28 July 2008

A Diet of Manna

Still working my way through this Bible Reading Challenge, although I've fallen quite behind on the reading schedule. Oh well, even if I don't finish it in the 90 days, it has been encouraging to realize I'm making more progress than ever before reading through my Bible... in French. And, I'm appreciating the things that God is teaching me. Some of it goes hand in hand with another Bible Study I'm working through (No Other Gods, by Kelly Minter), so I'd like to share a few things...

As I read through the account of the Israelites in the desert (Numbers 11, in particular), I noticed something that had never stood out to me before: (A quick aside: there is no doubt about it, desert accounts in the Bible fascinate me and have such powerful applications - and after having lived in the desert, it just makes the story all the more real and the application all the more important.) I had always assumed that the manna, provided by God for the people, was a treat. It is described as white, coriander-ish seeds that tasted sweet like honey, and was used much as bread.

What I hadn't noticed, or perhaps put together in my mind with that description, is the following words:

~DEUT 8.2-10,16-17~

You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son. Therefore, you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you... In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, "My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth."

It was the first time in my mind that I considered the possiblity that perhaps manna wasn't all I'd always imagined it to be - bread-like cookie-ish wafers with the lovely, sweet taste of honey. Kelly Minter (from the Bible study I mentioned above) says it much more eloquently, as she asks the question: "What makes you think that manna might have been a no-frills type of food?"

"God was using the manna to humble and test them... Going through times of vast desert spaces and living on less than the bare minimum are not my favorite seasons. I say it was less than the bare minimum because the Lord said He didn't want them to live by bread alone. The manna was not quite enough; it didn't fully suffice them. The Lord put them in this position so they would depend on Him and not on themselves, their provisions, or false gods. Not to mention, He wanted to do them good in the end. This is the 'making room' piece. God wants to do us good! Too often we associate the idea of turning from our false gods with misery and legalism when it really means making room for God to do good in our lives... God uses scarcity in our lives to draw us to dependency on Himself."

To me, it has been quite profound to meditate on these thoughts - that scarcity, be it provisional, financial, relational, entertainment-oriented, even God's silence for a period (or hearing from Him less - or less quickly - than what I'm actually desiring... or stomping my foot - inside - and demanding). The Israelites weren't happy with the manna - they craved the things of Egypt. "They (the Israelites) were offered the minimalist diet of manna so that their souls could feast on the Lord. Instead, they craved the richness of quail while their souls starved. You could say that God wanted bread for their bodies so they could have meat for their souls..."

God did give them what they desired, but as Numbers 11 describes, they weren't so happy with the results, which included some rather serious consequences physically, as well as spiritually.

Kelly also tied this whole episode in with another well-known Biblical account - the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10.17-31, Matthew 19. 16-30, or Luke 18. 18-30). Jesus looks at the rich young man with expressive eyes of love - and then tells him what he lacks, what is causing the leanness of this man's soul. In essence, Jesus tells him that with his eyes so focued on worldly wealth and worldly things, he is not storing up treasures in heaven and is not following the Lord. His possessions and perhaps his postion as a man of means meant more to that young man than the Savior did. Fascinating that what Jesus told him was "You are lacking this... and to fix that lack and be able to follow/walk with me, you need to give up these."

Doesn't make sense, from a human perspective... Something is missing in my life and I know that there is a hole, yet to ultimately fill that void, I need to give up more, set aside additional priorities of my own, to make more room for God.

Some of these thoughts are just half-baked in my head - and I'm not really sure where this will all lead, but you can be sure I'll be meditating on these portions of God's Word for many days to come.


Other posts related to this Bible reading challenge:

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