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“What Is It?”

I’m going to invite you to visit another familiar Old Testament story with me today. Or perhaps it may not be familiar. Either way, I believe the Lord has something unique to share with each of us - fresh and new for today.

Exodus chapter 16 - talk about a crazy time to be alive. The Israelites had recently witnessed God’s mighty hand against their oppressors, the Egyptians. Ten plagues had ravaged through their enemy's land. They watched the red sea literally part before their eyes and safely walked through on dry ground, only to see it come crashing down upon their pursuing captors. And now they find themselves journeying through the desert. They’re not really sure what will happen next, how long they’ll be there, where their food and water will come from, or what will happen to them once they get to the land the Lord has promised them.

Those unsettling thoughts and questions kind of sound familiar right now, huh? Here we are in the midst of Covid-19, bombarded by similar uncertainties: how long? What will happen? When will this be over? Will we have enough food? Enough money? Will we remain healthy? Will I lose a loved one? Will my job still be there when this is over? What will the economy be like when things go back to normal? And if you’re anything like me, you find yourself often saying, “What day is it today?” We’re not the first generation to ask these sorts of questions and I doubt we’ll be the last. But there is much we can learn from this story, in Exodus 16, about our own hearts and how we respond to trial and difficulty.

The chapter begins with a very pressing need. The people are hungry and they have no food. So they begin to complain to Moses and Aaron (their leaders). Whether out of hunger, emotional distress, or both, they even start to say crazy things like, “…Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (16:3). Despite their wayward attitudes, the Lord hears their grumblings and so He responds:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to 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 they will walk in my law or not…” (16:4). Moses and Aaron relayed the Lord’s message to the people, making sure they heard each word and command the Lord had spoken. Sure enough, just as the Lord had promised, “In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground [“manna”]. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.’” (16:15).

I love the people’s initial response to the Lord’s provision of manna, “What is it?”

Have you ever received provision from the Lord and not recognized it at first because it wasn’t something familiar? Or maybe it wasn’t what you were expecting, or what you thought God's response should have been? Or perhaps the overwhelming voices of fear and doubt around you hindered your own sight. I wonder how often we continue grumbling or feeling anxious, even in the midst of God’s grace and provision towards us, because we’re unable to recognize it, even when it’s right in front of us.

As I considered the Israelites’ predicament, this thought really struck me: the people could have spent the night in their tents full of anxious thoughts about tomorrow. It would have been easy to stay up all night fretting over the situation, worried that there wouldn’t be food. Maybe their conversations repeatedly circled back to the overwhelming questions, will we have food tomorrow? What will tomorrow have in store for us? They likely felt uncertain at times. I would suggest that God knew exactly what He was doing by having the people take just enough manna for the day ahead of them. He knew if the people were to daily trust Him, this test of daily faith would reveal the condition of their hearts. They could choose anxiety or trust, fear or faith. Just like God provided for His people in the desert, He will provide for us now. My ongoing prayer for us is that we would have eyes to see the daily manna the Lord is pouring out. May we daily trust and obey our Jehovah Jireh .

1) How have you seen the Lord providing for you (and your family) over the last few weeks during this pandemic? Consider physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, etc.

2) In what ways have you been struggling to trust God? How do you think He’s inviting you to trust Him after reading Exodus 16?

3) Is there any unseen “manna” the Lord desires for you to see, today? Take some time to ask the Holy Spirit to show you how your loving Father is providing for you. Spend some time offering up thanksgiving (check out today’s Bible reading in John 6 for more ways to offer praise).

-Nancy Martin

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 16; John 6:30-35; Matthew 6:25-34

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