After the Israelites left Elim, the place where God commanded Moses to throw the tree in the bitter waters and the water miraculously became good to drink, they arrived at the Wilderness of Sin–a place between Elim and Sinai (where they would end up eventually in the next few chapters). Here, they encounter the third obstacle.
OBSTACLE #3: Let’s Get this Bread!
I don’t know about you, but I love bread! I inherited this almost melodramatic love for bread from my mom’s side of the family. We hardly ever have a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or even regular meal without bread. And usually, at the end of the meal when our plates are empty, you’ll find us using another piece of bread to sop up the leftover crumbs and juices still gracing the plate.
And this type of satisfactory meal is always followed with that bloated feeling that still lasts an hour or two after the last bite is taken. You know, the feeling that makes your stomach seem like it’s about to explode out of your skin because you ate too much?
Let me tell you, it wasn’t just the combination of foods you ate that did this.
It was the bread.
It’s amazing how filling bread is. Eat two sandwiches, and suddenly you don’t need the side of chips and cookies to go with it (well . . . no, no you don’t, but yes, yes you do. Because chips and cookies are good. Fattening, but good).
Which makes it even more amazing that this is the food God gave to the Israelites in the wilderness.
Granted, they didn’t call it bread at the time. They called it manna. Ironically, the bread God gave them was a substance not like the unleavened bread that they brought from Egypt. So the term manna itself does not actually mean bread–it means “what?”
Pretty cool, huh?
Anyway, the bread that God gave them is different from our bread today, too. God actually placed a layer of dew all around the Israelite camp each morning, and when this dew evaporated, white fine flakes would be left behind that looked like coriander seeds and tasted like wafers made with honey (Exodus 16:31).
How, you may ask, is this small flake of manna an obstacle to the Israelites?
Because they let their hunger get the best of them.
Just as humans can’t go very long without water, neither can we go very long without food. And the Israelites were soon feeling those twisted, knotted, concaved pangs of hunger. It called out to them.
And they became hangry (for those who may not have heard this term before, this is a combination of hungry and angry).
They grumbled to Moses and Aaron: “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!” (Exodus 16:3).
It’s funny because in their hangriness, the Israelites would rather have been killed by the God they saw perform all the miraculous 10 plagues in Egypt than go this long without their pots of meat and bread.
You laugh, but remember all those times you’ve been hangry? Us humans tend to think and say some pretty nasty things until we calm down with a Snickers bar.
And again–because He is amazingly, wonderfully faithful, God provides for His people. He rains down quail from the sky in the evening so His people can have meat. He produces this dew that leaves flakes of manna in its wake, and He tells the Israelites to gather two quarts per person.
And here’s the thing–it was always enough.
Never too little, never too much.
I don’t know what you have been going through or feeling lately, but just know that God will never not provide for You–and when He does, it will always be enough!
The God of the manna and the quail is the same God who is enough for you. He has proved it time and time again in the Bible, and He will prove it time and time again in your life.
And even on the days when you can’t physically go out, like the Israelites observing the day of rest, God will provide enough for you to last the day you received His provision and for the following day when you cannot physically receive.
It’s hard to trust that He is enough. Trust me. Especially when we are spiritually hangry. But we have to know that He isn’t going to leave us in the wilderness, away from our pots of meat and loaves of bread, without providing nutrients for us.
Your God is the God who rained down quail from the sky and produced manna from dew on the ground. Relax–He’s got you in the palm of His hand!
OBSTACLE #4: Looking for Water in a Dry Land
But sadly, we will forget that God is enough. Just like the Israelites did.
They left the Wilderness of Sin and came to Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink. So they tell Moses: “Give us water to drink” (Exodus 17:2).
And Moses says, “Why are you complaining to me?”
And like broken records at this point, the Israelites grumble: “Why did you ever bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”
The thing that gets me is that they have already seen God provide water for them. They should know to trust that He sees their need and will provide, just like they did with the water at Elim, and just like He did in Egypt. Yet instead of praying to God, casting their cares upon Him, they grumble to Moses. And the only thing Moses can do is the thing they won’t–ask God about it.
And God tells Moses to take some of the elders and go on ahead of the people to the rock at Horeb. There, Moses will take the same staff that touched the waters of the Nile and strike the rock. Then God, who will be standing in front of Moses as Moses strikes the rock, will allow water to flow out of it. Good, thirst-quenching water that the people can drink.
Really, at this point, this shouldn’t even be a problem. They say the third time is a charm, but I guess the Israelites wanted to complain for a fourth time.
And again, it’s not just the Israelites–it’s us, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen God do amazing stuff in my life, yet somehow forget that He can do those things and will do them again to provide for me.
Instead, I complain. I let my hangriness and my thirst get the best of me. Because sometimes, it’s easier to pay attention to that tangible hunger and thirst rather than to God–the Bread of Life and the Living Water.
We forget that He has changed the waters of the Nile before, that He has changed the waters at Elim before . . . so what’s new with changing the lack of water in the middle of a desert?
Don’t forget that this same God is the God who loves you and looks over you right now. That He sees all of your needs, cares for each one of them, and will provide for each one of them.
Don’t forget that you are a child of God, and that He will always take care of you!
Jesus says in Matthew 6:26, 30 that if God looks after the sparrow and clothes the flower in the field, then He looks after you. You have nothing to worry about. Not even tomorrow. Just look at the Israelites–they didn’t have to worry about the Sabbath because they collected all the manna they needed for the Sabbath the day before. And they could only do so because God provided them with enough manna for two days.
No matter what you’re going through, God. Will. Provide.
Regardless of whether you’re a hangry and thirsty Israelite or not . . .
Enjoying the bread of life,