In times of difficulties, when the future is most uncertain, it is easier to doubt God’s role as the provider of all things.
In the book of Exodus, it did not take long for the people of God to forget that God provides. Almost everyone knows the story of the parting of the Red Sea by heart. After fleeing from Egypt following the Passover miracle, the Israelites are pursued by the Egyptians to the banks of the Red Sea, where God miraculously delivers them by parting the Red Sea, allowing them to cross, and then swallowing the enemy up as the sea returns. How does Israel respond initially to God’s supernatural salvation? With worship. In Exodus 15, the Israelites respond with a song of praise.
But, immediately following that spiritual high point, comes a dark spiritual valley for the people of God. The Israelites are now in a harsh wilderness with little food, protection and most importantly, drinkable water. As the narrative unfolds, we see three ways God provides for His people.
God Provides Transformationally
Exodus 15:23 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah.
The thirsty Israelites find water only to immediately discover it is bitter and undrinkable. (Probably due to a high concentration of minerals and sulfur in the water) They respond to this setback by “grumbling”.
Exodus 15:24 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?”
All grumbling is ultimately aimed at God.
Tim Chester: “Grumbling puts God on trial and finds Him guilty”.
The water was not the only thing bitter in Marah. The hearts of the people were bitter too. It is a subtle reminder of how quickly the bitter water of life can turn our hearts bitter towards God. Amazingly God responds to their grumbling with grace. God instructs Moses to throw a log into the bitter water and miraculously the water is transformed into sweet, drinkable water.
God does not merely make the bitter things in our lives better…He makes them beautiful.
God Provides Daily
In Exodus 16 God leads His people away from the serenity and comforts of Elim and into the harshness of the wilderness. Not long into this journey, the people of God, once again, begin grumbling against the Lord. Doubting His goodness and ability to provide. Yet again, God responds to their grumbling by providing for their needs (in this case food). But there is a catch. The food (manna) will only be provided on a daily basis. And once per week, a double portion will be provided and then on the Sabbath, none will be provided.
Exodus 16:4 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.
Of course, Israel did not obey God’s specific directions and instead, attempt to out manage God by gathering more than they needed each day. What was the result? A pile of stinking, rotten, worm-infested manna serving as trophies of disobedience. (Exodus 16:19-21) What is God teaching us about His provision? God is reminding that we cannot trust in our own ability to save and stash.
We must trust that God will provide, one day at a time. God provided daily.
God provides spiritually, eternally
The third and final way God provides is the most important. God provides for us by meeting our greatest need with His greatest gift. Hundreds of years later, Jesus cites this specific episode from the Book of Exodus while teaching.
After Jesus feeds 5000 people, a discussion breaks out about this miracle. The religious leaders cry out for another miracle. They want to see “a work of God”. Jesus responds to them:
John 6:29-31 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus response is as brilliant as it was unexpected:
John 6:32 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Jesus says, “Don’t you get what the Father was teaching His people in the wilderness? This isn’t about BREAD…this is about FAITH! This is about trusting that GOD will meet your greatest need!
But these religious people don’t get it!
John 6:34 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
John 6:35 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Jesus is the miracle. Jesus is the provision. Jesus is the Great Gift! He is the manna from heaven that never spoils and always satisfies. It is true, we have all failed to trust God, we have all failed to thank Him for providing for our daily needs, we have trusted in our own work and effort to make us secure and to bring us joy. But, the Good News is this: Jesus, the Bread of Life, came down to live the sinless life we have failed to live, and this Jesus died in the place of ungrateful grumblers like us, so that everyone who looks to Him, will have their GREATEST need met: our need for His righteousness, our need for joy and eternal life.
In the Gospel, Jesus Himself is the final proof of this great truth: GOD