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”…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”…The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
Exodus 16:2-4, 11-15, 35
The psalmist took the words right out of my mouth: “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:19). Can God provide for us when we are in the Wilderness? That’s a question on many minds. It stirs “what if” thoughts. What if I lose my job? What if I get sick? What if there’s another Great Depression? What if someone I love dies? Can I count on God?
In the barren waste of the Wilderness the Israelites remember their daily, reliable rations of food back in Egypt’s slave camps: “we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread”. Perhaps they are remembering things as better than they were, but they remember that at least they ate. Now they are quite sure that God redeemed them from the bondage of Egypt and delivered them through the Red Sea only to bring them into the Wilderness “to kill this whole assembly with hunger”. This is already their third time of complaining about God and His ways. The reason is not their fear of Pharaoh’s army or lack of water, but their lack of food (Exodus 14:11-12; 15:24). I find that, not unlike the Israelites, I too can go quickly from praising God to complaining.
How like God to provide even as they complain! But significantly they do not recognize God’s provision when they see it: “When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’” We are reminded how often God answers and provides, but we do not recognize His provision. We ask one thing and He provides in ways we could not have imagined.
Their question, “What is it?”, is in the Hebrew language: manna. To this day we call God’s daily provision for them in the Wilderness, “manna”. This is another reminder that God often provides in ways we do not at first perceive or understand. We might even say, “What is it?” But Jesus teaches us today to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”.
Keep your eyes open for how God might answer!
- What do you see as the significance of God’s command to gather manna “enough for that day”? Why not for tomorrow?
- As you look back on a difficult time what might you see as daily provision that you did not see at the time?
- Take some moments to reflect on the Apostle Paul’s instruction concerning our worries about daily needs:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God… And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6, 19).