After the last of our four children left the nest, my husband and I undertook some serious downsizing. When our rather large refrigerator finally gave up the ghost, we decided that we could function adequately with a smaller appliance. We were pleased with the choice that we made; we were excited at the thought of having a bit more room in our tiny kitchen; we were impressed by the savings on our electric bill; we were NOT, however, pleased with the size of the freezer. We frequent a Christian-owned butcher’s shop in nearby Ohio. It is a bit of a trip, so when we do make that trek, we stock up with enough meats to suffice us for a few months. Well, it didn’t take long to come to this conclusion: this new, teeny refrigerator wasn’t going to store anything in excess of a weekly grocery run. The solution: we invested in a small freezer to place in our basement. Now when our meat stock begins to wane, when the freezer shows signs of depletion, we grab a cooler and head west to our favorite store to restock.
I must confess that I am often highly critical of the behavior of the children of Israel as they traveled from the slavery of Egypt to the promise of Canaan land. The constant murmuring, the incessant complaining, and the blatant disobedience to God’s direct words makes my head spin. How could they doubt Him? They had a front row seat as God pronounced judgment on Egypt and plagued that heathen land into submission. They gasped in awe as the Red Sea parted, providing them a miraculously escape from Pharaoh’s hordes. The pillar of fire and the pillar of a cloud guided every step of the journey set before them. They drank of the waters of Marah-bitter waters made sweet by the mighty hand of God. They refreshed themselves beneath the palm trees of Elim, drinking from the “twelve wells of water.” But soon the wavering faith of God’s people would resurface as “the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.” What shall we eat? If only we were back in Egypt where we had an abundance of food (and an abundance of oppression, tribulation, and mistreatment, if memory serves). Only a patient, loving God would respond to His children as this gracious Father did.
Every Sunday school child enjoys the story of manna, that “small round thing,” that “coriander seed, white” with a taste much “like wafers made with honey,” that “bread from heaven” faithfully provided as sustenance for the children of Israel during their forty-year journey through that barren desert. In the midst of a wilderness setting, this food was miraculously set before them, free for the eating, with no earthly explanation possible. But with that food came stern instruction. With the exception of the Sabbath eve, the Israelites were instructed to gather only enough to suffice for one day…no more, no less, “every morning according to his eating.” Our pastor did an interesting study on this passage recently, a study that melted my criticism of Israel and focused my attention where it should be, on my own shortcomings.
As was their custom, the Israelites did not follow the Lord’s command. Some tried to store extra manna, a surplus to be used later in the day, only to watch it rot away in the afternoon heat; some ventured out on the Sabbath morning to gather manna in direct rebellion to God’s instruction. My eyes were about to roll at their lack of faith when God brought that little basement freezer into my thoughts. I had just stocked my freezer and pantry for the winter; I would not be caught off guard if the covid restrictions brought shortages again. I had it all planned, organized, and ready to go. But the children of Israel were expected to live from God’s hand to their mouths, adapt to a daily habit of trusting Him to supply their needs, to provide for them; they were to live a life of utter dependence on the Father. Could I live my life with an attitude of total, unwavering reliance on Him…daily…every moment…with every breath and fiber of my being?
Planning is fine, going about my life “decently and in order” is acceptable, but I must strive to remember that I live from God’s hand to my mouth. Habitually trusting in my Father must be the goal of my life. I pray that the next time I am feeling critical of the Israelites, I will think of the difficult task they had of developing a daily dependence of God, and in the process, find myself more prone to walk by faith and not by sight. My Father, in an act of pure grace, took this old sinner and miraculously placed her feet on the path to heaven; He is so deserving of my trust.
II Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight;
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