Have you ever stopped to ponder what it might have been like for the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness, knowing that each day they would completely exhaust their food supply? Have you thought what it would be like knowing that they would go to bed with no food, but that the next day their supplies would be fully and miraculously replenished? It is an interesting, thought, really, and one that is worth considering.
In the Wilderness
Imagine that you are an Israelite father or mother and that you have three or four young children depending on you. Imagine putting these children to bed in the evening, knowing that there is not a bit of food to be found anywhere in your tent. Just to be sure, you wander over to the fridge and open it up. The glare from the light shows nothing but the glistening white of the inside of the Kenmore. There is nothing on any of the shelves; nothing in any of the drawers. There isn’t even a mostly-empty jar of relish left over from when you made burgers a few weeks earlier. There isn’t a clove of garlic or an old stick of butter. There is nothing. You close the door and open the freezer and as you wave your hand to brush aside the mist, you see that every corner of the freezer is empty. You turn to the nearby pantry and, looking high and low, see that there is not a bag, not a box, not a jar to be found. You have no food. Nothing.
As you tuck your daughter into bed that night, she says, “Daddy, what will we eat for breakfast tomorrow?” And with utter sincerity and utter confidence you say, “God will provide.” And, despite the bare cupboards and the empty fridge, you are able to go to sleep that night with full confidence that there will be food for you the next day. When you wake in the morning, you unlock the tent door, step outside, and see the world around covered in food like frost on a cold winter morning. You are able to quickly and easily collect enough food for the day, and can head inside knowing that the children will have all the food they need that day. As you nuke their mannapancakes, you whisper a prayer of gratitude that God provided again. Yet again.
But you also know that God has provided for only that day. The manna that lay on the ground was not enough for today and tomorrow. As the sun rises in a few minutes, the manna will melt into the ground and be gone. God has not provided for a week or a month or a quarter—he has provided for only one day at a time. You have heard of people who doubted God’s providence and hoarded manna, packing it into Tupperware and stuffing it into the deepest recesses of their fridges, freezers, and cupboards. But when they took it out and tried to eat it, they found that it was rotten and disgusting, crawling with worms and smelling worse than sandaled feet in a hot desert. You know that as day fades into night, and as you prepare the evening meal, you’ll find that you have just enough manna to eat, and that as you close your eyes in sleep, you’ll lie in peace, knowing that God will provide again tomorrow. But only for tomorrow.
God knows better than to give manna for a month. If he did that, you know that you would soon forget about your reliance on him. For twenty-nine days you would forget what it was like to lay down at night with your only confidence being in God’s provision. Instead you would lay down knowing that the cupboard was stuffed full of manna. And you would forget about God, at least until the end of the month came around. Perhaps then you would begin to call out to him again and begin to beseech his provision. You know the lesson God wants you to learn.
I’ve often wondered how the faith of the Israelites could ever waver. I’m sure you’ve wondered the same. How could the Israelites constantly turn against God despite all he had done and all they had witnessed. They had seen God do miraculous deeds in leading them out of Egypt. They had seen his hand time and time again as they made their way toward the promised land. And every morning God delivered food, food that was abundant and delicious. Every day he gave them what they needed for the day, and asked them to trust that he would do the same tomorrow. Never did he let them down and never did he give them cause to doubt his providence. But they did. They doubted his motives, they doubted his ability and they doubted his sincerity.
God’s promise to provide has not changed. God still promises that he will provide and he still promises to provide only for today. Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25, 34). And yet there are times when we still find ourselves paralyzed with fear, looking into the future and seeing not God’s strength, but our own weakness; we looking forward and see our inability rather than God’s power. But God still promises manna in the morning—he promises that he will take care of our needs.
There was a time in my life, just a few years ago, when money was tight. It was tight enough that Aileen and I often really doubted that we would be able to pay our rent and car payments. Some days we didn’t even know how we would be able to buy groceries. I would often wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, my heart pounding, wondering how I would scrape together enough money to keep us in our house. I would sometimes sit down with a pen and piece of paper and try to plot out the next few months—this was the money we anticipated spending and this was the amount I thought I would bring in between then and now. Rarely were these exercises any sort of comfort. More often than not they would increase my despair, leaving me to conclude that there was nothing I could do—we would lose our car and be forced to move.
But that never happened. There was always manna in the morning. God always provided, though only one day at a time. And he has continued to do so. I don’t remember the last time I woke up in the night with my heart pounding, panicked at the thought of the bills lying on my desk. It’s not that we have become wealthy or that our bills have decreased substantially. Rather, God has helped me to understand that he has promised manna in the morning. When I am tempted to worry, I need only look to his promises and then to look to the past where I can see his hand of provision, day after day after day. He has always given manna in the morning and I have confidence that he will do so again tomorrow.