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  • Writer's pictureWill Stockdale

Miraculous Provision Amidst Murmuring

Christ as our true source of nourishment

This is the first in our summer series on "The Miraculous Acts of God."

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to 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 they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.’” – Exodus 16:4-5

Over a period of time God systematically destroyed the powers and deities that held his people in bondage for more than 400 years. Sent by God, Moses approached Pharaoh, asking that the Hebrews be set free to worship their God in the wilderness. The king of Egypt’s hard hearted refusal resulted in 10 plagues that ravaged the Egyptians and broke Pharaoh’s will. At last the Hebrew people were free. 

As they left Egypt and traveled towards the Promised Land, a place that God said no less than three times was flowing with milk and honey, the Lord sent a pillar of cloud to guide them by day and a pillar of fire to guide them by night. When they came to the Red Sea and were trapped between it and the oncoming Egyptian army, God parted the waters so that they could walk through on dry land, and when the waters returned they engulfed the attackers. When the Israelites were thirsty God turned the bitter water sweet at Marah. 

It is important to retell these events as we come to chapter 16 of Exodus and read about the miraculous provision of manna and quail. Barely 45 days had passed since God freed his people, and yet in such a short time they had shown themselves inclined towards grumbling and doubting his ability to provide for them. They grumbled at the Red Sea and at Marah before coming to chapter 16. They even had a faulty memory. In verse 3 the people grumbled, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full.” That recollection seems hard to square with a regime that killed their babies and oppressed them for 400 years. 

In response to their grumblings and delusional memories “the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you.’” In the mornings, the people were told to go out of their tents and gather enough manna to feed themselves and their families for that day. And in the evenings they were to gather quail. On the day before the Sabbath they were to gather enough for two days so they could rest. No more than that though. For if they doubted God’s future goodness and attempted to store up manna and quail ‘should God not provide,’ the food would rot. This miraculous provision demonstrated God’s abundance and ability to give his people all that they need. 

At the end of chapter 16 we read “The people of Israel ate the manna 40 years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” Day after day God fed his people and gave them all that they needed in life to follow him. For two generations they survived by a miracle that could shape them into a people who relied on God to meet their needs.

God’s miraculous provision and warning against grumbling and complaining is continued under the New Covenant. In Philippians 2:14 we read, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” because God has given us new life in Christ and he “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) We are united to Christ and it is he who is the bread of life; our true source of nourishment. 

As Jesus himself said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” May we learn from the Hebrews who mistakenly grumbled against God in the wilderness and doubted his provision. May we remember that he has given us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). 

Our God is the Creator of all things (Genesis 1:1), His Son is the one in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17), and the Holy Spirit is at work in “transforming us from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). There is nothing we need that our Trinitarian God cannot give to us. Let us joyfully receive God’s good gifts and rejoice in his miraculous provision.

Will Stockdale is the Director of Capitol Hill Staff Ministry in Washington, D.C.


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