Who is Yahweh? Our Provider

The story continues…

Part 17 (Exodus 16,17)

The Israelites probably thought that liberation from captivity in Egypt would be the end of all their problems. But now, they find themselves facing a completely new set of problems. A nomadic lifestyle on the margins of sustainability is evidently not what they have been anticipating! After a month on the march, all the provisions they have brought with them are exhausted and hunger begins to set in. And in no time they are looking back with nostalgia at the ‘good old days’ of slavery! Memories are notoriously selective: they have already forgotten all the bad things about their life in Egypt, and can only think about the food…

God knows their need and is ready to give (Exodus 16:11,12).“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6:31,32) But He waits to be asked. Even in the wilderness, the feeding of a crowd is no problem for Him. Manna is a natural substance, an exudation from a species of aphid that lives on tamarisk trees in the Sinai peninsula, and is rich in sugars. All that is required is an explosion in the aphid population. With a regular supply of manna, plus the milk and occasional meat from their flocks, the Israelites will be adequately nourished for the whole of their long journey.

But this is more than a logistical exercise; it is also a teaching opportunity. The food will not be miraculously delivered to their tents; the Israelites will have to go out to look for it and collect it for themselves (Exodus 16:16). Thus they will learn that God’s provision and man’s labour go hand in hand. And they will receive only one day’s supply at a time, so that they will learn to trust Him for tomorrow as well as today (Exodus 16:19). Finally, they (and the aphids!) will get a day of rest every seventh day (Exodus 16:25,26).

When the Israelites reach Rephidim (in the most fertile part of the Sinai peninsula) they expect to find water – but the well is dry (Exodus 17:1). And even though they are getting accustomed to relying on God for their daily food, they still do not really trust Him. Under the relentless demands of thirst, tempers quickly get heated, and Moses begins to fear for his life. But God actually has the situation under control. The water is already there, waiting for them; it needs only to be released (Exodus 17:6). And He will continue to care for His people in the same way, until they reach their destination (Deuteronomy 8:2-4).

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