Introduction: How richly God provided for His people in the desert, with manna as their ‘Heavenly food’ and water from the rock; but in addition, He came down in His pillar of cloud to guide and direct them through the desert,(Exodus 16:10). How tragic, therefore, that Israel failed for the most part to benefit from these great spiritual blessings. As 1 Corinthians 10:5 says: Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. May God enable us to benefit from His many ‘manna-like’ blessings poured down from Heaven. May He use these Bible notes to teach us ongoing thankfulness – since only the God-given grace of gratitude can keep us from the destructive grumbling which proved to be the undoing of Israel in the desert.
Monday: read Exodus 16:1-9 and Deuteronomy 8:1-5: Exodus 16 opens with a demonstration of how hard it was for Israel to remain thankful for God’s care without reverting to the supposed “better days” in Egypt. They idealize their days of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 16:3) and declare their preference for pots of meat in Egypt instead of the glory and privilege of worshipping their Savior in the desert. Of course, such complaints deliberately forget that God healed them (Ex. 15:26), tenderly led them as a flock of sheep (Isaiah 40:10), and was committed to taking care of their every need in the desert! As Deuteronomy 8:4 would remind Israel years later: Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during those forty years!
What then should we learn from Israel’s disobedience, whereby they pine for Egyptian paradise and ignore God’s many kindnesses to them in the desert? The answer is that, while they actually thought that they were putting God and His servant Moses on trial in Exodus 16:6-9, it was God who was putting them to the test according to Exodus 16:4. Poor, blind ungrateful Israel! They have no inkling that it was God’s purpose to test them, and that the trials of hunger and thirst were brought upon them in order to humble them into dependence upon their God, as Deuteronomy 8:1-5 make clear!
Prayer of Reflection: Lord, please open our eyes to your miraculous provisions which you shower upon our lives each and every day. Do not let us miss the spiritual import of the Heavenly provisions by which you feed our souls. Do not give us the material desires of our hearts while sending leanness into our souls. Help us to hunger and thirst for the greatest blessings of your Heavenly table, namely, your righteousness available only to faith. Help us to believe the promise of Matthew 6:33 that if we will by faith “seek first your kingdom and your righteousness,” then all our needs will be provided as well. Help our faith to pass the tests which you send us, and not be found wanting. We earnestly pray in Jesus’ Name, the One who passed all the tests of His obedience on our behalf. Amen.
Tuesday: read Exodus 16:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-6. The Apostle Paul explains one reason for the Divine testing which God sent on Israel and which He sends us: To keep us from setting our hearts on evil thing, (1 Cor. 10:6). And what is one of the most evil things upon which we can set out hearts? I think I can hear Paul tell us: Don’t set your hearts on being independent of God. This is what traitors do – give God lip service but betray Him when it comes to really trusting Him with their hearts and lives. Ed Welch, in his book Running Scared, puts it this way:
God is the One Who tests, and He will test you. Don’t think of final exams and test anxiety. Think of this test as a way to expose traitors during wartime. We are the potential traitors and don’t even know it. God tests us because we are so oblivious to the mixed allegiances in our hearts. The purpose of the test is to help us see our hearts and if they are found traitorous, we can turn back to God. God is not playing mind games with us; He is forging a relationship.
Prayer of Reflection: Lord, as we contemplate the tests which you send into the lives of your people we acknowledge our need for such testing. We know that if you don’t humble us by testing into a greater reliance upon you, then we can walk away from that reliance on you which is faith. As hymn # 262 puts it:
|O come and mourn with me awhile;
O come ye to the Savior’s side;
O come, together let us mourn;
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.
Seven times seven he spoke, seven words of love;
|O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
his Pilate and his Judas were:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.
A broken heart, a fount of tears,
ask, and they will not be denied;
a broken heart love’s cradle is:
Jesus, our Lord, is crucified.
Wednesday: read Exodus 15:25; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:1-5 and James 1:13-14. Both Exodus 15:25 and 16:4 introduce important tests which God brought upon His people by causing them to hunger and thirst. Such testing of our hearts plays a crucial role in creating within us a daily dependence upon God. Without it, we become proud, independent and complacent; our consciences fall asleep and we delude ourselves as to our true level of need. Only when God’s tests expose our true ‘beggar’ status do we begin to hunger for His righteousness and to seek His kingdom first!
To be sure, when we are tempted to sin by the world, the flesh and the Devil, God is not the Author or Approver of such motives to sin. God never does that, as James 1:13 points out. Instead, God’s holy purpose in testing us through trial is so that “what is in our hearts” might become known (Deut. 8:2). Not that God needs to discover what He already knows – after all, He is the “Searcher of hearts” (Rom. 8:27)! Rather, He mercifully structures His tests in order to break down our proud opinions of ourselves, and to awaken within us a strong desire to flee sin and to hunger after His righteousness. Thank God that He knows how to wake us up from deadly spiritual slumber!
Prayer of reflection: Use the words of hymn # 575 in our Trinity hymnal to awaken your conscience and prepare you for the trials which lie ahead:
Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
Stand then in His great might, with all His strength endued,
But take, to arm you for the fight, the panoply of God;
That, having all things done, and all your conflicts passed,
Ye may o’ercome through Christ alone and stand entire at last.
Leave no unguarded place, no weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace, and fortify the whole;
Indissolubly joined, to battle all proceed;
But arm yourselves with all the mind that was in Christ, your Head.
To keep your armor bright, attend with constant care,
Still walking in your Captain’s sight, and watching unto prayer.
Ready for all alarms, steadfastly set your face,
And always exercise your arms, and use your every grace.
Thursday: read Exodus 16:10-15. The most important blessing which God sent His grumbling people in Exodus 16 was the cloud of His glory in verse 10. Now ponder the grace of this cloud of glory appearing just in the nick of time. First, it was a gracious reminder of God’s power, for it was the very same cloud which saved Israel from the Egyptian army in Exodus 14:9! It was a fearful sight, designed to silence Israel’s murmurings before they aroused God’s wrath and judgment. This cloud was also proof that God heard Israel’s grumbling for food and would answer their desires by sending both quail and manna in Exodus 16:11-15. How gracious! His people didn’t even bother to pray or ask reverently for food! Yet, God was willing to answer their grumbles and condescend to them in that most ungrateful and undeserving state – with manna and quail!
Prayer of Reflection: Lord, how selfish and undeserving our prayers for your help can be. Forgive us when we murmur as if you are too distant to hear such unworthy words uttered against your care for our needs. Thank you that you are willing to answer our grumblings with your bountiful provisions! Please Lord, send down what is best even when our prayers are at their worst! Listen to your Son’s beautiful prayers on our behalf, when our faith fails and we are tempted to deny you (Luke 22:32). We ask all this not in our own names, but because of the pure and godly ministry of intercession which Jesus Christ exercises for us. Amen.
Friday: read Exodus 16:10-15 and Exodus 17:4-6: Let us never think that this ‘Heavenly bread’ called ‘manna’ was easily mass-produced by the Lord. The giving of this manna to such a sinful, undeserving people as Israel could only be possible (as with the water from the Rock in Exodus 17:6) because God bore the penalty of such free provisions of grace. With the water, it was the Rock which was smitten before the law-court of the elders in Exodus 17:6 which paid the price so that water could freely flow to such a complaining and thirsty people. That ‘Rock’ was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). In the case of the manna, it was only when the glory cloud of the Lord appeared (which was the same cloud which hovered over all the sacrifices which God commanded to be offered – Leviticus 9:23-24) that the manna would start to fall. No blessings of food or drink for God’s people without judgment at the Rock and sacrifice under the cloud!
No wonder when Jesus Christ declares He is the ‘Bread of Life’ come down from Heaven in John 6:48-50, that He also declares that His flesh and blood were the real ‘bread and drink’ which would give eternal life (John 6:53-58)! The manna and the water in the desert gave fleeting nutritional benefit, but the blood of Christ and His body broken are eternal food and drink indeed!
Prayer of Reflection: Lord, in a world which takes offense at the price of your Son which you gave in order to give us the Bread of Life, give us hunger and thirst for the righteousness we continually stand in need of, and which only comes to us through the words of eternal life contained in your Gospel. Give us that hungry attitude of faith which says, as Peter did when many left Jesus because of His sacrificial teaching, “To whom can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Amen.