Sometimes Just Enough is More Than Enough
‘In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 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.” 4 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. Exodus 16:2-4 (NIV)
This excerpt is from the story of the Israelite exodus. The Israelites have left Egypt weeks ago and are out of food. The situation is dire as they protest to Moses and Aaron. They are certain starvation is imminent and prefer death in Egypt to death in this place.
Truthfully, they had no realistic prospects of getting food to feed an entire nation of people. They had left Egypt at God's direction. Now, they feared they had made a mistake, and worry kicked in.
Years later, during Jesus’ earthly ministry, he addressed this kind of worry (see Luke 12). He encouraged his followers to avoid anxiousness and worry over food, drink and clothing because God knows all that we need, and he happily provides it. As an object lesson, Jesus pointed to the birds. They neither sow nor reap, Jesus said, yet God feeds them. And you are more valuable to God than birds!
Because of their obedience, the Israelites had become like those birds. They could not sow or reap. God had made them unable to provide for themselves through planning and hard work. They were entirely dependent on him. Yet, just as Jesus promised his listeners, God provided.
Yes, he let them feel hunger. But he had a purpose in it. He wanted to teach them that man does not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8:3). So, he tested them for a time. And what a test he gave them! After experiencing hunger, they discovered one morning the ground covered with food. But they were limited to gathering a one day supply. How would we respond to a similar limitation?
‘What about the waste?’, we might ask. In the name of good stewardship, we would have gathered more. Or what about the business opportunities? I can imagine some industrious Israelite developing a manna delivery service. Manna gathered and dropped off right at your tent for a small delivery fee (paid in manna, of course). He could have amassed a fortune. Instead, every single person ended each day with exactly zero. They had what they needed, but nothing more.
What does it take to leave unharvested gains on the ground, within easy reach, knowing they will go to waste?
It takes understanding that bread is necessary, but meeting our physical needs alone is not life. Loving and obeying God is how we find life. Jesus knew this. Even after fasting forty days in the desert (see Matthew 4), he refused to believe that turning stones into bread would satisfy his actual needs. Instead, he looked to God’s word for life.
This test is one that God still gives his followers today. Leading them into a place of complete dependence, and humbling them with hunger. Giving them an opportunity to show they believe that man doesn’t live by bread alone, but through obedience to his word to them.
If your obedience to God has left you in need, don’t let discouragement derail you. Love him and obey his word. He will provide all that you need.