Wilderness Meditations: 5. Using today’s provisions
Psa 78:19 “they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?”
Jn 6:31 “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness.”
Recapping: In the last two studies we have been focusing on the realities of receiving from the Lord in the wilderness. First we faced the possibility of unbelief over this matter of God being our provider. Then we went on to consider various aspects of our side of the equation – about having a heart focused on God and not on money, having a generous and caring heart that can provide for others. But there is yet a further aspect of being a receiver of God’s provision, especially in wilderness times.
The Place of Testing: The wilderness is a place of challenge and for the believer, a place of trial and testing. It is both a place of learning and also of proving the depth of our faith. In days of plenty and unfettered freedom, it is easy to be happy and contented, but when we enter a season of time in the wilderness, we are challenged over the question of provision and contentedness. It also challenges us as to whether we can both remain in peace as we trust God for provision and whether we can hear God as we considered yesterday, to be creative and act with wisdom so that He may provide in that way if He wishes. But behind this there is yet another principle we haven’t yet touched upon.
The Example of the Manna: So we are considering the whole question of God providing for us in the wilderness and the obvious historical example of this was the manna He provided for Israel for forty years in the wilderness: “The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled.” (Ex 16:35) What is especially remarkable about that is that it was supposed to be provision for only a few months but when Israel refused to enter the Promised Land and had to wait forty years in the wilderness, the Lord carried on providing it for them. But there is one particular aspect of the manna that I want us to focus on today. Not so much the fact that it was a daily miraculous provision from God, but more from the fact that it was His provision for them for five days each week, for them to use on the day, and if they kept it longer, it went off. Yet, on the sixth day they were to collect double, part to use on that sixth day and part to use the next day, the Sabbath – and it didn’t go off on the Sabbath!
Talents: There is more than one parable that uses talents or minas or bags of gold as the provision handed out. In Mt 25:14-30 in the NIV it is bags of gold, in the ESV it is talents, but the message is the same. The house owner hands out 10, 5 and 1 talent to his servants and when he returns home it is clear he expected them to have used and multiplied what he had given each of them. The one who declared, “I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground,” (v.25) was thoroughly chastised. I would suggest there are two implications here. First, the more obvious one that we usually latch onto, is that God expects us to use all He has given us, to bless ourselves, to bless others, to bless the world and to bless Him. The second implication is that of relationship, how we view God. The third man saw Him as “a hard man” (v.24). He had a wrong understanding of his master, and that inhibited the way he lived.
How we view God: I believe the time of the Pandemic is a time of revelation, of the hearts of men and women. How people cope – or don’t cope – is an indicator of the resources they have. Believers should be those who have unlimited resources that are drawn upon as we go each morning to the fount that is Jesus. But part of it is how we view Jesus? As we suggested in the first of these studies, I don’t believe he is the cause of the Pandemic except in as far as he may have taken his hand of protection off Chinese scientists who then got it wrong and allowed it to escape into the world from the bats they had been investigating. It is more helpful to ask, ‘what can I learn from this,’ rather than worry about its origins, but that goes right back to how we view God.
To take a very basic biblical teaching: God is perfect. When something is perfect it cannot be improved upon and so in no way when you think about what God thinks, says or does, can you imagine there being a better way. We will not be able to know that of a certainty until we come face to face with him in heaven, but in the meantime it is a matter of faith and trust. Sin mars our thinking, our perception, our understanding, and it is for those reasons we can find ourselves listening to the enemy who whispers, “He is a hard man!” No He’s not. Satan is a liar.
Questions: In the wilderness the outlook is sparse and barren but with Him there with us, our resources are never in question, His love for us is never in question and so that leaves us with a question: have I received what I have as a gift from Him to be used joyfully and thankfully and fruitfully? On the other side of the coin, the question might be, have I taken for granted all the good things I have known in my life, all the good things that have happened in my life and have I therefore been ungrateful? To these we must add, am I using what He has given me to bless others, close family, friends and others He puts before me? Are my resources growing because I am using them and are they blessing others?