Enough for Each Day (Exodus 16).
The Israelites are grumbling again. What a surprise. They grumbled in chapter 14, they grumbled in chapter 15, and they’re grumbling again now in chapter 16. Once again their grumbling is understandable. First they grumbled about a deadly enemy, then they grumbled about a lack of water, now they’re grumbling about empty stomachs. All good reasons to grumble. You don’t have to hang around a hungry person long before you hear them grumble. About once an hour in my case. This is such a recognised phenomenon that “hangry” is now a widely accepted word. Trust me, the Israelites in Exodus 16 were hangry.
Isn’t it amazing though, that people who grumble always find something else to grumble about? When the danger passes they’ll grumble about thirst; when their thirst is quenched they grumble about food; when they’re full they grumble about the monotonous menu. Grumbling might be understandable, but an attitude of grumbling is not. We shouldn’t lead a lifestyle of complaining.
Once again God graciously gives them what they need, in spite of their bad attitude. The manna falls and the stomachs are filled. But it does so on God’s terms. He doesn’t provide a surfeit or allow stockpiling. There is just enough for each day. He’s teaching them an important lesson about trust. The Israelites needed to learn to trust God day in day out, not just once in a while. If He had given them a year’s worth of food in one go, they wouldn’t have trusted Him for 364 out of 365 days.
Like them, God wants our continual, unwavering trust. Trust underpins any relationship. Without trust, there can be no intimacy, no friendship. God wasn’t being petty or showing off, He was demonstrating that He was serious about doing life with us.
Deep down we’re all control freaks. Some more so than others, but in one way or another we all like to be in control. We like to know what’s coming, to be masters of our circumstances. That’s why this is such a big challenge. To rest secure about having enough for tomorrow we like to make arrangements today, rather than trust in provision when tomorrow comes. We like to have our manna stored up, our savings account bulging, our fridges overflowing, every future need already taken care of. For most of us a salary is better than occasional earnings, because then we know exactly what’s coming and when.
Now some of this is just good common sense – it’s a good, Godly practice to save up money for a rainy day, it’s sensible to do a week’s shopping at a time because you can spend more efficiently. Nowadays the manna isn’t falling from heaven, so the applications of this chapter are different for us. The applications are different, but the underlying lesson is the same. Do we trust God? Do we allow Him to be in control, or do we try and usurp that role? For those of us with salaries, there’s no need to give them up, but there’s a challenging question we should all take seriously: do we trust God, or do we trust the salary itself?
We can trust God with tomorrow, whatever our need. His provision is assured.
As well as the trust issue, this chapter has a lot to say about equality and social justice. It tells us that “the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.” (v. 18). This is wonderful. It doesn’t mean that everyone gathered the right amount to begin with. No, some were greedy, some were lazy, some inhibited by disabilities and some blessed with greater speed. No, it means that God miraculously balanced things out. If someone took too much, part of it disappeared. If someone didn’t manage to get quite enough, what they had lasted longer and stretched further. God loves fairness and equal provision.
Ideally no one should be rich and no one should be poor. How amazing would society look today if the same principle was at work? If hunger and poverty were no longer an issue? Now I’m not a raving communist and I’m not advocating mass and compulsory wealth redistribution. No, I think less radical solutions are far better and more likely to work in the long run. Clearly we have rich and poor, but what if the rich freely and of their own volition gave from their surplus to make sure that the one who didn’t have enough to begin with ends up with what they need? What if we took care of each other like we should? If God’s people did this right, we wouldn’t need foodbanks or benefits.
The world of Exodus might be an alien concept from a long-vanished time, and clearly we can’t and perhaps shouldn’t seek to recreate it exactly, but what if we as Christians took its lessons more seriously? What if we tried harder to apply some of God’s values and principles to our society and economy? The church isn’t just the hope of the world for the salvation of our souls; it also has a duty to make this world and this life a better place.
To take away:
What one thing could you trust God more with?