In the past few weeks during my devotional time and while working on a project at the ministry offices, the issue of provision keeps popping up, so I thought I'd write it down and share it with all my Facebook friends.
In Exodus, (the second book in the Old Testament) we find God's people (Israel) six weeks into their desert journey to the Promised Land of Canaan. They had exhausted all the supplies they took from Egypt when they were finally released from captivity as slaves. So Moses asked God for food, and He provided "manna" every morning, which was left after the dew burned off in the desert heat. (Manna literally translates from Hebrew as "what is it?" The Israelites had never seen this white flakey stuff before, and had no idea what to do with it and had no name for it.)
It's important to note a few things about the manna given by God because it applies to our lives today and what we should expect from God when we ask him for provision in a given situation:
This weird stuff was certainly not on their recipe cards!
Freely ask God to give you what you need, but don't be surprised if he gives you something that requires a paradigm shift and extra work. I firmly believe God does this to show us how powerful and wise he is and squish any thoughts we might have that he can be controlled or is a spiritual Santa who gives us exactly what we put on our Christmas wish list.
The manna rotted and became worm-infested if hoarded or kept past it's expiration date (which was one day*).
Don't expect God to cement your entire future by asking him to provide enough for the rest of your life all at once (ie, God, please let this lottery ticket be the big winner). He doesn't work that way. God provides what we need for the immediate future and he utilizes his "just in time" delivery system. It is dependable for all those who follow Him and trust him to provide as they follow him.
The manna was only found around the camp.
The people of Israel followed a cloud by day (providing shade) and a pillar of fire by night (providing warmth, light, and safety from prey). This kept them going in God's direction and at his speed. Those that took off to do their own thing probably died of heatstroke and starvation.
Don't expect God to provide if you're not following his cloud for your life and in community with others doing the same. Whenever God does not give me what I think I need when I pray, I take a good hard look at my motives and direction... when they're self-centered instead of God-centered, I have a choice to make—keep doing things my way or find God's way and surrender to it so I can be near the provision he wants to give me.
In the book of Mark (the third book in the New Testament) Jesus said:
Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you. This mountain, for instance: Just say, 'Go jump in the lake'—no shuffling or shilly-shallying—and it's as good as done. That's why I urge you to pray for absolutely everything, ranging from small to large. Include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get God's everything.
Wow. I really want "God's everything"! How about you?
In closing, I must say that God has provided for Etna and I in the last few months in miraculous ways. Every morning, we pray together. A couple of weeks back, I asked God to provide for TOUCH Outreach (which is where we work) in unusual ways. That afternoon, the mail was delivered and in it was a letter of apology from a guy who we hired to do some work for us and he didn't follow through. In the letter was a donation check which covered our expenses for the next few days (rent, electricity, and a printing bill we just received.)
This is how we know we are following God's cloud for our lives. He provides, and provides just enough in unexpected ways.
God will always provide for you as well as you pursue his direction and speed for your life. If you follow your own cloud you'll find that you are on your own and life is far harder than it has to be—and you won't really enjoy living out God's best for you. Just remember that God provides in unusual ways to surprise us with his love for us, so ask him for your daily bread and whatever you get, be very thankful for receiving.
*Bread made from manna didn't spoil on the sabbath, which was the seventh day of the week, because God wanted the Israelites to rest on the last day of the week.