Sunday, December 02, 2007

Manna


The snow falls lightly out of the darkness, a few flakes at a time, as if unsure where it should land. It floats in front of the streetlights and then disappears somewhere onto the quiet street. I sip my coffee, thankful that the icy wind that has ripped through the city the past few days has disappeared. I am puzzled by the strange sense of contentment that lifts and sighs through my emotions, but I don't question it. For once, I am able to be thankful without analysis, which is as much a gift as any other. A car heads slowly towards the house, and I wait until it passes before turning my face upward to watch the snow dance in the pale light.

It's almost midnight, and even as I sip my coffee my mind thinks back to another time, a time long ago, when another race of people waited on heaven's precipitation. Only it wasn't snow they were waiting for, and it wasn't for the scenery or sense of peace that their eyes would turn anxiously to the heavens each night. Their story has been told many times, the story of the Israelites and their journey out of Egypt, but we have been hard on them, especially here in North America. In particular, we have mocked their 'lack of faith' at God's provision.

I remember the first time I heard the story of manna, and my disdain for the Israelites. How could they not trust God? Hadn't He just proven Himself (by ten plagues) that He was real? Hadn't He led them out of Egypt? Even now, I can't help but shake my head at my arrogance. If that had been me, what would I have done? Would I have been as faithful?

The snow has begun to fall harder, and it gathers on my coat and hat with a quiet rustle even as I'm drawn back, to a time when snow wasn't snow, a time when it meant so much more.

The Israelites had just left Egypt, a struggling new nation that had grown from its roots as a nomadic tribe into burgeoning peoplehood nearly three million strong. They'd watched in both awe and disbelief as first clouds and fire had hidden them from the Egyptian warriors, and then later as the wind and rains had swept away the Egyptian army upon crossing the Red Sea. God was clearly on their side, or so it seemed.

The days were long however, and while free from their chains, the concept of freedom was nearly as difficult to grasp as freedom itself. The nights were cold, and the days were hot as they marched onward, endlessly, trudging to nowhere. Food was scarce, too. The desert was arid, and there little in the way of farming or game. Finally, Moses took their cries to Yahweh, and Yahweh answered.

Every morning the ground was covered in white flakes, thin wafers that tasted like honey. The people were given a warning however, not to collect more than a day's worth of food. Some of them tried, and it rotted and produced maggots. Instead, they were forced to wait on God, wait for the Almighty to deliver this strange bread. Every morning. One day at a time.

I can only imagine what it must have been like, to wait every night for this miracle, to wait until the morning dew had passed to prepare their breakfast. I have heard some thundering sermons about the Israelites in this story, about their lack of faith, about their inability to grasp just how much God had done for them. But I can't imagine being in their shoes. We do everything we can here in North America to not trust God. We put our faith in RRSP's, retirement plans, bonds, stocks, bank accounts, psychiatrists, medecines, self help books, Jesus prayers, formula worship, worship CD's, everything we can think of to avoid trusting in Yahweh Himself. Those things aren't necessarily bad, and sometimes God uses them to help meet our needs, but the call to a dependent, daily relationship echoes through the story of Exodus to today. It echoes through to me.

The snow is thick now, and it blows across my face like a white sheet. The street glows bright under the streetlamps and for a minute I hear the strains of Christmas carols from a house across the street before it is quiet once again. Just the feel of the snow on my face and the heavy crunch beneath my boots.

I am learning to depend on God more than ever these days, learning that there is something inherently biblical about leaning on Him for my day to day needs. There are days when, like the Israelites and the rest of humanity, I want to stock up my bank account and squirrel away my future so that no one else can have it. But there's a tie, I think, between the amount we trust God and the clinging, grasping hold on our possessions. The more we cling, the more we provide our own security, the less our need to rely on God. Maybe that's why it is so difficult for us to relate to those who don't have, why we still cling to this idea that people just need to work harder if they want security.

I'm not advocating bad stewardship, but I wonder we spent our money a little more unwisely so that from time to time at least we would have to go to God for help, (and not just for our financial needs -- but for everything) that would be okay with Him. Better that than the presumption that we can look after ourselves or that we deserve it because we're disciplined and poor people are not or that the only lives that matter are our own.

I head back up the driveway. Some of the snow finds its way onto my neck, as I adjust my hood. I stop at the stoop and hunch forward, watching as the snow swirl across the lights. The more I read the Bible, the more I am impressed that these were people like us. Like me. I take heart in their weaknesses because they are my weaknesses too. Mostly however, I draw confidence in the One who showed that He would always be there, so long as we are willing to call upon His name.

May God remind us this week that God longs to give us our daily bread, that He longs for our company and time, and that no matter where we are, we have only to ask to find His provision.

-Steve