Summary: This is an important sermon, where we will learn the correlation between God’s provision, and his requirement for us to follow his instructions.
The incentive to trust in God’s provision today, may be more necessary than it has been in a very long time. We are living in difficult days, but if those days cause us to turn more to God, then such difficulties may not be a bad thing, depending of course on the severity of those circumstances. The Israelis arrived in the desert of Sin, one month after God had delivered them out of the hands of the Egyptians. Rather than going straight into the Promised Land, they were directed straight into the wilderness, both physically and methodically speaking. The plan of God was to teach Israel to trust in him as their sole provider.
Like many people who experience times of difficulty, trusting God is not automatic. It is in fact a learning process - a process undertaken through exercising faith in God. This sermon will consider the lessons that Israel needed to learn, when it came to God’s provisions for their basic survival in the wilderness. And from their experience, we too might learn the lesson of trusting God to provide for us, especially when we go through our own desert experiences.
The whole of the Israelite community had set out from Elim, and arrived in the Desert of Sin. They had been on the move for one month, according to Exodus 12:2, after God had freed them from their captivity in Egypt. We discover in Exodus 16:2, that the whole community was grumbling, because their stomach’s were rumbling. So Moses and Aaron became the target of Israel’s complaint, simply because they had presumed God had brought them into the desert, and they were about to starve to death.
Grumblings are rarely logical, as we can see from Exodus 16:3, when it says, "The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Strangely, the Israelites stated that they were willing to die in Egypt, but were less than willing to die in the desert. Maybe they were choosy about where they wanted to die? But God in his infinite mercy, was prepared to come to their rescue, despite such complaints. Likewise God is just as eager to come to our aid with the necessary provisions we need, despite the fact that we sometimes grumble too.
However, there was a test for the Israelites! If they were eager to partake of God’s provision, then they would be advised to follow God’s instructions. And this was especially important if such instructions related to God’s provision for them. A condition was imposed upon Israel! They could only collect manna once a day, except on the sixth day where they were to collect twice the amount of manna, in preparation for the sabbath rest. As it says in Exodus 16:4-5, "Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. 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. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
Because God is a God of grace, not only was he preparing to provide bread for the Israelis in the morning, it was his purpose to provide them with meat in the evening. As it says in Exodus 16:10-12, ’While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. 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.’ ” The point we need to get our heads around is this. Although the Israelis were facing a momentary crisis, God was in fact preparing to provide for the entire camp for forty years. And this is precisely why we need to follow any instructions God gives us by His Spirit. God may not be planning to provide for us as a one off contingency plan. His purpose may be to provide for us continually. But sometimes, there will be conditions that God wants us to come to terms with, as we learn to obey God’s prompting and leading by His Spirit.
We also need to recognise when God is providing for us! That provision may also have a condition of faith upon it. And that condition may require us to trust God to provide for our needs, when we need them, and not before. In fact, the Israelis did not even recognise that God had sent the provision they needed, on the day that it arrived. As it says in Exodus 16:13-15, ’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 it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat." ’ When we trust God to provide for us, it may not always be evident where that provision will come from. God’s provision may very well be piece meal, coming from a variety of sources and directions, over time. God’s provision may not always be obvious, and we may find ourselves asking the same question as the Israelis did, when they said, "What Is It?"