Have you ever thought about the miracle of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years? I’ve always marveled that they weren’t more thankful for the daily manna. Let’s put ourselves in their metaphorical sandals for a few moments.
Thankful for the deliverance
God mightily delivered you from Egypt. Oh, the stories we could tell around the campfires! “Remember the frogs, the locusts, and the pitch-black night?!” This sounds like the kind of stories kids love to tell on campouts!
Then remember how the Red Sea parted so we could escape? Then we watched Pharoah drown in all his fury.
No wonder Miriam broke out in song (Ex. 15). We joined with her. Our hearts overflowed with gratefulness to be free from Pharoah’s tyranny.
Let’s pause for a second. Isn’t this how it is when we were first saved by the grace of Jesus? Jesus broke the power of sinin our lives. We received the blessings of redemption, forgiveness, and adoption. We felt eternally grateful and we couldn’t help but sing, shout, and give thanks!
Grumbling in the wilderness
Now we’re in the wilderness. Moses promised we would get to the Promised Land. We couldn’t wait. But how are we going to feed one million people in this wasteland? And there’s barely any water?
Lord, we had it better in Egypt. At least we had food to eat and water to drink.
Sidenote: Isn’t it funny how our memory becomes fuzzy with the passage of time? Israel forgot how bad it was in Egypt. We forget how bad it was before Christ redeemed us.
The miracle of manna
In response to our grumbling, God provides daily “manna” which literally means “what is it?” because they didn’t have a food category for it. In fact, if you fast forward, Moses kept a piece of manna in the ark of the covenant to remind future generations of God’s daily provision and show what it looked like.
When I think about manna I think it must have been something like lembas, the elvish bread in Lord of the Rings. You only needed a few bites to nourish you for the whole day. But unlike lembas, manna only lasted one day before it perished–except on the Sabbath.
How did God do that? I can’t imagine providing enough food for 1 million people, 365 days per year for 40 years. That’s approximately 14.6 billion meals to prepare. I think we all know who the real Iron Chef is!
Grumbling replaces thankfulness
But it didn’t take long before the people began to grumble again. After all, how many ways can you prepare manna?! Manna stew, manna mush, manna sandwiches, manna shakes, etc…
The people lost sight of the miracle of God’s provision. And so they complained and asked for meat. As a rebuke, God answered them and sent them so many quails that they gorged themselves.
To be thankful or to grumble, that’s the question
The sojourn of the Christian faith is like that. We’re wandering through the wilderness with the Exodus behind us and the hope of heaven before us. God promises to take care of our daily needs, but he wants us to trust him.
Jesus taught us to pray, “give us our daily bread.” But that’s not a demand from a tyrannical toddler, but the grateful prayer of a rescued slave who now owes his life to his new master, who also happens to be his Father.
I think we start to grumble when we lose sight of the miracles in God’s daily provision. It’s not just about food.
For Israel here are some other miracles: they never went without water, their shoes never wore out, and God directed them by pillars of cloud by day and fire by night.
Will we be thankful for what we have?
Why is it so hard to be thankful? If we start to look at what others have or focus on what we don’t have, we will cease to be grateful. If we fail to see the miracles around us every day, we will grumble and become demanding.
Thankful people know they are blessed beyond measure. Thankful people have eyes to see all the miracles around them and use their mouths to praise God and thank people for the undeserved gifts of life, love, and friendship. Grateful people notice opportunities to return thanks every day.
Marla Cilley (aka Fly Lady) helps people declutter their lives in 15-minute increments. Using one of her methods, our challenge today is to take 15 minutes (or less) to go into one room and find 29 things for which you can be thankful. Why 29? Because it’s a random number and it’s big enough to get you to look beyond the usual things you would notice. Be careful to not get lost in thoughts about cleaning, to-do lists, or other rabbit trails. Stay focused on being thankful. You can come back later to get rid of that thing for which you’re not very thankful or that you meant to throw away. Also, you may find yourself overcome with thankfulness after only 15 items (that’s what happened to me). It’s okay to stop before 29.
Father, I know I am blessed beyond measure. Thank you for providing for my every need. As I notice the things around me that remind me of your past faithfulness, I am overwhelmed by your love, your thoughtfulness, and foresight. Protect me from becoming jaded, ungrateful, and demanding. May I always and forever give you the thanks you deserve. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.