As I described in the previous post, God's people were delivered from Egyptian bondage.  An entire nation brought out of slavery was headed to the Promised Land, a land God had prepared for them.  However, their journey brought them through the desert where they became hungry and thirsty, without food or water.  The Israelites began grumbling and complaining, even wishing to return to their slavery in Egypt.  The book of Exodus, chapter 16, then recounts an incredible story of God's provision. 

The Lord said to Moses, "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.  Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.'"  That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?"  For they did not know what is was. --- Exodus 16:11-15

Those thin flakes equaled God's provision for His people.  The Israelites called it "manna," which means "What is it?"  Every morning, they collected just enough manna for that day.  If they tried to keep more than necessary, it would be spoil.  On the sixth day, they would collect enough manna for that day and for the next so that they could rest on the Sabbath, as instructed by the Lord.  Miraculously, this additional manna saved for the seventh day would not spoil.  During the entire journey through the desert to the Promised Land, God provided for His children.  I believe we can learn the following things about His provision:

1) God's provision can be PECULIAR.

The Israelites took one look at the flakes on the ground and asked, "What is it?"  When they had complained about being hungry and without food, I'm sure they were hoping God would supernaturally provide.  Maybe they could stumble upon a herd of goats or...ok, sure, quail can appear in camp out of nowhere - that works too.  But, flakes on the ground?  That was unlike any food they'd ever seen before.  What were they to do with that?

And, for that matter, who had ever been led by pillars of cloud and fire?  Exodus 13:21-22 says, "By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people."

The fact is, God does not always provide for us in the way we might expect.  

2) God's provision is PLENTY.

The Israelites were instructed to gather ONLY the manna they needed for the day.  Exodus 16:19, "No one is to keep any of it until morning."  Every morning (except on the Sabbath), the Israelites went out and gathered their manna, TRUSTING that God would supply their need the following day.  They did this for forty years.  When I read verse 35 of chapter 16, "The Israelites ate manna for forty years," I have to admit, my immediate thought was, "That might have gotten old."  I mean, I burned out on Ramen noodles in college - FORTY YEARS of the same food?!  The thing is, God is all-powerful and He could have easily mixed up the menu if He so chose.  He could have provided a new gourmet meal each day...or a BUFFET of gourmet options even.  He could have made the meal appear in their tents, by their beds, rather than on the desert floor where it required gathering.  He could have provided food from day one, rather than leading the Israelites through the desert for three days first, hungry and without.  But He did not.  In His sovereignty, He provided perfectly - plentifully - and it was good.  Because...

3) God's provision is with PURPOSE.

The way God provides for His children is never without purpose.  In this story, we see the following purposes at work:   

a) God is testing the Israelites to build their trust in Him. 

"The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." (verse 4) 

b) God has called the Israelites out as His own people and is forming a new relationship with them.  He wants the Israelites to know Who He is, to see His mighty power, to feel His love and care for them, and to TRUST Him as their God.  

"At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.  Then you will know that I am the Lord your God." (verse 12)  

c) God wants to establish this relationship with the Israelite generations to come, as well.  He wants the future children to know of His faithfulness and provision.  

"Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the desert when I brought you out of Egypt." (verse 32) 

d) As I mentioned in yesterday's entry, in chapter 6 of Exodus, God said this to the Israelites: "I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of Egyptians.  I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement.  I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.  Then you will know that I am the Lord..."  What strikes me about this verse is that it succinctly sums of the entire redemptive story.  He is the Lord.  He brings us out from the bondage of sin; He frees us from being slaves to it.  He redeems us.  He accepts us as His children and is our God!  So, in the grand scheme of God's redemption story through history, there is another purpose in God's provision of manna to the Israelites - to foreshadow His provision of the Bread of Life.  

"Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world'...Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty...Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died.  But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.'" ---John 6:32-33, 35, 49-51

During the tenth plague in Egypt, death "passed over" the Israelite homes that had the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the door.  It could not touch those covered by the blood.  God freed the Israelites from slavery, redeemed them, took them as His people, and provided for their physical needs by offering manna in the desert.  GRACIOUSLY, His redemption continues as the blood of the perfect lamb Jesus Christ covers those who trust in Him.  God frees us from the slavery of sin, redeems us, takes us as His own, and provides for our eternal, spiritual needs by offering JESUS CHRIST as our sacrifice.  On this day a couple thousand years ago, Jesus gave His life for the world.  Through Him, we may have everlasting life!  

So, we see that throughout time, God has been writing the story of Redeeming Love.  From the Exodus to Easter...God redeems and God provides!