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Manna?

August 13, 2020
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A little exercise of the imagination. Take 650,000 men and their families, their belongings, and the things their neighbors loaded them up with, and set them out on a journey across a wilderness (which is mostly desert) that no one except their leader, Moses, has any experience with, in about 1440 BC. Not much technology was available for a trip of this nature. The mode of transportation was walking. If you had a cart to put your possessions in, it would likely have been dragged by people power. Maybe you had a cow or an ox and they could pull the cart. Maybe.

Add in the fact that marriage was an expectation for an adult male, and was generally arranged by the parents of the men and women in this ethnic group, often before they graduated from preschool. And then add in the fact there really was no such thing as birth control, meaning the group of 650,000 men would have easily grown to three times that size when wives and children were factored in. That would be the most conservative estimate. The size of the group would have been ginormous.

Of course, I’ve just described the Children of Israel in the Exodus.

There’s one more important thing. These are people who had been slaves for many generations. It had started fairly benignly, but now, 400 years after they had settled in this land far from their ancestral home, their generation had been brutalized by Egyptian slave drivers, at the command of the Pharaoh. Things weren’t benign anymore. They had been beaten for not meeting their daily quota of mud-dried bricks – a quota which was un-doable, no matter how early in the morning they started or how late into the night they worked. They had been forced to throw their male babies into the Nile to be eaten by crocks or drown in the water. This was Pharaoh’s population control program. It wasn’t a great time to be a Hebrew.

So why am I talking about the Exodus? And why is it such a big deal that there could have been three times more people on the journey than the number of men counted? That they were newly-freed slaves? And that they were probably carrying their stuff on their backs? What’s that got to do with anything?

Well, throw all this into the blender and what I think you get is TROUBLE. That starts with T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for Pool. (Sorry for the Music Man reference… You’d have to be old to get it. As I was typing it, I was singing it in my head.)

I’m talking about an easy 2.5 MILLION men, women and children in this exiting population of Israelites. For perspective, that’s about the population of Houston, proper.

Here’s why I included the fact that they were walking, probably not riding on carts, and why it matters: how much food do you think you could pack and carry, along with all your other possessions, for a trip who’s duration you did not know? A few day’s worth? Maybe a week’s worth?

Once this massive movement of people got across a miraculously parted Red Sea (which swallowed up Pharaoh’s army behind them), they were in a wilderness without GPS. Just a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to guide they. Their comfort zones were just a speck in the rear view mirror. It was way back there, far out of sight. Their new-found freedom from the bondage of slavery under the whips of Pharaoh’s task masters had to be awesome. But the path before them was incredibly uncertain.

And one of the things that made it uncertain was eminently practical: their food supplies would run out soon after the Red Sea closed up behind them.

You know the story, though. God provided for them. He sent a substance that settled on the ground like dew every morning for the entire Israelite camp, except for Saturday morning (the Sabbath). That first morning, when the Israelites came out of their tents and saw it, they said, “Manna?” Meaning, “What is it?” They’d never seen it before, and it’s never been seen since. Since they didn’t have a better name for it, they called it Manna for the next 40 years, until it stopped being dropped from heaven the first day they occupied the Promised Land.

God’s instructions were that an omer of manna would be gathered for each person in each household (or tent-hold). An omer is the equivalent of six pints.

Author Steve Farrar, calculating on the conservative estimate of 2,000,000 people, writes, “For two million people, God had to send twelve million pints, or nine million pounds, or four thousand five hundred tons of manna each morning. It is hard to fathom that amount.” (Farrar, Steve. Manna p. 5. Thomas Nelson.)

He goes on to give a sense of the magnitude of this, “Today that amount of manna would require ten trains, each having thirty cars, and each car carrying fifteen tons—for a single day’s supply.” (ibid)

It boggles the mind, does it not?

Here’s where I’m going with this.

We’re not quite in a Middle-East desert wilderness, but things aren’t just peachy for most of us. If you’re not among those of us who are wondering how we’ll make it all work in the future, you’re in a pretty small minority. The rest of us are trying to figure out what we’ll do with the uncertain future that lies before us. Lots of us don’t know if our job will outlast the Covid thing. Lots of jobs already haven’t. Lots of us are wondering if our 401 K will ever recover from the pounding the Stock Market is taking. What happens now that we’ve burned through the stimulus check we got a while back? And our unemployment benefits won’t last forever. What happens when that income stream dries up? And then what about the election? We’re wondering if life will ever swing back around to any kind of “normal.”

For a whole lot of us, these are anxious days. The future’s starting to look a lot less bright than it was on January 1, 2020. The unknowns can be overwhelming. Denying it or just keeping a stiff upper lip won’t work. Eventually you won’t be able to keep your lip stuff, and eventually reality will invade your fortress of denial.

I know it sounds a little like a Sunday School answer, but the best way to deal with the ugly realities of our life right now is to look at it square on and remember the Manna God has provided in the past.

You’ll be tempted to just look the other way until it feels like the storm has past, but that’s not going to work, I’m afraid. This storm has settled in and there’s not much of a way to accurately predict when it’s going to move on. It could be a long time before things settle back down. So don’t look away. See it for what it is.

But don’t freak out because of how awful it looks.

Now get out your journal or a piece of paper and a pen, or create a document on your computer or tablet or phone and start writing down the times God has come through for you. Don’t worry about the form. Just write down as many as you can remember. Start this effort with praying for God to bring to your mind the times He provided Manna. A random list is fine. The point is, get a list down so you can look at it. I’m pretty sure there will be more on your list than you thought there would be when you started.

When you’ve made your list, mentally walk through it. Revisit the stories of God’s provision. Set aside a bit of time so you won’t have to run through the list. It takes time and effort to reflect. So give yourself the time to make the effort.

Last thing in this exercise, offer a prayer something like this: “Lord, thank You for reminding me of the Manna You’ve provided. I put my trust in You for providing what we need through this really hard season. My faith is small, but thank You for not waiting for it to get large before You provide. Give me faith and courage to keep putting my trust in You.”

There’s nothing magical about that prayer. Use your words, not mine. But know that the promise is that God hears your prayer, and in His perfect wisdom and on His time table, He promises to answer.

To paraphrase Oswald Chambers, trust God and do what’s next.

From → Marriage

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