Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Read the Bible in a Year // Manna from Heaven

Excited. I’m doing well so far with my goal to read the Bible in a year: up to date on my reading plan and using the SOAP method of journaling at least four days a week. Most importantly, I am LOVING God’s written word and I’m learning from it! That’s what it is all about.

Yesterday’s reading included the account of God providing manna for the Israelites. This happened shortly after they left Egypt and God defeated Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. I always marveled at this story…God’s provision, His miracles and the interesting ways in which He decides to enact them.
This time when I read about the manna, I was struck by a few points of application….after all, it’s not just the Israelites that need God’s manna.

1) Even after the people complained and doubted…God still provided. (Exodus 16:2-3) It is easy to read about the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness and point fingers at how ridiculous and whiney they seemed to be. But I’ve been just the same. How often have I complained about my circumstances after God has proven over and over how blessed I really am? How often do I doubt God’s provision and timing when I have never lacked anything? Just as the Israelites were God’s people, I am His as well. And His grace and mercy will always sustain me, even if I have moments when I forget His goodness. Thank you Lord!

2) God gave freely as much as they needed…but the people still had to choose to receive it. (Exodus 16:16, 21) God provided bread from heaven, but He left it on the ground to find after the morning dew lifted. The people were commanded to go and gather a specific amount for each person. Once the sun got hot, the manna melted. If a person would decide not to gather the manna God provided for the day, then they would not have anything until the next morning. There is nothing hard about picking something off the ground, but I know I’ve passed up those blessed opportunities before. God offers peace, joy, comfort, love, healing, wisdom, instruction. All He requires of me is diligence and an open heart to receive. I hope to remember to daily gather sustenance from Him before those opportunities melt away.

3) The people were to gather only what they needed for that day…anything that they held on to for tomorrow would rot. (Exodus 16:19-20) This is an interesting observation. Why would the manna rot if they saved it for another day? Perhaps because God also commanded us not to worry about tomorrow, but instead to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34). Is it possible that we place too much emphasis on what is coming next…while ignoring the blessings, tasks and learning opportunities we have before us right now? I can personally attest to experiencing the “rot” that comes from busying myself with tomorrow’s issues ahead of their time. When I cling tight to my plans for a better tomorrow, I easily slip away from the rest that comes from trusting God. I also miss out on the lessons God wanted to teach me today that would in fact prepare me for what is to come (and to a greater extent than my own preparations!). I need to use this lesson from manna to let go of tomorrow and seek God’s kingdom today.

4) Before we write off preparation completely, there is a time plan ahead….for the purpose of resting and honoring God. (Exodus 16:22-30) God continues to establish the Sabbath rest in the lives of His people. I love this example of the rhythm of diligence, preparation and rest. There is quite a contrast between this pattern and the one that many of us (I) fall into. 

God laid out a plan for the people to diligently gather everything they needed for each day. No worries beyond that day. That is until the sixth day…only one day…of the week when they were to gather extra in preparation for tomorrow…only one more day. Then they rested. The preparation was not a burden they carried in their minds throughout the week. The preparation was not for the purpose of benefitting themselves (although it had that indirect affect). The preparation was so they could rest in the Lord and to allow the glory of God’s work receive honor. 

I can see the beauty of this pattern not just within the work week and Sabbath rest, but also throughout the seasons of life. Those times when God calls us to a period of diligence and obedience resulting in our spiritual growth --- followed by a time of testing or a call to action, something requiring a little more from us --- once we fulfill what God asks of us we back off, allowing His work to be known and glorified while He restores us with His presence. The way humans tend to live is with a focus on our own work, our own abilities, our own goals and accomplishments. Without a time of rest and reflection, our SELF eclipses the work of God. Even if God seems to act “behind the scenes”, He deserves grand moments of recognition for His work in our lives.

What would life be like if we lived according to that rhythm weekly and seasonally? I think I’d be better able to handle (and enjoy) the day-to-day, I’d be better prepared for the work He calls me to, I’d always be filled with His peace and I would be fulfilling my primarily calling: glorifying God in all I do.

5) The people were commanded to remember the manna God provided from Heaven. (Exodus 16:32-35) This is a simple reminder to never forget God’s goodness…no matter how small it seems. With God, even the smallest blessings make a huge impact. Yes, the Lord sustains me, provides for me and lavishes me with His love! How could I live without Him? May my day-to-day walk with God result in a life that speaks loudly of His grace!