Thursday, December 26, 2013

How A Miracle Can Go So Wrong -- Exodus 16:17-21


And the sons of Israel did so, and some gathered much and some little.  When they measured it with an omer, he who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack; every man gathered as much as he should eat.  And Moses said to them, “Let no man leave any of it until morning.”  But they did not listen to Moses, and some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul; and Moses was angry with them.  And they gathered it morning by morning, every man as much as he should eat; but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.
 
Moses gave them instructions on how to collect the manna from heaven each morning and the text says, “And the sons of Israel did so”.  One can only assume that many followed the instructions to the letter; others just heard the part that said, “Gather it”.   But no matter how much each family gathered, they always ended up with what they needed.  Those that by miscalculation or any physical inability to gather a sufficient amount had just what they needed for each member of the family.  Those that got greedy and gathered more than they were supposed to, somehow ended up with just what they needed.  No excess and no lack.   And that is what God promises us today – no guaranteed excess, but no lack for the day either.
And Moses also gave them instructions not to save any of what they had collected on one day for the next day.  It is not clear whether Moses gave them this follow-up instruction as given in this portion of Scripture with his initial directions, or whether he had noticed that some had tried to save manna for ‘tomorrow’.  But nevertheless, even after this instruction, the text tells us at least some (although again it is not clear whether all behaved in the same manner) did not listen to him and they tried to store some manna for the future.  I think that one of the most difficult things to learn, as Christians, is that our God provides sufficiently for the day, and will provide again tomorrow sufficiently for that day when it comes.
Anyway, for those that did not listen, the manna that was saved contrary to the instruction of God’s anointed leader, had by morning, bred worms and became foul or moldy.  The account reminds me somewhat of what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount after He had taught us how to pray.  In Matthew 6:19-21, we read (NASB version):
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Sometimes we tend to very easily forget where we are laying our treasures and thus where we are allowing our hearts to find themselves.  I feel this way especially at this season of the year as I write this on December 26th, the day North Americans refer to as Boxing Day.  Wikipedia helped me realize that Boxing Day has been commercialized just as much, if not more so, than Christmas has been.  Neither one is being celebrated by the majority, in accordance with its original purpose.  Let me quote Wikipedia on the topic of Boxing Day:
Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers . . . It is observed in (most). . . Commonwealth nations . . ..

The exact etymology of the term "boxing day" is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.  The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in places of worship in order to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.

In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year . . . This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and maybe sometimes leftover food.

In Britain, Canada, and some states of Australia, Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the U.S..  It is a time where shops have sales, often with dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest amount of returns . . ..

Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers. Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items. Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media often cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began queueing up, providing video of shoppers queueing and later leaving with their purchased items.  Many retailers have implemented practices aimed at managing large numbers of shoppers. They may limit entrances, restrict the number of patrons in a store at a time, provide tickets to people at the head of the queue to guarantee them a hot ticket item or canvass queued-up shoppers to inform them of inventory limitations.

In recent years, retailers have expanded deals to “Boxing Week”.  While Boxing Day is 26 December, many retailers will run the sales for several days before or after 26 December, often up to New Year's Eve.”

No, thank you.  I avoid these ‘days’ for four reasons: First, I believe a wise shopper can find good bargains any time of the year or at least on numerous other occasions.  Second, I really do not want to be waiting in line ups and arguing about who gets the last ‘one’ of the desired product being hunted for, or being disappointed because they “ran out” of what I was looking for or had my heart set on.  Third, and importantly, because it is not what Boxing Day is all about as we learned above.  And finally, and most important, shopping for more stuff which I will ultimately leave behind is not where I want my heart to be.
So Moses got angry at the Israelites who tried to save “for tomorrow”, and rightly so.  Not only did they disobey him and God, but now, they also had to deal with the worms and the stink in the camp.  The question that arises for us as Christian leaders from this reaction of Moses is whether or not we should get angry with those who disobey God?  Of course, this opens up the whole topic of “judging” and the concept of “judge not, lest you be judged”.  I have likely said this before, and I repeat it here.  I personally believe that we should not judge people for things that God has not clearly specified His instructions or will about – but we are to draw to the attention of others, especially Christians, what God or the Scriptures have said about topics and issues that are indeed covered by them.  Enough said on that.
The text we are studying here goes on to say, that God kept on providing for them in this way (manna from heaven) morning by morning.  His faithfulness to His people is indeed worthy of our trust and reliance upon.  It is also fresh every morning.  Have you gathered His manna for you today?  Have you prepared yourself to collect the spiritual quails He is providing for you tonight?
The last phrase of this section of Scripture provides yet another interesting aspect to the story.  In reference to the manna, the text reads, “but when the sun grew hot, it would melt.”  David Guzik suggests the following: Apparently the bread from heaven had to be gathered and prepared early in the morning. This was God's gracious way of forcing a work ethic upon the nation of Israel.”  Perhaps He wanted them to collect it early, but we would be guessing with respect to His actual purpose – although what Guzik suggests complements God’s thinking and attitude towards work found elsewhere in Scripture.
It is my prayer that you and I realize God’s desire to provide us with whatever we really need (not want) for our daily lives, as He did for the children of Israel in their own desert.  It is my prayer that what God has provided for us (His word, His love, His Son) is not treated in a way that it breeds worms and goes moldy.  But rather, I pray that you and I will accept His blessings and use them to be a blessing to others.
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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Miracles Aren’t For The Greedy -- Exodus 16:16


“This is what the Lord has commanded, ‘Gather of it every man as much as he should eat; you shall take an omer apiece according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent.’”
 
The bread or manna was indeed provided by God for them in answer to their grumblings.  But before they could commence the process of gathering it (or sweeping it up from the ground) and then eating, Moses has some final instructions for them from God.
Really very simple what he asked them to do.  Basically, gather only what you need in accordance to the number of mouths that have to be fed in your household.  They were to collect one ‘omer’ for each such person.  (We do not know whether that includes infants or toddlers, but does it really matter?)  Wikipedia’s definition of an omer in today’s equivalents (at which they arrive through numerous equations) is a volume of about 3.64 liters.  That’s a lot of “flake-liked things” to sweep up per person.
I have been in the Human Resources business for over four decades.  Back when I started it was still common to find individual business owners who wanted to pay men and women differently, married men and single men differently, married men with large families differently than married men with smaller or no family except their spouse.  Today, it is unheard of.   What has changed?  Is it God’s method of provision or man’s view of what is fair?  Let me give you another example.
The day before putting my comments down on paper on this portion of Scripture, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its unanimous decision (six males and three females including the Chief Justice) and considered three laws with respect to prostitution unconstitutional.  They were laws that made sex trade solicitation, running a brothel, and living off the avails of prostitution illegal.  Exactly twenty-three years earlier, the same Supreme Court of Canada (different judges for the most part) ruled those same three laws (on a vote of six [all males] to three [all females] as being reasonable and legal with respect to the government’s efforts to curb prostitution in the country.  What changed?  It wasn’t that the Chief Justice was now a female.  It wasn’t that prostitution is more legal today than it was twenty-three years ago for it is not.  It is, and was, legal.  There never was a law directly prohibiting the exchange of sex for money.  [Now the government has been given one year to rewrite these three related laws or bite the bullet and decide if they want to pass a law saying, “prostitution is illegal”.  Of course, the chances of them doing that is pretty slim, even though it is a conservative government for as one journalist pointed out, they haven’t changed the abortion law or the law on same-sex marriages.]  So, again, what changed to get this decision yesterday and to prevent a strong conservative majority government from taking stronger action?
Barbara Kay in her column on this decision suggests it was “cultural attitudes . . . that have shifted further toward the libertarian perspective, which regards ‘sex workers’ through a morally neutral lens as a fact of social life, a profession like any other, freely chosen by adults who know their own mind, and requiring nothing more than light regulation to curtail the spread of disease.  God of course does not see it that way and you can quote me on that.  You will want to read more of Ms. Kay’s thoughts in her column.
Of course, God’s views on both the relationship between a master and a servant (the progressive equivalent of today’s employer and employee) as well as His position on the morality of prostitution has not changed.  Man’s views have changed.  Man wants to replace God on all issues of morality --- these plus same-sex marriage and abortion, to name two more.
Do not misunderstand me; I am not advocating that today we need to pay people based on how many children they have, and let the equal pay for equal work legislation go hang.  No, we must live within the laws of the land.  But we need to understand that God intended for a man to have sufficient provision for his family.  And that goes for husbands and wives, and for single parents.  There is no law prohibiting us from seeing that God’s will is done in that regard, using some of creativity He has blessed us with.
For the Israelites as they began to gather the manna God had provided, their instructions were not to be greedy.  But could they follow them?

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Friday, December 20, 2013

It’s Raining Quails and Bread! God 2, Desert 0 -- Exodus 16:13-15

So it came about at evening that the quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the hoarfrost on the ground.  When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?”  For they did not know what it was.  And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.”
We may best remember this event in Exodus by thinking it was raining quails and bread, as God said He would “rain bread from heaven”.  And of course we quickly carry that concept over to the quails as well.  But in reality, reading the text carefully, we come to realize that the quails “came up” (not down) and the bread was in the form of dew, not rain.
According to R. Alan Cole and David Guzik who quotes him, the quails mentioned here "migrate regularly between south Europe and Arabia across the Sinai Peninsula. They are small, bullet-headed birds, with a strong but low flight, usually roosting on the ground or in the low bushes at nightfall. When exhausted, they would be unable to … take off again. The birds are good eating, and were a favorite delicacy of the Egyptians."
In their exhaustion, they are easy to catch, appearing tame.  Robert Jamieson adds, “They are found in certain seasons in the places through which the Israelites passed, being migratory birds, and they were probably brought to the camp by ‘a wind from the Lord’ as on another occasion (as we can see in Numbers 11:31).”
In the morning, the children of Israel found a lawyer of dew on the ground around the camp.  According to Wikipedia:
Dew is water in the form of droplets that appears on thin, exposed objects in the morning or evening due to condensation.  As the exposed surface cools by radiating its heat, atmospheric moisture condenses at a rate greater than that at which it can evaporate, resulting in the formation of water droplets.  When temperatures are low enough, dew takes the form of ice; this form is called frost (frost is, however, not frozen dew).  Because dew is related to the temperature of surfaces, in late summer it is formed most easily on surfaces which are not warmed by conducted heat from deep ground, such as grass, leaves, railings, car roofs, and bridges.
Water vapour will condense into droplets depending on the temperature. The temperature at which droplets can form is called the dew point. When surface temperature drops, eventually reaching the dew point, atmospheric water vapor condenses to form small droplets on the surface.
The Bible says that when these droplets evaporated, what was left on the ground was “fine flake-like thing”, fine as hoarfrost.  David Guzik suggests that because it was so fine, it was not easy to gather and thus had to be “swept” up from the ground.
Chuck Smith: Manna actually means, "What is it?" So they saw this little round seed-like thing on the ground, and they said, "What is it?" because they didn't know what it was.  Later in this same chapter (verse 31), this flake-like thing is described as being like a coriander seed (about the size of a sesame seed), and sweet like honey.
We must keep in mind that the purpose for giving the Israelites bread from heaven and quails was not just to keep them alive.  Its primary reason was as Guzik says, “to teach them eternal lessons of dependence on God.”  The situation also exemplifies God’s desire to cooperate with man.  Man could not provide the provision, and God would not gather it for them.  Both had to do their part.
When the Israelites saw the “flake-like thing” they did not know what it was.  So they remarked, “What is it?”  Again, according to Strong’s Lexicon, the translation of the Hebrew word for ‘what’ as in ‘what is it?’ is “man” or “manna”.  And thus this “flake-like thing” became known as ‘manna from heaven’.
Commentator Robert Jamieson indicates there is a “gum of the same name distilled in this desert region from the tamarisk, which is much prized by the natives, and preserved carefully by those who gather it. It is collected early in the morning, melts under the heat of the sun, and is congealed by the cold of night. In taste it is as sweet as honey, and has been supposed by distinguished travellers, from its whitish color, time, and place of its appearance, to be the manna on which the Israelites were fed: so that, according to the views of some, it was a production indigenous to the desert; according to others, there was a miracle, which consisted, however, only in the preternatural arrangements regarding its supply. But more recent and accurate examination has proved this gum of the tarfa-tree to be wanting in all the principal characteristics of the Scripture manna. It exudes only in small quantities, and not every year; it does not admit of being baked (Numbers 11:8) or boiled (Exodus 16:23).  Though it may be exhaled by the heat and afterwards fall with the dew, it is a medicine, not food--it is well known to the natives of the desert, while the Israelites were strangers to theirs; and in taste as well as in the appearance of double quantity on Friday, none on Sabbath, and in not breeding worms, it is essentially different from the manna furnished to the Israelites.”
On a recent trip the mountains of North Carolina while out on walk, we noticed some hoar-like structures on the ground – on the dirt road we were on and on the leaves by the side.  As soon as you touched it, it melted away but in its untouched state it looked beautiful.  Here is a picture of it.

So the Israelites asked, “What is it?”.   Often we do not believe that what God told us, He would do and that it actually came about.  Or, we do not recognize it for what it is.
So many times we seek our own way to feed our hunger and desires.  Yet God is willing to provide for us in miraculous ways – even in the desert.
So the Israelites asked, “What is it?”.   Often we do not believe that what God told us, He would do and that it actually came about.  Or, we do not recognize it for what it is.
So many times we seek our own way to feed our hunger and desires.  Yet God is willing to provide for us in miraculous ways – even in the desert.


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Thursday, December 19, 2013

God: "Take This and See Me in the Morning" -- Exodus 16:9-12

--> Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.’”  And it came about as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.  And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”
 
What great advice Moses wanted Aaron to share with the people – “Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumblings.”  Think about that.  When my grandchildren are complaining or moaning, as children they inadvertently want to be around their mother or father.  I guess misery likes to be heard.  As parents, or grandparents for that matter, we often say to them, “If you want to tell me something, go away, stop that grumbling and moaning, and then come back and talk to me properly.”  And I guess that is the difference between God and us when it comes to parenthood.  Moses is in essence saying, “God has heard your grumbling and He wants to address it, so go listen to Him.”  That’s our God.  Even when we grumble, He wants us to draw near to Him.  (This is yet another reason why I may well be changing my mind on how I feel about a person getting angry with God.  See my comments under Exodus 16:4-8.)
And sure enough in the morning, as Aaron was telling the children of Israel to draw near to God, they looked up and there “the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.”  He was there, He heard the grumblings, and He was involved.  The text says He spoke to Moses.  Did the others hear Him?  We do not know.  My guess is they did not or else why would He tell Moses to speak to them about what He said.  While God was working for the Israelites, He was still working with and through Moses.  God tells him He has heard the grumblings of the people and He wants Moses to tell them so.  He also wants Moses to tell them what He has done in response to their grumbling, and why.  He would provide them with meat every evening and in the morning He would give them their fill of bread.  As a result the people will know that He the Lord is their God.
Ever wonder how Moses knew God had heard their grumbling (in verse 9), even before God told him so (in verse 12)?  Well, the answer lies in verse 3 when the people grumbled about not having bread and then in verse 4 God simply says He will rain down bread.  Moses did not have to tell God; neither did the people have to.  He heard them.  God is aware of our every thought and uttering, whether it is directed to Him or not.
In verse 3 of this chapter, the people had complained about having no meat, and not being filled with bread.  So God provides just that.  In the evening He gives them meat and in the morning He fills them with bread.  Why did He not fill them with meat, and just provide bread?  I do not know for sure, but may I suggest that oftentimes God gives us exactly what we ask for.  If we ask for something good and get it from God, then we can praise Him as He totally satisfies us.  If we ask for something that will not be good for us, God sometimes gives it to us so that later we become more reliant on Him.
But here is what I can tell you for sure.  Whatever God does, His intent for us is that “we know He is the Lord our God.”   That is the key reason for His doing what He does for us or with us.  If we miss that; if we think it is all about us; if we grumble because we are not getting our desires, then we have missed the purpose of our relationship with Him.  On the other hand, if we do not like those terms of His, well we miss out on such a relationship.  We do life and eternity without Him.  The Israelites had a choice, and so do you and I.  Our heart’s desire should be to take the ‘meat’ He offers us at night and see His glory in the morning.

-->
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This Funeral Home Goes Beyond the Expected

This year our family experienced the death of a child -- in fact, our sixth grandchild.  We only had Ronin Cole Godevenos for six hours on May 26th.  Service arrangements were handled by Chapel Ridge Funeral Home, in Markham, Ontario.

As you can imagine the funeral service for a child is not the easiest thing to arrange and it takes an incredibly understanding funeral home staff to walk a grieving family through it.  Chapel Ridge had that staff in spades.   The owners, Eric Tappenden and family, have experienced similar losses and their pain is felt anew each time they help others in similar circumstances.  It is not natural for a parent to bury their child, rather for children to bury their aging parents.   Eric, who was recommended by a friend, met with us and then turned us over to his Funeral Director, Jessica Competiello.  Through the process, we felt Jessica had become one of the family.  We cannot say enough about her and her entire team.  My wife and I have become good friends with Jessica since that valley she helped us walk through.

The excellence in Chapel Ridge's services to us as clients did not end there.  On a Monday night in December, Chapel Ridge held its annual "A Light in the Darkness: A Candlelight Memorial Service to Celebrate Christmas With Those Who Are Experiencing Grief" event -- something they have successfully and graciously hosted for several years now.

Being very sensitive to all the various religious backgrounds of the families they serve, the funeral staff who are predominantly Christian and make no bones about it, discretely invite all families of Protestant and Catholic backgrounds to be their guests and join them on this occasion.  (Eric is investigating how he and his staff may reach out appropriately to those of other faiths in the future.)

The evening consisted of the Lighting of the Advent Candles, Christmas readings with audience participation, the Lighting of the Christ Candle, some special music solos, a meditation, poem, and then the Lighting of the Memorial Candles with the reading of names and music playing in the background.

The home uses one of its larger rooms for this event and the place fills very nicely.  Program participants include various clergy from the community.  Each member of a grieving family is given a small votive candle when they come to the service.  And when their loved one's name is called they go up and light their candles from the lit Christ Candle and set it on the table in memory of their loved one.  Tears were welcomed and they came readily for many.

The evening then ended with a lovely reception provided by our hosts where we had an opportunity to meet and chat with others that had suffered a loss this year.  In my case, I was reunited with four other families or individuals -- the mother of someone I knew; the husband of a pastor I had interacted with in the past; a deceased's daughter that was our church secretary for many years, and an old friend from 40 years earlier that had served with me as part of another charity.  It was a great time encouraging each other.  In my opinion, this was far above and beyond the call of duty or even beyond what I consider good customer relations.  It was an act of love.

I mentioned to my wife that the service allowed me to further deal with the loss of our grandson.  In addition, I had often watched memorial services on television of people who had shared losses at some major catastrophe like a violent shooting rage at a school, but never really knew what that would feel like.  Chapel Ridge helped me understand that feeling just a little better.  

I can't say enough for the professionalism, yet tender care and concern that each member of Eric's staff showed us and by the sound of it, all their clients.  Jessica was not just selling us services, as a  mother of a young little boy herself, she understood what we were going through.   I can't think of Chapel Ridge as just a funeral home providing a necessary service.  Yes, they were that -- but they made me feel like we all belong together -- we're all in this life together.  We are not alone and God is with us all.  And Christmas will be a little easier to live through because of this event.

You can check out Chapel Ridge at http://www.chapelridgefh.com/.   This testimonial was not solicited, but I felt I owed it to an organization that strives to make life more bearable when a death has occurred.

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Some Rules Are Insane

I do not very often write a blog to vent on otherwise minor inconveniences.  But something happened today that got me thinking.  Mind you, I am not complaining about the inconvenience.  In fact, I am thankful for it.  It gave me a chance to realize how rule-oriented we have become.  Let me set the picture for you.

It is winter in Toronto where I live.  There is snow on the ground and also slush where the traffic is heavy.  Today it was cold, although not as cold as it has been.  I was trying to catch a bus.  When I saw it coming, I ran.  It passed me momentarily but I knew I was only yards from the bus stop where the bus had to stop at a red light.   I am indeed a genuine senior citizen.  (Thought I would throw that in.)

When I got to the front door of the bus which by the way was only half full (or half empty depending on your perspective and mood), there was still a while to go before the driver could move on when his light turned green.  I could see the seconds remaining (about 15) on the sign flashing the warnings.  The bus was right up to the bus stop and in the appropriate lane.  I could easily see, through the bus side windows, the driver watch me come up to the door as the front part of the bus had no passengers.

I knocked on the door with my ticket in hand.  He said, "Sorry, this is an express.  It does not stop here."

I didn't swear.  I didn't get angry.  I just thought -- how insane?  how ridiculous?  The bus was empty.  It was stopped.  I would not be delaying it at all.  I had my ticket.  It was cold and snowing.  I was a senior citizen.  Do you think that a rationale organization would give their drivers some leeway in this situation?  Well, they don't.  I believe there are very few rational organizations these days.

But here's the interesting thing.  It's not about this bus driver or even this city transportation company.  No, it's about what has become of us as a culture.  It seems that as employers we want people to leave their brains at home when it comes to customer service.   It seems as individual employees we are prepared to do just that.

What on earth has gone wrong?   I do not believe in evolution.  But if I did, I would argue strongly that not only have we not evolved, but in fact, we are 'de-evolving', and fast.

Have you had similar 'insane' experiences?  If so, let us know.  So we can all cry, or laugh, together.

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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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God Provides Even Before He Tests Us -- Exodus 16:4-8


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will 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 or not they will walk in My instruction.  And it will come about on the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”  So Moses and Aaron said to all the sons of Israel, “At evening you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, for He hears your grumblings against the Lord; and what are we, that you grumble against us?”  And Moses said, “This will happen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and bread to the full in the morning; for the Lord hears your grumblings which you grumble against Him.  And what are we? Your grumblings are not against us but against the Lord.”
 
I find the beginning of this passage most interesting.  God tells Moses that He will provide bread for the ‘grumbling’ children of Israel even before they are tested – before they “walk in God’s instruction”.  So much for God being mean and austere.
God Himself will do this.  He will ‘rain’ bread from heaven for them.  But lest we think His help means we are to do absolutely nothing, the fact remains that the people had to get out there and collect the provisions themselves within a specific time.
Over the centuries of Christianity we find that there are people who sit and wait for God to take care of everything, not knowing when it is time for them to get out there and collect His provision.  I get particularly frustrated by those who want a job but just sit at home watching television because they believe if God wants them to work, someone will come asking for them and to boot, they’ll be offered a dream job with a dream compensation and benefits package.  Or there’s the person who really desires a godly partner as their mate for life, but they never go out to be with people.  They stay at home too, reading romance novels and waiting for Mr. Christian Dreamboat to ring the doorbell.  The only thing I can say to them and others in similar situations is “dream on”.  Life does not work like that and God does not work like that for the most part.  If you want to a complete a 26.2-mile marathon (42 kilometers), you need to first start working on running a single mile.
Notice God was very specific as to the requirement for people to gather only one day’s portion at a time – enough for them and their family.  That’s all that will be available each day.  Except on the sixth day, when God will see to it that He will “rain” a double-portion of the provision so that the children of Israel will not have to gather anything to eat on the Sabbath – they’ll have it in ‘good edible condition’ (i.e. no mold would form) from the day before.  This very instruction was part of God’s testing the people.
And then Moses and Aaron told the children of Israel “This very evening, you will know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt.”  Enough already – you would think the people knew that.  But they kept forgetting.  Let us not be too hard on them.  We know what God and His Son have done for us and we keep forgetting.  Still, it was one thing for Pharaoh and the Egyptians back in Egypt or even at the Red Sea crossing to learn that, but it’s another to still have to prove it to the children of Israel at this point in time.  Yet our patient Heavenly Father does just that – for the Israelites and for us.
Moses and Aaron say, “Tomorrow morning you will see God’s glory.” It is not clear what exactly they meant by this.  The expositor John Gill suggests the glory of God was being displayed either in His wonderful provision (raining bread for them each morning) or as it (the glory) appeared in the cloud which accompanied them.  Gill himself prefers the latter, believing this glory of the Lord, was the glorious Shekinah of Jehovah, the Angel that went before them in the cloud, the eternal Word and Son of God.  No matter that you are grumbling against the Almighty God, He will still show His compassion towards you – His glory will shine through in the morning.
I think it is important to stop and think about this grumbling that was going on.  First, I should admit that many will not agree with what I am about to write here and that’s okay.  I understand that I may be wrong.  I can only share my thinking and feelings about this.  When I accept the fact (and I have no reason not to believe Moses here) that God actually hears my grumblings against Him, I am staggered at the thought that I would do so given what God has done for me and Who He is.  I find it difficult to accept.  Yet I know that many say, “God can take it.  If you are angry at Him, let Him know.”  I know He can take it, but that does not mean He needs to or should, or worse still, that I should be angry with God.  And I guess that is my point – being angry with God is something I personally find hard to do.  But as I read more, as I deal with others who have “hit a wall” or two in their lives, I understand that some people are angry with God.  And I realize that expressing that anger to Him can be used by God to bring that child of His ever closer to Him.  I am so thankful our God is willing to do that.
As wise leaders, Moses and Aaron also tell the people that their behavior, although verbally directed at them, is really grumbling against God.  So, they won’t accept it; the people have to face up to what they are doing and to Whom they are really addressing their grumblings.  We are like that sometime.  We take our anger out on our children, our spouses, our co-workers, our superiors, and our pastors.  But the problem is we are unwilling to accept what God has allowed in our lives and we will not deal with Him directly about it.  Perhaps, because we know that He knows the truth about our own personal contribution to the situation.  
Back in Exodus 16:3 the people grumbled about not having food and in so doing made reference to their time back in Egypt “when we ate bread to the full.  Now here in verse 8, Moses uses that very same phrase when he says the Lord will give you bread to the full in the morning.”  It is amazing how God provides what we need when we need it, and more.  The Israelites did not need “bread to the full”; they just needed bread so they would not die from starvation.  But God provided “bread to the full”.
This is the God that is right there with us in our own desert today.  Instead of grumbling towards Him, we would do well to remember Who He is and what He has done for us and for the world.  Then, knowing He knows our needs, looking for His glory as He meets them.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Between Elim and Sinai is Sin -- Exodus 16:1-3


Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.  And the whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.  And the sons of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
 
After resting by the waters of Elim, the entire group of Israelites moved on and came to the wilderness of Sin.  In studying Strong’s Lexicon of the Bible one notes that ‘Sin’ is quite different from ‘sin’.  The latter in Hebrew is the word chatta'ath while the former and the one in our verse here is the word Ciyn.  This Ciyn literally means ‘thorn’ or ‘clay’ and it was the name of both a town in eastern Egypt as well as a tract of wilderness between Elim and Sinai.   It is at this wilderness that the children of Israel have now arrived at this point in our text.  And remember they were on route to Sinai where they would meet with God and receive His Law through Moses. 
The date given in the text is significant to the extent that it marks one month after leaving Egypt, since they left on the fifteenth of the previous month (Exodus 12:18).  And as you can imagine by now any provisions they had brought along were altogether or almost depleted.  Furthermore, the chance of getting any food easily in the desert was miniscule.  The scene was ripe for “mutiny in the desert”.
And as if on cue, all the people of Israel grumbled against both Moses and his brother Aaron.  We all know what happens when someone gets really hungry.  While there is some justification in their behavior – after all, the human body has to eat, for the Israelites it was as if they had never lived under bondage and slavery back in Egypt.  All that mattered right now was that they were about to starve to death in the desert.  In fact, their hunger caused them to forget the ordeals they underwent back in Egypt.  They could only remember the high times when they were feasting.  People are like that.  When people look back on broken relationships, they remember the good times, and seem to forget the abuse they experienced in that relationship.  And so now without food, the Israelites were wishing they had been left to die with their stomachs full in Egypt rather than die of hunger in the desert.
When we focus on our material, even physical, needs, we miss the big picture that God sees.  So we grumble.  Then we blame others for things, that if we stopped to think about just a little, we know are not true.  And so it was with the Israelites who blamed both Moses and Aaron for bringing them to the wilderness to “kill them”.  How wrong can we be some times?
If you are still grumbling today, yes by all means get something to eat.  Then start trying to see the big picture.  Distinguish fairly between who or what the problem you face really is.  Ask God to help you see the big picture of your life and then work with Him to overcome whatever it is that is holding you back in the place of ‘Sin’ and preventing you from moving on towards your Sinai.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

Thanks for dropping by. Sign up to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends. Ken Godevenos, Church and Management Consultant, Accord Consulting.  And while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.  Ken.
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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.