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Give us this day our daily bread.
Joshua 5: As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel.
All their lives they’ve eaten manna that appears every morning. It’s God’s provision for them, meeting their needs in places and under circumstances in which that need could be met in no other way. They eat other things too but it’s manna that’s the staple in their diet. Now they have a toe hold on the land God promised to them. There’s much to be done: wars to be fought, land to be claimed, but finally they are here. Apparently, they’ve camped at Gilgal long enough to plant and harvest their first crop of grain. What a great Passover, remembering not only deliverance from Egypt but also now beginning to receive the land God promised them. With the harvest of this first Canaan crop the manna stops. The end of the manna isn’t an indication that God’s no longer going to provide for them. It’s simply a change in how he’s going to do it. Now the Lord’s providing for them in a new (only to them) way. Sometimes God does things in miraculous ways but most of the time he uses common tools for that purpose. Either way, it’s God who’s supplying the need. This concept works not only with manna and crops, but also with my health, job, and the many other concerns of life. I thank God for “the manna” but also for the ordinary, everyday provision for life.
Take Away: The Lord does, indeed, “give us this day our daily bread.”
He never has failed me yet
Deuteronomy 8: So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of God…walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him.
The road God has led them down has not always been easy. At times, they’ve been pushed to the limit. Still, in all of it God proved faithful. There has been manna from heaven, perpetual clothes and shoes, and many other direct evidences of God’s steady faithfulness. The fact of the matter is that while their wilderness journey is about to end, there are more times of testing to come. Those same giants that scared their parents off 40 years earlier still live down the road a few miles ahead. The cities are still fortified and the armies there are still superior. Moses says they need to learn from the past as they move to the future. I’m reminded today that sometimes God leads me down roads that scare me to death! Still, as the old song says, “He never has failed me yet.” With that in mind, I walk down the roads he shows me. If he says, “go” that means he’ll go with me and make a way even when I can’t imagine how it can all work out.
Take Away: The Lord never leads us where he doesn’t go with us.
Exodus 24: Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it as the people listened. They said, “Everything God said, we’ll do. Yes, we’ll obey.”
Things are coming together for this nation of ex-slaves. They’ve been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, are receiving constant guidance from the Lord who is also providing their needs. Now the rules for living have been laid out. Soon, God, Himself, will write out the basics on tablets of stone. To their credit, the people are ready. They pledge themselves to obedience. Now, you and I know that this isn’t going to work out. God’s faithfulness to them will be contrasted by their failure to keep the Covenant. Still, God isn’t setting them up to fail. In this Covenant we see all the potential for success. Their failure in breaking the Covenant is what stops the plan from being a success. Hundreds of years later God will initiate another plan. You know it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son….” Once again, and in an even more complete way, everything’s in place for success. And, once again God’s part is perfect. In fact, he’s even gone so far as to provide us the grace to make the same commitment they made. Now, Heaven awaits our response to the New Covenant.
Take Away: We have every reason in the world to live victorious, godly lives.
God will go before you
Exodus 23: I won’t get rid of them all at once lest the land grow up in weeds and the wild animals take over.
The Lord promises his people that he’ll not only be with them but will also go before them. Before they ever arrive in Canaan the Lord will already be at work there, preparing the way for them. The inhabitants of that land will be visited by “Terror” and “Despair.” Just the thought of the coming Israelites will cause them to withdraw, yielding the land to them without a fight. However, the Lord also tells them that the withdrawal of these heathen people won’t happen all at once. If all human beings desert the land then the weeds and wild animals will take over and Canaan land won’t be as wonderful as the Lord wants it to be for his people. While I know it didn’t work out, I can’t help but imagine a very different picture from both the books of Joshua and Judges. As I consider this passage I find myself thinking of God’s work in my life. As one of God’s people I have some precious promises. He’s with me and he’ll make a way even when there is no way. However, that doesn’t mean all the battles are already won. Like the people of Israel, I’m to trust in the Lord and to move forward, believing that, by his grace, I can face whatever obstacles might arise. It would be nice if all the signal lights in my life were permanently on green even as I sit in the driveway, but it doesn’t work that way. I have to move out in trust and allow the Lord to help me through the rough areas one step at a time.
Take Away: God’s work in my life is that of unfolding grace, him making the way for me, one day at a time.
Exodus 16: It got wormy and smelled bad.
It doesn’t take long for the 600,000 people to go through their food supply. Now, they’re out in the wilderness and wondering where their next meal will come from. One of the methods used by the Lord to meet this need is the introduction of a unique food source. It appears like the morning dew, tasting like bread and honey. Each morning the people literally “pick up” their breakfast. Thus begins what will be an ongoing provision of the Lord that will continue for four decades. Except for the Sabbath, each morning begins with their going out to receive this blessing of the Lord. Right off some people try to hoard this heavenly bread, but that turns out to be a bad idea as day old manna gets wormy and stinks. This blessing from the Lord can’t be stored up. Instead, it has to be received anew each day. Centuries later Jesus will teach his followers to ask their Father for their “daily bread.” This reminds us that, even as it was for the Israelites, the Lord provides but that each day requires a renewed trust from us. I’m not against hearing folks share precious memories from days gone by, but as I watch these Israelites collecting their manna, I’m reminded that if yesterday’s blessing’s all I’ve got, well, I haven’t got much.
Take Away: God’s blessings are made new in our lives every day.
The last word
Exodus 2: Take this baby and nurse him for me. I’ll pay you.
Moses is not only born into slavery, he’s also condemned at birth. In a callous effort to stem the booming population growth of the Israelites Pharaoh has ordered the execution of all boys born to the slaves. When his mother can hide him no longer Moses is placed in a small basket that will float and hidden among the reeds along the river. His older sister Miriam is given the task of watching over him from a distance. Apparently, the idea is to hide the baby by day and then retrieve him at night. In a surprising twist that is characteristic of the Lord’s work, it’s Pharaoh’s own daughter who discovers the baby. Then, making things even more delightful, quick thinking Miriam offers to find a nanny for the baby. She goes directly to her mother who’s given the job. Instead of seeing her baby murdered, Moses’ mom is paid to raise her own son who’s now under the protection of the house of Pharaoh! I love stuff like this and, apparently, so does God. He loves taking impossible situations and turning them upside down. As I read this story today I’m reminded that God always has the last word even in the darkest of nights. In my life, it won’t be the writer of my obituary who’ll have the last word – it’ll be him.
Take Away: God has the last word even when everything seems to be going wrong.
Do you think copiers pick up on our stress level?
Luke 12: What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax.
Most Sundays I arrive at church early, meeting with friends for coffee and prayer. Usually, as we’re praying I can hear the church “waking up” as folks start arriving. Generally, I like what I hear. I’m a real fan of happy chatter, children playing, folks sounding glad to see one another. Sometimes, though, I can tell that the morning isn’t going well for some. They’ve met with some issue or another on the way to church. Maybe there’s some family argument going on. Others have things to take care of when they get to church. They arrive and want to get past the friendly greetings as quickly as possible so they can hurry and make copies before their class begins. I appreciate their dedication but wish I could get them to relax a bit. In the passage I’m reading today Jesus notes that some people are always worried about one thing or another. His examples aren’t just frivolous stuff either. They’re concerned about having food to eat and clothes to wear. In soothing tones our Lord points to how God supplies the needs of nature and assures them that they’re more valuable to him than all else. I understand that life brings unexpected, last minute concerns to us so I’m not being critical of those folks who anxiously wait for the copier to warm up. Still, I have the idea that their day will go much better if they’ll make it their practice to join us in prayer, enjoying some quiet time in the presence of the Lord before launching into a busy Sunday morning.
Take Away: If I view the Lord as a stern unyielding judge I have every reason to be stressed – if I see him as my loving Heavenly Father I can rest in the assurance of his provision for me.
My attitude toward things that matter to the Lord
Haggai 1: I’ve matched your tight-fisted stinginess.
Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Generally, I put about 95% of the emphasis on the first part of that statement. I certainly know I need the Lord’s forgiveness for the many “debts” of my life. It makes me a bit uncomfortable to realize that the Lord uses the level of my forgiving attitude toward those indebted to me as his measure of his forgiveness in my life. In the passage before me today the Lord uses Haggai to deliver a message concerning current events in the lives of the people of his day. They’ve been stingy in their support for rebuilding the Temple. Now, the Lord says he’s treating them with that same level of stinginess. They’re holding back in supporting the rebuilding of the Temple and the Lord’s holding back in his provision of rain for their crops. I’m glad today for the abundant generosity of God. His provision in my life greatly exceeds all that I do for him. Still, there’s a time to be reminded that some of the Lord’s blessings to me are linked to my attitude toward the things that matter to the Lord. Jesus teaches me to pray, “Lord, forgive me to the same extent that I forgive others.” Today, Haggai adds that I should be able to pray, “Lord, care for the needs of my life in the same way I care for the place in which I worship you.” If that makes me squirm a bit, well, maybe it’s supposed to!
Take Away: Remember that some of the Lord’s blessings to us are linked to our attitude towards the things that matter to him.
Department of human resources
1 Chronicles 12: Hardly a day went by without men showing up to help – it wasn’t long before his band seemed as large as God’s own army!
David’s cause is a just one. He’s been open and honest and faithful. Still, King Saul knows that his throne is, in reality, David’s. He’s done nothing but be loyal to Saul yet he finds himself named public enemy number one. David withdraws simply to save his own life. However, like a magnet, he begins drawing fellow outcasts. Saul can’t find David, but everyday people just show up and ask to join him. Before long, he commands a force to be reckoned with and some of the great warriors of history are numbered among David’s band. How’d this happen? I think God’s finger prints are all over this. The Lord picked David and now the Almighty’s building his team for the work to be done. Many years later David’s most famous descendant has surrounded himself with twelve good men. Still, there’s much to do. A great harvest beckons, but more workers are needed. Jesus tells his core group to pray that the Father will send more harvest workers. In David’s day people who probably weren’t even sure how they found him just showed up to join his cause. In the Gospels, Jesus puts out a call for harvest workers. Maybe we church leaders should take note of what happens here. If we’re doing what God wants done, he’ll supply the people to do it. The Lord doesn’t use up human resources so we can do what we want to do. However, as we see in David’s case, he has an abundant supply of people to help us do what he wants done.
Take Away: If we’re faithful to the Lord he’ll supply the resources necessary for us to do what he wants done.
Apples or fish
2Kings 4: They not only ate, but had leftovers.
During our Lord’s ministry some of the people think Jesus is possibly one of the prophets of old, resurrected from the dead. It might be that they’re thinking of this incident. In fact, Luke’s report of the suggestion that Jesus is a resurrected prophet comes right after Jesus feeds the five thousand. In this case Elisha feeds, not thousands, but a hundred; and not with bread and fish but with bread and apples. It’s a different day in which a different man provides and different main course. But it’s the same God. Because of that the lessons are the same. One lesson is that “little is much when God is in it.” Another is that I can trust the Lord with my meager resources; he can make better use of them than I can anyway. Whether I’m thinking about Elisha or Jesus or apples or fish it’s good to be reminded that when I give my all to the Lord he does wonderful things.
Take Away: The Lord takes the little bit that’s our all and does more with it than we ever could.