I recently finished reading the book of Exodus which chronicles the Israelites departure from Egypt and the beginning of their time wandering the wilderness. One of the most interesting stories of this book is God’s provision for the Israelites in the wilderness using the bread from heaven, manna. After contemplating this story a bit further, I felt God begin to teach me three important principles from this account which apply to God’s provision and sustenance in general.
1. We need God’s provision and sustenance daily
We shouldn’t be relying upon yesterday’s spiritual nourishment from God to sustain us for the next week, but we should instead, make every effort to go out and collect our spiritual manna from God daily.
God told the Israelites to go out every day and collect enough manna for themselves and their families to last that day, with the only exception to this rule being on the day before the Sabbath where the Israelites would collect twice as much so they could observe rest on the Sabbath day. Any manna that was kept until morning wasted away and was inedible (with the exception of manna collected for the Sabbath day, again). God could have easily created manna with an indefinite lifetime which would have been easier for the Israelites, but I think He didn’t do this so that He could teach them the importance of receiving God’s provision and sustenance daily.
We as people need God’s sustenance every day. At the risk of sounding cliché, without His provision we wouldn’t breathe every day. But in addition to this fundamental provision, we draw life and sustenance from God every day spiritually too. It is only God that makes us truly alive instead of merely existing. Jesus said that he had come to give us life and life to the full (see John 10:10), and this fullness of life only comes from God himself. We need spiritual provision from God every day otherwise we get dry and burnt out. Our spiritual provision from God “wastes away” like manna. We shouldn’t be relying upon yesterday’s spiritual nourishment from God to sustain us for the next week, but we should instead, make every effort to go out and collect our spiritual manna from God daily. Spending time in His presence every day is what makes us truly alive and spiritually well-fed.
2. God’s provision operates best when it is from a place of reliance upon Him
God’s provision operates best out of a place of complete reliance upon Him. It is the complete faith in the goodness of His character that often unlocks supernatural provisions that no amount of careful planning or self-reliance could muster up.
The Manna that God sent would appear on the ground every morning (except for the Sabbath morning as previously mentioned), and it was a daily exercise in trust for the Israelites who would have to have faith in God that He would provide food for them. The command God gave concerning the amount that people should gather was to gather enough for that day, preventing hoarding and relying upon one’s own ability to provide, but instead, created a dependency upon God’s goodness. This command was hard and there were people who didn’t follow it. Some of the Israelites tried to take more than they needed so that they had excess, but this wasted away by the next morning. Others tried to gather manna on the Sabbath morning when God said there wasn’t going to be any on that day. Even in the face of supernatural provision direct from the hand of God, some of the Israelite people were self-reliant in trying to look after themselves with the resources that God had so gloriously provided.
God’s provision operates best out of a place of complete reliance upon Him. It is the complete faith in the goodness of His character that often unlocks supernatural provisions that no amount of careful planning or self-reliance could muster up. Whilst careful stewarding of resources is to be applauded and encouraged, it is powerless to match God’s supernatural ability to provide for our needs. Relying upon yourself is completely trumped by relying on God and His goodness as His ability to provide far outweighs our own.
We are told in the latter part of Exodus 16 that the Israelites ate manna in the desert like this for forty years before they entered the promised land. God provided for an entire nation of people in this way for forty years, let that sink in. If you are in a place of requiring God’s provision in your life test Him in this: ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.’ – Psalm 34:8-10.
3. God will sustain you in ways that you do not understand
Understanding holds no importance in a discussion on supernatural provision as God’s ability to provide and sustain you supersedes your understanding and knowledge of the problems you are facing.
One of my favourite parts of this story is to do with manna itself. A literal translation of the Hebrew word manna into English is ‘what is it?’ The Israelites had no idea what manna was, but yet, were sustained and kept alive by it for forty years. God supernaturally provided for and sustained an entire nation of people on something they didn’t even know or understand for forty years.
Understanding holds no importance in a discussion on supernatural provision as God’s ability to provide and sustain you supersedes your understanding and knowledge of the problems you are facing. You don’t need to have it all worked out about how God will provide for you, or even understand how God did provide for you when it happens, you only need to know and believe that God is who He says He is. He is bigger than the impossible situation you are facing and He is bigger than any need you have. God made everything out of nothing and fed 5000 on two fish and five loaves of bread, I think He is well enough qualified to handle your situation.
The story of God’s provision for the Israelites using manna stands to prove that God is the ultimate provider and that He wants us to have faith in His ability to provide for us no matter how unlikely the circumstances. Manna and supernatural provision are mysterious by definition, but Deuteronomy 8 teaches us that God doesn’t mind leaving a question like ‘what is it?’ unanswered if it is for the purpose of revealing a greater truth to us.