Introduction: As we resume our Bible notes on Israel’s desert wandering in the book of Exodus, let us remind ourselves of one key lesson of faith which God has for us in this sad period of Israel’s history. Throughout this debacle known as the wilderness wandering, which Bible writers time and again point to in warning of the dangers of unbelief, there is only one constant comfort and sure refuge. Think of the godly believers and followers of Moses who were saddled with the presence of so many scoffers and reprobates even from their own midst. What would have been the godly Israelite’s source of solace and confidence in the chaos of rebellion around them, as “time and again” Israel tested the Lord? The answer is that our faith, like the godly followers of Moses of old, must magnify God’s persevering grace and presence in the desert as our only hope! That is the subject of this week’s Bible notes – may the Lord reassure us of His constant presence, guidance and protection: so amply demonstrated in the desert by the manna, the water and the pillar of cloud.
Monday: read Exodus 16:13-15 and 16:31-36. The word ‘manna’ is related in Exodus 16:15 to the question the Israelites asked each other as they examined it: “What is it?” They could not conceive of this unique demonstration of God’s care for them. In answer, Moses points to God as the One who has sent the ‘manna’ and commands that it should be collected in a golden urn and set before the Lord – so that “generations to come” (Ex. 16:32-33) might see how the Lord so faithfully provided for His people, quietly sending the manna down “like dew” (Ex. 16:13-14).
What an example of God’s tender care! While Israel slept, God silently caused “showers of His blessing and providence” to fall upon the camp of His own beloved Israel… ensuring as Psalm 78:28 puts it, that even “around their tents” Israel had enough provision (whether of quail or manna) to eat their fill.
Meditate and Pray: Let us pause to thank God for His amazing provisions for us and confess that we are often infected by the world with a ‘consumer attitude’ that overlooks the supernatural grace behind so many of His blessings over our lives. Use the following prayer:
Prayer of Reflection: Lord, as we walk in a heedless ‘consumer culture’ which voraciously gobbles up your blessings with scarcely a thought of gratitude to you, give us the heart-attitude which magnifies each of your blessings. Save us from becoming inured to your supernatural work in our lives. How shameful that Israel should come to treat the miracle of manna as something to be looked down upon as commonplace. Yet we confess our like tendency to treat our salvation and your grace as easily purchased and to be taken for granted. Have mercy upon us! Amen.
Tuesday: read Exodus 16:31-36 and Psalm 78:23-29. With the sending of the manna, Exodus 16 introduces us to an amazing proof of God’s faithful provision for His people even in a hostile place of hunger and thirst. Psalm 78 then celebrates that provision in verses 23-29, comparing the sending of this food from Heaven to “showers of rain” bringing down God’s blessings.
The challenge for us is clear: Do we appreciate the quiet, reliable provisions which God “rains down” upon our lives? As Israel slept, God showered down silent blessings. Yes, the manna was miraculous, (and indeed it is called the ‘bread of angels’), but yet it was still so domestic and simple that only the eye of faith could appreciate its spiritual worth. After all, was not the manna meant to point to greater spiritual realities than just daily food? How thankful we should be to God that He is able to draw such deep spiritual lessons from the quiet gift of bread from Heaven. Let us again ask the Lord to instill within us a deep appreciation for even the most domestic and ‘hum-drum’ of His daily provisions in our lives. Let us ask Him to give us eyes of faith to see His supernatural hand behind all His gifts to us,
using the words of hymn # 130 in our Red Trinity Hymnal:
There shall be showers of blessing:
This is the promise of love;
There shall be seasons refreshing,
Sent from the Savior above.
Showers of blessing,
Showers of blessing we need:
Mercy drops round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.
There shall be showers of blessing;
Send them upon us, O Lord;
Grant to us now a refreshing,
Come, and now honor Thy Word.
There shall be showers of blessing:
Oh, that today they might fall,
Now as to God we’re confessing,
Now as on Jesus we call!
Wednesday: read Exodus 16:33-36. The manna was an eloquent, tangible proof to all of Israel that God was committed to caring for His people’s every need in the desert. Sadly, we will see Israel repeatedly refuse to trust in or appreciate God’s desert provision and protection in Exodus 16-17. It is well for us, then, to be repeatedly reminded of God’s quiet care in so many ways, so that we can exercise the crucial gift of gratitude, with the help of these comments from Ed Welch in his book, Running Scared (Fear, Worry and the God of rest):
- He waters the earth and causes it to be fruitful for everyone, whether He is acknowledged or not.
- Every meal we eat is an expression of His sovereign care. Sometimes we pray and give thanks; more often we just eat and assume that the grocery store will have what we need for tomorrow.
- He heals us day after day. Some researchers believe that cancer is always present in our bodies, but God sustains our bodies in a way that wards off its advances.
- How many times have you had colds, infections, food poisoning, and a host of other physical maladies that you no longer have?
- He protects us, without us knowing or asking, while traveling on an interstate when everyone around us is engrossed in their cell phone conversations.
- How many times has the Good Shepherd fought wild beasts to keep us safe while we peacefully grazed, unaware of His heroic care?
Thursday: read Exodus 16:31-36 . We must see how consistent God’s provision of manna was for forty years (Ex. 16:35) – despite Israel’s sin. Nor was this daily provision of manna a bare ration. The ‘omer’ unity of measurement referred to in Exodus 16:16 and again in verse 32 & 36 stands for a generous amount of manna for each Israelite. Compared to the war-time ration of one ‘choinix’ in Revelation 6:6 (translated variously as a ‘quart’ or a ‘liter’) an ‘omer’ was more than twice the amount of the minimum daily amount of a quart of grain: about 2.5 liters. In other words, God’s portion for His people in the desert was a generous portion! There would be plenty left over for those needing extra in the wilderness – no matter how low they were brought in their complaining and unbelief.
Prayer of Reflection: Lord, when we see how your daily desert provisions are so ample for our needs we come to understand that even if every day of our lives were full of heart-breaking grief, aching hunger and searing thirst, your grace would be more than sufficient for such a life of trial. Thank you that you have a whole pharmacy of gracious provisions for every imaginable trial, temptation or even failure in our lives.
Thank you that no trial can overwhelm the water of your love poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5), nor remove the filling contentment which the manna of your Word provides. Even if our sin and foolishness were to carry us off into a “far-off land” like the prodigal son – thank you that even there you would remind us that at your house there was, “Bread enough and to spare”. Enable to say with the prodigal when we have wandered from you: “I will arise and go to my Father, and will say unto Him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven and against You”, (Luke 15:17-18). Thank you so much for your ongoing kindness to us throughout all of our desert wanderings… all designed to bring us to repentance. In Christ we pray, Amen.
Friday: read Exodus 17:1-7; 31:18-32:8 and Psalm 106:13-15. Within the first month of the Exodus out of Egypt, we see Israel complain of thirst in Exodus 15 and hunger in chapter 16. Now as they continue to journey “from place to place” in Exodus 17:1, they cannot stop with their ceaseless grumbling against God’s servant Moses or their impudent testing of the Lord (Exodus 17:7). It didn’t take much time for them to fall into these habits. In the same way, when Israel finally arrived at Sinai and Moses ascended the mountain at God’s command to commune with Him for forty days, (Ex. 24:18), Israel’s patience quickly disappeared and they demanded Aaron to produce for them the golden calf. As God Himself says of such a rapid declension: “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them” (Ex. 32:8).
What then was the root cause of such a rapid falling away from the Lord? Psalm 106:13 gives us the answer: They deliberately forgot God’s saving works in the past, and impatiently refused to wait upon the Lord, and His counsel, for the future. In other words, they would not wait for God’s purposes in their lives to come to fulfillment. Instead, they trusted to their own wisdom and tried to create a future for themselves without God’s direction, command or promise. The result is devastating – including “leaness of heart” in Psalm 106:15. How we need to learn to “wait upon the Lord” for the fulfillment of His purposes in the deserts of our lives!
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 impatient 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.