The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
Day 78: God is Faithful Even When Weíre Not
When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the hoarfrost on the ground. When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?..."
What was the fine white stuff the Israelites found on the ground each morning for the next forty years in the wilderness? We know it as "manna" for thatís what they named itóliterally translated manna means "what is it?" They never did figure out what it was or where it came from. There was no natural explanation; nothing like it has happened since, though ravens did bring Elijah some mysterious bread a few hundred years later. It might have been manna...who knows?
Moses knew what it was. "And Moses said to them, ĎIt is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat," (Ex 16:15). It didnít matter just what the ingredients were, or whether there was an explanation for it; it was from the Lord and that was good enough for the man of God. He had known that God would provide and now He had. God never lets His people down. Even if weíre rebellious, He still provides for His own.
An earthly father, at least a responsible one, doesnít starve his children if theyíre naughty. Neither does God. His providence is sure and faithfulóHis children will never be seen begging bread; they will not be forsaken by their Father. If they are walking willfully instead of with Him they will not see the full blessing of the Lord in their lives. They will experience all the effects of their behavior, for God is not mocked: whatsoever you sow you shall also reap. Being a child of God doesnít exempt you from the natural and spiritual laws of sowing and reaping. If you are a rebel your children will eventually rebel against you. If you murmur, you closest ones will murmur against you. If you are faithless and untrue, you will get the same from the ones you expect the most from. If you have little faith in God, you will have all sorts of stress. But you wonít starveóGod will provide for you in some way as long as you remain His child.
Isnít He good? Yes, He is. So much so that He not only provided food, but good food at that. The Bible says manna tasted like wafers with honey. Their main staple tasted like desert! I think maybe the mid-eastern treat baklava was developed in an effort to reproduce manna. Itís probably the closest thing to it that youíll find. Stop at a Greek or Syrian restaurant sometime and try it if you havenít already. Youíll taste and see that the Lord is good, and His providence isnít meager but abundant.
Day 79: Prosperity or Luxury?
"This is what the Lord has commanded. ĎGather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.í" And the sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little. When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack...
Principles and values like the one stated in our text force me to assess some of the modern prosperity teachings... and find them wanting. The Bible certainly teaches that God wants to bless and provide for His people, but the instructions given for the daily harvest of manna illustrate Godís definition of prosperity. The people werenít allowed to gather more than they could comfortably eat, and if they did, that extra manna would soon rot in an extremely foul way, complete with worms. Perhaps this is the figure James had in mind when he said, "your riches are corrupted, and your garments motheaten, your gold and silver is cankered," (Jas.5:2-3, KJV). Full, but not excessive, seems to be Godís idea of prosperity.
It would help to understand the meaning of a few English words often used in this context. "Prosperity," according to the dictionary, means to be favored, to have success and good fortune; it comes from the Latin word prosperitas, which means to be in a favorable condition. No one could argue that the Christian is in a favorable position before God because of the work of Jesus on the cross. And our Lord wants us to have success and good fortune, as stated in 3 John 2 and Joshua 1:8: "Beloved I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers," and "for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success."
So far so good, but letís look at another word, "luxury." Many think that prosperity and luxury are synonyms, but there is a subtle yet important difference. The dictionary defines luxury as "extravagance" and "excess." This is just the opposite of the principle God is setting forth in the manna episode. He told them not to gather an excessive amount, but only gather what each of them could eat. They could eat and be filledóthey werenít longing for more food after dinneróbut they could not gather more than they could eat.
Luxury is having more than you can eat. Luxury is extravagance. Extravagance causes sober people to look at you and say, "thatís too much." Gold-plated water faucets are too much, air-conditioned doghouses are too much, three and a half million dollar homes are too much. A ring on every finger is too much. This is not prosperity, itís extravagance. This doesnít glorify God, it brings shame to Him, because thinking people donít appreciate extravagance. Unthinking people will buy any explanation, and continue to support their favorite evangelist, even if his lifestyle is extravagant. But overall, this sort of thing brings reproach to the church.
I have a good life, and every Christian should. God loves His people and wants to prosper them. You canít draw a sharp line between what is enough, and what is too much in every case, but your conscience knows. And God knows. And He also knows how to rot and canker your excess. So enjoy Godís prosperity, but avoid luxury like the foul-smelling plague it is.
Day 80: Daily Provision
And so they gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat...
The verse above is very reminiscent of the clause in the Lordís Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread." Both are very much a part of Godís philosophy of providence for His people. He will gladly provide for us each day, depending on our needs, but beyond that there are no promises of God to claim.
Just the opposite, actually. Look at our Lordís injunctions in the Sermon on the Mount... "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal...do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink... do not be anxious for tomorrow for tomorrow will care for itself..." (Mt 6:19,25,34). Storing up things for tomorrow is actually a practice frowned upon in the Scripture, not only in the case of manna, which spoiled if kept overnight, but in the New Testament teachings of Jesus Christ, too. Anxiety and insecurity about what the future may hold is the root reason for savings accounts, insurance policies, and even labor unions. The Gentilesóthose who donít know and trust GodóJesus said, worry about these thingsófor these are natural concerns to the natural man. But the spiritual man or woman is to live at a different level of existence, the level of faith. "For the just shall live by faith."
I remember the testimony of my old friend Tony Markos, pastor of Resurrection Fellowship in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He shared of how he was worried about church finances at one point...until he realized that throughout his entire ministry there had never seemed to have been enough money. "But," he said, "God somehow pulled us through. I came to realize that we never would have enough to sit comfortably and feel secure, but that weíd never experience lack either." He felt comfortable about that. God had never let him and his family down, and He never would.
David learned that lesson, too, after spending many years on the backside of the wilderness himself, but with a purer heart than the Israelites of the Exodus. He declares in Psalm 37:25, "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread," (KJV). The Apostle Paul as well, after years of the faith-walk, learned to trust God on a day-by-day basis, and in reference to this very subject was able to say in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
All the insurance the believer in Christ needs is the faithfulness of God. To demand more, to be anxious because your future is not secure according to the worldís way of thinking, is to walk in the same spirit of unbelief as those Israelites who laid aside extra manna for the next day. And like them, you will probably reap a bag full of foul-smelling rot and worms in the long run. Take a break from your troubles and have faith in God.
Day 81: Bread Every Morning
And so they gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat...
In addition to the lesson of Godís daily provision and the command to us to live by faith, there is a more symbolic spiritual application here as well. Manna is a type of our daily spiritual bread. Jesus said "I am the bread that came down out of heaven," (John 6:41). He Himself interpreted the symbol of manna...
Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.
Manna is a type of Christ Himself. "I am the bread of life," he also said in the same context. As the Israelites ate manna each day in the wilderness we eat Christ for our spiritual sustenance. This is not primarily a reference to the Lordís supper, either, as some have taught. Thatís related, of course, but the main point is to partake of Christ daily, to fellowship with Him in the Spirit at such a depth as to be said to be eating and drinking Him. Surely youíve known some person who youíve loved and appreciated so much that you just wanted to sit close to and take them in! Just hold them until you melded together, look at them until every feature was memorized, talk with them until you felt you had always known them. Thatís on the order of what Jesus meant when He called Himself the bread of life.
He is the mainstay of our existence, as bread is symbolic of the very mainstay of life. And we need to eat of Him every day, even as we need to eat physical food every day, or risk weakness, and eventual death.
The manna also shows us the uselessness of trying to stock up on spiritual life. It doesnít keep until tomorrow. You need to gather it afresh every morning. Some folks try to stock up on Sunday or some other day of the week, and get through the whole rest of the week on that one trip to church. Unfortunately there are no spiritual preservatives to keep yesterdayís spiritual blessings good for more than a day. Youíll die of hunger if you try to live on yesterdayís Bible time or prayer hour, or if you fast from the spoken Word. Weíre talking necessities of life, here, people.
Manna actually got foul and full of worms. Yesterdayís spiritual blessings not only donít feed you today, they can go sour on you and almost make a mockery of everything you believe. Your weakened spiritual mind will take things wrong and out of context, and turn in accusation of God when the chips are down. You need to gather manna every morning, just as the children of Israel did. You need to be a daily partaker of Jesus, the true bread from heaven.
Day 82: Godís Faithful Supply Line
And the sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
From the first day that manna came to the Israelites in the wilderness it continued for forty years, the whole time they were in the Sinai desert. It appeared like clockwork six days in a row, and was absent the seventh, and if they picked extra on any of the first five days, all that they didnít eat spoiled by morning. But on the sixth day they gathered twice as much as usual, and it didnít spoilóit kept throughout the seventh day, the Sabbath, when no manna was appeared outside. For forty years. Six days of manna, one day off, six more days of manna, one day off, and so on.
When they crossed the Jordan River there was no more manna. It wasnít because manna didnít grow on the west bank of Jordan; there was no manna in the wilderness either, had they looked. You can go there to this day and youíll find no manna.
Joshua made a point of recording the cessation of manna... "And the manna ceased the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan that year," (Josh 5:12). As long as manna was needed it was there; as soon as it wasnít, it was gone.
Godís provision for us is like that, too. He brings us manna when we need it and cuts off the supply when we donít. We always have the tendency to fret and fuss when one source is cut off, but experience teaches us that another source quickly opens up, and His daily providence never misses a beat. One brother recently told me that the company he worked for had decided to stop paying for employeesí health benefits. That can be a little scary for a father with three small children in this time where a few days in the hospital can cost thousands of dollars. But Godís providence is right thereóno doubt already in his grasp, if he could only see itóthe manna didnít cease for the Israelites until the day after they had eaten the produce of the land. Perhaps Godís program for this insurance-less family is divine health! Thatís much better than hospitalization coverage.
So donít kick and fuss and let your unbelief show. God doesnít cut off the lifeline. He does make you walk by faith, though, and if you have started to trust in your present supply instead of the God who opened it up, He knows how to shut it down and get your priorities back in order. But youíll never suffer lack. His providence is promised again and again throughout the Old and New Testaments. If your old supply has been cut off and youíre tempted to worry, do a little Bible study on all the "providence promises" in the Word of God. Youíll be on your spiritual feet again in no time.
Day 83: The Day of Rest
So the people rested on the seventh day.
Too many Christians look on the Sabbath as a bondage, or the sure sign of a cult. No doubt this is because of the continual struggle Jesus had with the Pharisees of His day on the subject. Those guys had worked out the details of Godís Sabbath to the point of the ridiculous. You could walk, but only so faró100 yardsóbefore your walking could be construed as exertion and therefore classified as work. You couldnít idly pick a grain of wheat, as Jesusí disciples found out one day. You could even be in violation of the Sabbath rules by idly digging your big toe in the dirt while talkingóit might be interpreted as plowing!
So Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and purposely irritated the Pharisees, because of the foolishness of their position on the subject (they considered healing the same as practicing medicine). He never broke Godís law of the Sabbath, however. He appreciated the Sabbath itselfóit was the Phariseesí perversion of it and use of it to further oppress people, and misrepresent God as a petty dictator with silly rules that He opposed. The Sabbath itself was ordained of God, was honored by Jesus, and a day of rest is still a good idea today.
"The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath," Jesus declared. Here in Exodus it doesnít say, "and the people honored the Sabbath and kept it before the Lord," it says, "so the people rested on the seventh day." They didnít have to work. Hallelujah! They didnít have to gather food, they didnít even cook food. In verse twenty-three Moses commanded them to bake or boil their manna the day before. The ladies need a day off, too. Cooking and cleaning is hard work, and though the working man may get a couple of days off each week, the poor housewife just gets more work, because the old boyís laying around the house dirtying more dishes than usual, and she has to cook extra meals for him, too. The Sabbath is made for woman, too!
Rest is a good thing. People from my part of the countryóthe Upper Midwestóhave a work ethic thatís almost too good in some ways; we may not work as hard as our fathers did, but we feel guilty about it in Minnesota. "A little hard vork never hurt nobody, Ya." Our Scandinavian heritage is still in the blood, and we feel like the weekend is the time to put in sixteen-hour days around the house and yard. Monday is a blue day for us because we never did get any rest on the weekend!
If rest is good enough for God, itís good enough for Christians, too. Iíve heard the folks who say, "the devil doesnít take a holiday and Iím not going to, either." The devil doesnít obey any other of Godís commands either! Instead of following his example, letís obey Godís Word, and follow the example of Jesus and the rest of the saints of the Bibleóletís really rest one day a week.
Day 84: The Rock is Christ
"Behold I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock and water shall come out of it, that the people may drink." And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
This particular story, though itís passed over in just seven verses where it first appears, is one that is commented on several times in the rest of Scripture. Paul mentioned it in 1 Corinthians chapter ten...
Our fathers...all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
1 Corinthians 10:1,3-4
Itís rather interesting that the story of the supernatural water source comes right on the heels of the supernatural food source. God is providing both food and water for His people in the wilderness. Both miraculously, both of a quality and nature that only the Lord could have come up with.
Paul calls them both not only supernatural, but spiritual: "spiritual" food and "spiritual" drink coming from a "spiritual" rock. Looks like we have another type of Christ here, folks. Of course we do. "The rock was Christ," Paul goes on to say. Christ is the Rock of Ages, isnít He? not to mention the Stone that the builders rejected and the Chief Cornerstone. Yes, Christ is the rock. And He is the rock that was struck for our sustenance. God had His own Son hanged on a cross and killed, so that the waters of life might flow out from Him to all the nations. His being struck on that cross provided spiritual life for all of us who have been dying of spiritual thirst in the wilderness of life, but and have looked on Him and drunk of Him. Hallelujah!
That rock followed them, Paul says. Exodus doesnít record that part of the story, and Iím not sure if itís meant to be taken literally or symbolically. Itís a little difficult to imagine a rock hopping along with the camp of the Israelites as they wandered around Sinai, but then itís a little difficult to picture many of the miracles of the Bible, isnít it?
Whether the physical rock literally followed them or not, the spiritual rock, Jesus, goes with us all the days of our wandering here on earth. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. The depth of His commitment can be seen in the patience He had as He followed the Israelites around the wilderness. No one ever gave Him a better reason to abandon them than the sons of Israel with all their murmuring and rebellion. But He stood firmly with them, He followed them and continued to sustain them with water from the rock.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself.
2 Timothy 2:13
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.