hard on them.  We know what God and His Son have done for us and we keep forgetting.  Still, it was one thing for Pharaoh and the Egyptians back in Egypt or even at the Red Sea crossing to learn that, but it’s another to still have to prove it to the children of Israel at this point in time.  Yet our patient Heavenly Father does just that – for the Israelites and for us.
Moses and Aaron say, “Tomorrow morning you will see God’s glory.” It is not clear what exactly they meant by this.  The expositor John Gill suggests the glory of God was being displayed either in His wonderful provision (raining bread for them each morning) or as it (the glory) appeared in the cloud which accompanied them.  Gill himself prefers the latter, believing this glory of the Lord, was the glorious Shekinah of Jehovah, the Angel that went before them in the cloud, the eternal Word and Son of God.  No matter that you are grumbling against the Almighty God, He will still show His compassion towards you – His glory will shine through in the morning.
I think it is important to stop and think about this grumbling that was going on.  First, I should admit that many will not agree with what I am about to write here and that’s okay.  I understand that I may be wrong.  I can only share my thinking and feelings about this.  When I accept the fact (and I have no reason not to believe Moses here) that God actually hears my grumblings against Him, I am staggered at the thought that I would do so given what God has done for me and Who He is.  I find it difficult to accept.  Yet I know that many say, “God can take it.  If you are angry at Him, let Him know.”  I know He can take it, but that does not mean He needs to or should, or worse still, that I should be angry with God.  And I guess that is my point – being angry with God is something I personally find hard to do.  But as I read more, as I deal with others who have “hit a wall” or two in their lives, I understand that some people are angry with God.  And I realize that expressing that anger to Him can be used by God to bring that child of His ever closer to Him.  I am so thankful our God is willing to do that.
As wise leaders, Moses and Aaron also tell the people that their behavior, although verbally directed at them, is really grumbling against God.  So, they won’t accept it; the people have to face up to what they are doing and to Whom they are really addressing their grumblings.  We are like that sometime.  We take our anger out on our children, our spouses, our co-workers, our superiors, and our pastors.  But the problem is we are unwilling to accept what God has allowed in our lives and we will not deal with Him directly about it.  Perhaps, because we know that He knows the truth about our own personal contribution to the situation.  
Back in Exodus 16:3 the people grumbled about not having food and in so doing made reference to their time back in Egypt “when we ate bread to the full.  Now here in verse 8, Moses uses that very same phrase when he says the Lord will give you bread to the full in the morning.”  It is amazing how God provides what we need when we need it, and more.  The Israelites did not need “bread to the full”; they just needed bread so they would not die from starvation.  But God provided “bread to the full”.
This is the God that is right there with us in our own desert today.  Instead of grumbling towards Him, we would do well to remember Who He is and what He has done for us and for the world.  Then, knowing He knows our needs, looking for His glory as He meets them.
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