Thursday, February 2, 2012

What's so Bad About "Daily Bread"?

I have this weird habit.

I tend to get stuck on a favorite food and eat nothing but that for weeks - even months - on end. Don't believe me? Just ask Jeremy how many times we've eaten homemade pizza since getting married or Elizabeth Wexler how many times she's heard me give the same order at the Sonic drive-through.

It's probably because of this tendency that I'm not all that put off by my reading of Exodus 16. In it, the Israelites have just been freed from their oppressive Egyptian captivity, but in their haste to get the Sam Hill away from Pharaoh, they must've forgotten to pack a lunch, because they're all wandering around in the Desert of Sin wondering when in the world it's gonna be time to eat.

If you know anything at all about the Children of Israel, then you know how they handled the situation. They grumbled, cursing everyone from Moses to the God Who'd just parted the Red Sea that they might safely cross it.

It's embarrassing how much in common I have with this motley lot. Their cycle of belief and unbelief, of contentment and complaining is exactly how I contend with conflict. Graciously, though, God chooses folks like this to be His people, and just as graciously, God heard the Israelites' cries for food and fed them in a way that would've been fine by me. He gave them the same meal. Every morning. For FORTY YEARS.

What's the big deal about that? I'm over a decade in to my almost-daily trips to Chick-Fil-A. If a little of something is good, then a lot of it is even better, right? Turns out, that's the very thing that strikes me about this Old Testament account - my desire for "a lot." While I'd have been absolutely fine with the same supper for nearly half a century, it's a lot harder for me to get my head around just having enough in the cupboard for that day's dinner. But that's what God commanded. They were to take "enough for that day" (verse 4). No more, no less.

Why would He, Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, choose to delve out His provision drip by drip? Heaven knows, He could've flooded them with food - enough on the first nite for the entire forty years - but He didn't. Why? Well, He tells us in verse 4. "In this way, I will test them and see whether they will follow My instructions."

I can't help but wonder if they, like me, ever worried that God would forget to provide for them? It doesn't matter, if they did worry about it, because He didn't forget. He faithfully provided, in spite of their doubting and in spite of their complaining. Every day they'd go to get their allotment. Just enough for that day - no more, no less. He, Who cannot deny Himself, has been just as faithful to provide for me ... in spite of MY doubting, in spite of MY complaining.

I think the experience of the Israelites has so many applications in my life. Whether it be food or money or strength or energy, I want a stockpile. I want to know there's a trove where I can get what I need, so that I don't have to trust God to give me "daily bread." In other words, I want to walk by sight and not by faith.

But that's not the way God works. That's not "following His instructions."

He knows we are "prone to wander." When there's a big reserve - or enough manna on hand to make it through the next forty years - we tend to do things our way, and we begin to forget our daily, desperate need for the One Who promises to "bring [His people] in and plant them on the mountain of [His] inheritance-the place, Lord, You made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, Your hands established."

Knowing that He's bringing me to His dwelling place makes me so excited. I just hope He serves homemade pizza.

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