WILDERNESS: From Manna to Maggots

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Exodus 16:19-20 (NIV)

19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

CONSIDER THIS

So those seven significant words from yesterday’s text, “The Israelites did as they were told.” Maybe we spoke too soon.

Moses spoke clearly: “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning,

What might it mean that they “paid no attention?” There must be a spectrum of possibilities here. O.K., multiple choice question: A) They didn’t actually hear what he said. B) They didn’t understand what he meant C) They heard the command and forgot. D) They heard the command and considered it was unjust. E) They heard the command and were afraid they would not have enough. F) They heard the command and considered it didn’t apply to them. G) They heard the command and considered they merited an exception to the rule. H) They heard the command and paid it no regard. I) They heard the command and willfully defied the authority.

All of this only begins to unfold the nuance of disobedience and sin. We see a spectrum ranging from ignorance to negligence to recklessness to willfulness. The bottom line? It is sin at every level—it misses the mark.

There is another line of analysis here. Why would they keep the manna overnight? Maybe they took more than enough to begin with? Maybe they feared there would not be a fresh supply the next day? Is there any real harm here? What if it were toilet paper? What if the Lord put on our doorstep each morning just enough toilet paper for one day? And what if he instructed us to keep none until morning. Would we obey? Only if we really trusted God.

We want to trust God but we also want a back up plan. We want to hedge the bet, just in case our toilet paper, I mean manna, doesn’t show up one day. What’s so bad about that? Maybe it’s not a matter of good vs. bad or obedience vs. disobedience. What if the real issue is fear vs. faith? Will we trust in God’s provision or our own? This is the lesson of the wilderness.

Jesus had something to say on this point:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

This is so challenging. I’ll admit, it even seems unreasonable. We can disagree with it. We can even choose to pay no attention to it. One thing we can’t do, is say he didn’t mean it. At a very minimum we must grapple with it. The kingdom of God is a very different place than the kingdom of the world and the wilderness is the place where it all gets sorted out’the wheat from the chaff.

One more thing from today’s text.

20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

When we don’t pay attention to the instructions of God we run the risk of seeing the happiness of manna turn into the horror of maggots. How can something so good turn into something so bad, literally, overnight? I think we know the answer.

THE PRAYER

Father, reveal to me the deeper wisdom of your will and ways in the wilderness. I’m not a hoarder, but I do like a back up plan. I want to believe I trust you and yet something about this teaching challenges me to ask deeper questions of myself. I have absolutely no reason not to trust you and yet I hedge. O for grace to trust you more. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

THE QUESTION

How do you grapple with this challenge laid out in today’s text and as further elucidated by the words of Jesus?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com