“Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.
‘If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,’ they moaned. ‘There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.’
Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.’…
That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. ‘What is it?’ they asked each other. They had no idea what it was. And Moses told them, ‘It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.’
So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed. Then Moses told them, ‘Do not keep any of it until morning.’ But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.” Exodus 16:1-5,13-20 (NLT)
The Israelites were wandering in the wilderness. In their desert place, God seemed very far away. They had just left a life of slavery in Egypt, but as the Egyptian skyline became dim in the distance behind them, the people lost perspective. They had been treated poorly, but now all they could remember was the food and supposed luxuries from the past. These were the same people who had just witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and walked through it on dry ground. Their memory of the mistreatment began to fade, and all they could remember was the food. As they examined the desert before them, they saw nothing. In the nothingness, they started to wail and complain. The people were wondering what Moses was thinking. Could he physically feed all of these people? How did Moses expect them to survive? In their desert place, God was present. He was still their provider and source. As the people complained, God was going to show Himself faithful in the most creative way that the people had never imagined. He was going to literally rain down food on the people. As the desert stretched out before them and they did not know how they would survive, God sustained them. They were to collect manna that came out of the sky and eat it; God would bring quail to sustain them. On the first day, people were confused. They were expecting loaves of bread like they had known in Egypt. They wanted everything to be the same. Yet, as God was bringing the people into a new season, His provision was going to come in a new way. As they gathered the food, they were only to keep the manna for one day, otherwise it would rot. Every morning as the sun peaked over the horizon, the people would remember that it was God who supplied their needs. While some wanted to store up more, they began to understand that God’s way in the desert place is worth following.
When we are walking through a desert season in life, many times our posture is not much different than the Israelites. Instead of stepping forward in faith, we want to step back and complain. Our complaints can be formed into questions. How could God bring me to this point? I thought God cared about me and was going to provide. We start seeing God’s provision through a distorted lens, and our expectation can be that He will work in our lives the same way He has worked in the past. Our expectation of the method of God’s provision can cause us to be confused when God works in a different way. As the Israelites lost perspective, they wished that God had killed them back in Egypt so that they would not have to starve in the desert. This line of reasoning seems absurd, but the reality is that sometimes we would rather God would have left us in our past misery rather than delivering us into a new season of faith. In desert places, God can seem very far away. It can be a challenge to trust Him when we look over the horizon of our lives and see nothing. Yet in dry wastelands, He is very present. God could see the Promised Land on the other side of the desert. Yet, in order to get from point A to point B, the Israelites had to walk through wilderness territory. As you look at the desert before you, God sees the other side of the desert. Look to Him for sustenance on your journey through desert places. Desert places are a ripe setting for miracles. God’s sustaining provision might come to you in a way that you would least expect it. Instead of seeing nothing, choose to see God’s presence. Because when we realize that we have reached the end of what we can do, we make way for what only God can do.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.