We are calling this little gathering Monday Manna. It came about out of a desire to feed on the word of God. To get our ‘fix’ so that we could get up and go live our life according to His word. What’s not to like, right? But as I have really contemplated MANNA, I see this goes much deeper than our just checking the Bible Study box because we can do that and still leave hungry, unfulfilled, unsatisfied. Interesting that hungry feeling. It isn’t new. When God first offered Manna to the Israelites in the wilderness, it was in response to their grumblings of hunger, their dissatisfaction with what they saw as the ‘outcome’ of their obedience in following Moses out of captivity in Egypt. There are several things here to which I can relate.
First, like these women 3500 years ago, I believe in God. It’s not like they were grumbling and complaining because they were pagan, and they didn’t know about God. No, these manna-receivers were God’s peeps. He loved them, watched over them and rescued them. These people believed in God, just like me. They were God’s people grumbling.
This brings me to the second similarity. I, too, am a grumbler and a complainer, even in the midst of my cushy life. The Israelites were basically saying that they had plenty of food when they were in Egypt, even though they were enslaved. Now they were in the wilderness and hungry and were wondering maybe this God thing wasn’t so cool. Like these grumbling, rescued Israelites, I can sit in my little-quiet-room place and read my Bible and still feel pretty blah, pretty empty, pretty hungry on that deep-heart-satisfaction level. I can often question whether this Christian path is really worth it.
Inner Monologue: I could be exercising a lot more and running so many errands if I didn’t make myself sit here every morning. There is cottage cheese forming on my thighs as I read my Bible, and I my to-do list is l-o-n-g. Is this path really better than Patty Perfect over there? She looks like she has it all. She is not at all burdened by controlling her tongue or raising Godly kids. She is just focused on being happy. Really, God – I sort of feel like I am in the wilderness over here.
A third similarity is that I can really get my panties in a wad when I don’t know EXACTLY HOW THIS WHOLE THING IS GOING TO PAN OUT. The first manna-receivers couldn’t see the Promised Land, they didn’t know exactly what was going to happen when. Moses just kept promising them that God was with them and that He would provide, protect, and sustain them. Nevertheless, the not-knowing kept them enslaved to “what might happen”, sent them off worshipping man-made things in their midst, even though God had just set them free.
Does this sound familiar? My kids can sign up for umpteen activities, I can decide between a dozen Bible Studies offered on any day of the week, our kids can choose between charter schools, enrichment schools, magnet schools, base schools. Such freedom! So many options! But what happens to God’s little mamas with all that freedom? We get all frantic and worrisome because we want to know EXACTLY how any option is going to pan out 5 years from now.
We worry about tomorrow (God says do not worry about tomorrow), we grumble about the schedules and the fullness of our lives (God says do not grumble), we complain about our emptiness (God says do not complain but to rest in Him). Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” I believe this, but I do not do this.
This brings me to the larger and more troubling similarity I have with these early manna-receivers. You see, I, too, have been delivered from slavery, but I am not rejoicing. I am not living wide open and free, with eyes expectant to see what glory lies ahead. The Israelites were delivered from brutal slavery, they were spared from widespread-crazy-insane plagues, they watched as the Red Sea miraculously parted. They had tangible, eyewitness accounts of God showing up, but they complained of hunger, of being lost, of not having a plan, a home. I have my Bible, which tells me stories like theirs, but also the story of Jesus. The story that says He loved me so much that He came down here to invite me to live in His presence forever – offering joy, wisdom, peace, rest, hope. In my life, I have proof of His provision again and again, but I can still feel like I am wandering along in the wilderness.
Do you ever feel like this? We know these promises in our heads, but we don’t feel them in our bones. We hear the stories, but we don’t live like they are true. And I think back to those women in the wilderness and I think how God gave them Manna every morning, enough for every day. And I wonder… how silly it would have been for them not to pick it up, to eat it, to be sustained by it.
So many of God’s promises come out of the condition of obedience. Exodus 16:4 “Then the Lord said to Moses, 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 walk in My instruction.” It is not the condition of perfection, but of obedience. In order for the Manna to sustain, they had to pick it up daily and eat it. So, I wonder, as one grumbling in the wilderness, for me to get the manna blessing, the nourishment, the joy, the wisdom of God’s word -- how do I eat it? Reading it, knowing it isn’t always enough. To take it in, to have it change me – must I DO IT?
So, we have the opportunity to come out of the wilderness - to live sustained, loved, provided for, spoken to, rejoiced in, protected, blessed. Will we seize this opportunity to walk out of the wilderness and into the promises? Will we read His word, take it in, live according to it and be changed by it?