And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God’” (Exodus 16:11-12).
Four hundred years of slavery in Egypt. Abused, fearful, hopeless. Then came a dramatic deliverance and a series of unquestionable miracles – waters parted for a dry path through the sea, pillars of cloud by day and fire by night.
Yet only a month out, the people of God began to doubt their decision and question Moses, God’s chosen leader for this deliverance. Tired, hungry, and disgruntled, they began to grumble. And when Moses prayed to God, He sent a daily miracle … manna. Fresh bread every morning!
With a small group of Christian brothers, I’m reading Steve Farrar’s book, Manna. It’s making me look back on my seasons of being tired or hungry, disgruntled or complaining. Do I recognize manna when I see it? Afraid not sometimes. But I’m working on it.
I’ve collected a few illustrations from Farrar’s book and from co-workers. Their spiritual eyes are helping me recognize God’s provision of manna in situations both dramatic and simple.
On the mission field
Farrar recounted the story of Guy and Margaret Laird, 1930s missionaries in remote Central Africa. Their first term ended with the death of an infant daughter. While they were stateside, doctors told them oatmeal and prunes might have saved their firstborn’s life. Returning to Africa, they carried oatmeal and prunes in case they had more children.
However, when fellow missionaries had a newborn who developed the same symptoms as the Lairds’ late baby, they gave away the healing items to save another couple’s child. Thus, when Margaret Laird became pregnant, she had no way to obtain the precious natural healing items. She was on her knees praying for God’s intervention one day when her husband called from outside. She rose and went out to greet guests who had come by unexpectedly.
“Mrs. Laird,” one man said, “we get all of our provisions from Belgium. …[E]very month they send us tins of oatmeal, dried prunes, and cocoa that none of us ever use. Would you accept them?”
She was stunned. Even as she was praying, God sent prunes and oatmeal to the front door! Manna.
I asked some of my coworkers to think of a time when God had provided manna in their lives.
In the ambulance
“It was a Sunday afternoon,” remembered Rebecca, “and Will, our 4-day-old son, became non-responsive. We took him to a local rural hospital, which put him in an ambulance to transport him 25 miles to a larger hospital. Those 25 miles took more than 45 minutes, which seemed like an eternity.”
But during that time, word spread like wildfire, and people all over began to pray for Will, Rebecca, and her husband John, a youth pastor. “We were literally covered in prayer,” she said, “and for Will, those prayers were like a lifeline. After four hours of no response, he began to cry out when we were about five minutes out from the hospital.”
Those prayers moved God to send the cries of a sick little 4-day-old, the sound of music – and spiritual manna, indeed, for this brand-new mom and dad.
In the laundry room
“In our Air Force years, my husband Randy’s uniform had to be pristine and pressed each day,” Joy said. “He worked on the flight line and got very dirty. Scrubbing his fatigues was a must. About a week before payday, we were broke, and I ran out of washing powder. I prayed and prayed. Any demerits he got for a dirty uniform were costly in more ways than one.”
When Joy walked outside, the mailman called over to her, “Hey, I’m at the end of my route, and I have several of these Tide samples left. Would you want them?”
“Not only did God provide. He provided the strongest detergent of all. Free!” Manna.
In the worship service
“Most recently, the Lord sent me manna through my church family,” added Hannah. Her mom had a cancer scare on Friday, and the whole family was worried and tired. So tired they almost didn’t go to church Sunday, but Hannah and her husband Dalton decided to go anyway.
“When we got there, the Spirit was in the room,” Hannah said. “One of my areas of major concern was a lack of peace, but we both left the service feeling recharged with the peace that passes all understanding.”
Through worship with her church family and a message from God’s Word, He brought peace.
Manna. Is it only a small round flake of bread as portrayed in the Exodus account? It was precisely that for God’s people in the wilderness – a gift of bread that kept them physically alive.
But these days, the cries of a 4-day-old baby may be the manna of hope for his anxious parents. A supply of detergent may be manna for a young bride in despair. The gift of elusive peace may be the manna a daughter needs in the face of fear.
The stories of others are clarifying my focus. And I’ll be more careful to celebrate God’s gift of manna – spiritual or physical, large or small – in His every provision.