What Is It
I miss the younger years of parenting. Not me being younger. But the kids being younger. Don’t get me wrong, I love parenting teenagers. As a parent, that’s my sweet spot. But I miss when they were two, three, four and five years old.
When they were that young, everything was new to them. And it was fun helping them experience those new things. Like jumping off the side of a pool. As a parent, you know the fun and joy they will experience. But for them, they haven’t experienced that joy quite yet. And so their focus was on the fear they feel. They’d look at me. Look at the ledge and the drop to the water. Then they’d look back at the cement they were standing on and would start to walk backwards to what was familiar. But after a few words to make them feel better and helping them “jump” into the water, they’d eventually trust their mommy and daddy and jump themselves.
Then, in the very same summer after trusting their daddy and jumping into the pool, I remember taking a trip to a water park with friends. You know what’s at water parks, right? Yup. Water slides. Once again, as a parent, I could look at that slide and my kids and know the joy they’d experience going down that slide into a pool of water. So I took the kids up to the top of the slide, talking up the excitement and how fun and cool it was going to be to slide down the water slide into a pool of water. But once we got up to the top of the slide, fear crept back in and they insisted on not going down the water slide. They instead wanted to go back down the stairs to the familiarity of what they already knew.
I don’t suggest this as a parent, but when Carter was four or five, I actually picked him up, sat him down, then pushed him down the slide as he screamed throughout the process. Once down, he came running back up to go down the slide by himself.
Time and time again through different experiences our kids would have to learn to trust and depend on their parent over and over again even though we’d proven trustworthy through previous experiences. Time and time again they’d crave and desire the familiar over choosing to depend and trust the call of their mommy and daddy. That doesn’t change with age. And it hasn’t changed throughout the years. What is true now, was and is true hundreds of years ago.
Check this out:
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “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 16:1-3
Facing the question of where their next meal would come from made them question everything. The Scripture says, “they grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” I believe this is the first reference to a people being “hangry.” Only, it was more than simply being hangry. The Israelites actually wished they were back living as slaves in Egypt.
At this point, the Israelites had already experienced a number of miracles from the Lord. He had turned bitter water that they couldn’t drink into sweet water by having Moses throw a piece of wood into the water. And bigger still, they had just witnessed the Lord parting the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to walk across on dry land with a wall of water to their right and to their left. Once the Israelites had crossed, the Lord allowed the sea to flow again, washing the entire army of Pharaoh to their death.
But now, instead of trusting and having faith in the Lord, they begin to worry that they would die in the desert from hunger and they began to wish for the familiarity of what they had known. And they Lord heard the Israelites grumbling.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. Exodus 16:4
Moses also said,
“You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Exodus 16:8
In the midst of their worry and their grumbling the Lord heard them and decided to provide for the Israelites once again even as they were grumbling against Him. But this is the Lord’s character. You see, back in Exodus 13, as the Israelites were leaving Egypt, God decided to lead them on a longer path through the Red Sea instead of a shorter path through the land of the Philistines because God knew that if the Israelites faced war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.
Even when the Israelites didn’t know it, God was still looking out for and taking care of them. And, in the midst of their fear and grumbling of where their next meal would come from, God would still keep that commitment to the Israelites.
As I look back over my life, there have definitely been times where I can see how God took care of me… exactly when I didn’t even know it. Protection from dumb decisions I made as a teenager. Doors closing which led to better doors opening. The list could go on and on. And I’m sure, if you look back on your life, you would see the same thing.
So, here the Israelites are. Grumbling against a God who has already provided visual miracles for their safety. Grumbling against a God who had already provided protection that they didn’t know about. And now, Aaron is standing before them, speaking to the whole Israelite community. And as they looked toward the desert… the desert they’d be wondering through for 40 years… and what did they see?
The glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. Exodus 16:10
In the midst of their fear. In the midst of their grumbling. In the midst of their worry and their desire to just go back to what is familiar. In the midst of their desert, the Lord God was there with them. What is true hundreds of years ago is still true today. While God was with the Israelites in their desert, God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is with us in our desert. You see, God doesn’t just lead us through our desert, He’s there with us in it.
And then the Scripture goes on to say…
That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” Exodus 16:13-16
The word, manna, literally means, “What is it?” That’s what the Israelites first reaction to what the Lord provided. Manna is the clear example of the Israelites’ dependence on God was. They had to rely on Him every day for 40 years just to survive. But this isn’t anything new, it’s just different. They had to rely on God to change Pharaoh’s mind to let them go. And when Pharaoh freaked out and changed his mind again, the Israelites had to rely on God to escape from Pharaoh’s army. Time and time again we see the Israelites’ dependence on God while in their desert. And when God says, “Trust me” to the Israelites one more time, we see them again wanting to go back to the familiar out of fear and worry. But God, each time, provided for the needs of the Israelites with just enough for each day… with exactly what they needed to survive for that day.
You see, what’s true hundreds of years ago, is true now…
God is acting on our behalf even when we don’t know it. God shows up in the midst of our desert. And God provides for all of our needs when we follow His Word, His guidance and keep His commands. I pray that you see the Lord and choose Him and His Word even as you read this now.
Director of Students & Young Adults