Lately, I’ve been reading through the beginning of the Old Testament, an unexpected source of comfort and inspiration if you are walking through a difficult phase or journey. What could be harder than an entire civilization packing up their homes and families and herds to cross a perilous wilderness?
On a good day, I have enough trouble packing up my kids to catch the school bus. Snacks? McDonald’s money for away basketball games? Who has time? And we are not usually being pursued by an angry army in chariots.
Some view the first five books of the Hebrew Bible – known as the Pentateuch to Christians and the Torah to Jews – as mythology. But reading it along with The IVP Bible Background Commentary has shed light on fascinating details about the cultures, communities and customs of the people living when it was written, roughly 3,500 years ago.
Many of these illuminate the Biblical record. Others remain shadowed in mystery. But the parts I find most meaningful have to do with God’s faithfulness to provide for his people in the midst of hardship. After only a couple months of travelling, the Israelites were worn out and hungry, longing for the comforts they’d left behind.
“In the morning, you will see the glory of the Lord,” Moses told them in Exodus 16:7, “because he has heard your complaints, which are against him” (NLT).
That evening, vast numbers of quail landed in the camp. And the next morning, the ground was covered with flakes as fine as frost and as sweet as honey. The Hebrews called it “manna,” meaning “What is this?” Some gathered a lot, others only a little, but everyone had enough. Every morning, it continued for the entire time they were traveling: 40 years.
My commentary has several suggestions about the nature of these quail and this food from heaven. But regardless of the means God used to provide it, I am more intrigued by what it reveals about God.
First, he sees our needs and hears our complaints – even when they are against him. The Israelites, of course, couldn’t be sure where they were going. No maps. No GPS systems. But God understood their fear and confusion and he blessed them anyway.
Next, they had to actually obey God to receive his provision. For them, that meant wandering out of their tents each morning to glean nourishment from the ground. For me, that often means opening my Bible each morning to glean nourishment from God’s word. Each day it’s up to me to seek his provision.
When walking through a wilderness, it’s easy to feel abandoned and alone. But lastly, this passage reminds me to trust. It’s a journey we’re on. Some parts are more difficult than others, but if we are following God, it is his job is to take care of us. Ours is to keep walking.
Meadow Rue Merrill writes and reflects on God’s presence in her everyday life from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. Her memoir, Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, is available for pre-order here.