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  • Writer's pictureMatt Davis

Living In The Grace Of Today

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Costco has done me in. There are some months where I feel like I am only a hundred dollars away from being one of those end-of-the-world, doomsday-bunker survivalists. The cashier usually has something clever to say as I'm checking out. "Wow, you must be feeding the football team!" Nope, just my family of five. Or, "Looks like you're set for a while." Of course, if you consider the next three weeks a while.

The Israelites are on month one of forty years and the food they brought with them from Egypt is now gone. Talk about unmet expectations. In their minds, this escape from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land had a timeline of about a month. If only they knew. They find themselves literally in the middle of nowhere and it was probably a teenage Israelite boy who says, "Mom, I'm hungry. What's for dinner?" (Teenage boys are always hungry. Hence, Costco.) She has no resources. She cannot provide dinner for her son with her own two hands. This is when panic, fear, and regret sets in.

“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Exodus 16:3

Moses and Aaron are about to become experts in fielding complaints from the assembly, and they bring the complaint to the CEO. He responds.

“I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." Exodus 16:4

"The Israelites Gathering Manna" by Ercole de' Roberti, circa 1490

This is a first. No one has ever had food rain down from heaven before. It's definitely a cool trick, but will this really happen every day? These are the same Israelites that just got out from under Pharaoh's rule. This is the same fickle Pharaoh that pulled the rug out from underneath the Israelites and declared to his slave masters,

“You are no longer to supply the people [Israelites] with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota." Exodus 5:7-8

Slave mentality would say that just in case it doesn't go as planned, just in case this God that Moses is talking to is anything like that Pharaoh in Egypt, just in case the storehouses go bare, just in case...I better grab a little more today so I have enough for tomorrow as well. I get it when the Israelites are living in scarcity in the land of nowhere and they wake up to manna, their food for the day, and they grab what they need and maybe throw a bit more into their pockets, just in case.

I live in the scarcity of "just in case" all the time. It could be a phenomenal meal, a beautiful sunset or a moment of delight with my kids, and I am torn between trying to take in the beauty of the moment and gathering as much of it as possible into my pockets to save for later, just in case it never happens again. We fear what tomorrow might bring, but even worse, we fear what tomorrow might not bring. Paul Young has coined the term, "Future Tripping." Future tripping is living with the fear that tomorrow is going to have trouble; and if I somehow worry about it enough today, try to control, or manage these unforeseen aspects of life, I will somehow evade the impending doom. I often miss today worrying about tomorrow.

“I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions." Exodus 16:4

Yitzhak Abarvanel was a Spanish-born Torah commentator from the 15th-century, who noticed a fundamental problem with this verse.

"When we say that someone is being 'tested,' we assume that they are going to have to do something difficult. The classic example from the Torah is in Genesis 22, when God 'tested' Avraham (Abraham) by asking him to bring his son Yitzhak (Isaac) as a sacrifice."

Obviously, being asked to sacrifice your only son is a test. The tension that Abarvanel points out is that God’s goodness in providing the miraculous “food from heaven” seems like an act of lovingkindness, not a difficult challenge! Is it really a test to give someone food and water and all they have to do is collect it and eat it without any difficulty? Some ancient rabbis say that the test is one of obedience whereas others see the test as one of faith. My take? Yes. There is a faithful obedience, or as Eugene Peterson would call it, "a long obedience in the same direction" that is required as we trust a faithful God. God seems to be inviting His people into a relationship where the test is "rely on Me every day.”

Now that they have been freed from the need to work hard every day just to eat, would they grow spiritually, or would they become spiritually lazy? What about us? I prefer absolute predictability — which, is the one thing the Israelites had as slaves in Egypt. Or, are we willing to take things “one day at a time,” opening ourselves to faith?

Fast-forward nearly 1,500 years later and Jesus reminds not the twelve tribes wandering in the wilderness, but twelve disciples and some followers, about this manna lesson. The gospel of John, chapter 6, captures every nuance. John mentions that the Jewish Passover Festival was near, a festival celebrating the Israelite exodus out of Egypt, where faithful Jews would eat unleavened bread, reminding them of their escape from slavery. A hungry crowd has gathered off the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus "tests" Philip by asking where they can buy bread for all of these followers. Philip shows his lack of faith and notes that it would take six months of work just to have enough money for this assembly to have just one bite! Jesus takes a boy's simple lunch of five small barley loaves and two small fish and feeds thousands.

A few verses later, after this miracle and another miracle of walking on water, the crowd has been looking for Jesus and finally finds Him. Jesus uses this opportunity to declare something about Himself, to finish a piece of the story. Couched within the gospel of John, Jesus utters the phrase "I AM" in seven declarations about Himself. The crowd asks for a sign, a sign like when their ancestors received manna in the wilderness, bread from heaven.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry... " John 6:32-35

Jesus is making a phenomenal statement about Himself. He is essential for life and our need for Him is everyday. Each day comes with its own portion of struggle and a portion of grace. I seem to see the struggle and miss the grace. I find myself looking around for that manna that helped me with that one struggle last year, to fill the hunger of the current need and miss the portion that has been given for today. As soon as I find myself in the wilderness again, I start looking to myself for all I need, never finding it, eventually learning to ignore the hunger pains, finding complacency in my malnourished state.

The call and reminder for today, and everyday, is to simply live out faithful obedience. God beckons.

"Trust me, there will be manna tomorrow. For today, rest. Enjoy. Take."

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34
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