Exodus 16:4- 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. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.” (New International Version)
Exodus 16:16-20- This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent. 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. (New International Version)
Since this past week, God has been taking me through the Israelites’ escape from 430 years of slavery in Egypt guided by the Lord’s Mighty Hand, Moses and his brother Aaron. Their journey picks up in Exodus Chapter 1 with the previous book of Genesis ending with the Israelites (the 12 tribes of Jacob) migrating to Egypt during the seven-year famine. Joseph who was Pharaoh’s second-in-command, had done well and wisely to preserve food for the region and people based on Pharaoh’s dream that Joseph correctly interpreted warning of the seven years of abundance and seven years of famine.
In Exodus 1, if you know the story, a new king emerges unaware of Joseph and his people. Joseph has since died. The Israelites have now multiplied significantly in number and the king is concerned about being overtaken by them if war breaks out. It’s at this point that he devises their enslavement to prevent their rising up.
In reading about the Israelites’ enslavement and steps taken toward their release, to their freedom, to their being encamped in the wilderness, God gives specific instructions throughout this process. From where to camp, how to proceed, to what food to eat by day and by night, how to gather and prepare the food, God is not short on details.
Their plight continues into the books of Leviticus, Numbers and beyond—a journey that was only to take 11 days that extended to 40 years!! They never never left the wilderness nor entered the Promised Land (Canaan) since much of that generation died off during their 40 years of wandering. They grumbled (complained), exhibited unbelief, worshiped other gods, and repeatedly disregarded God’s instructions. For this writing, I am focusing on their disobedience.
Joshua 5:6- For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD; the LORD swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. (English Standard Version)
I wonder in our walk, how many times we have ignored God’s instructions, thinking that somehow we knew “how to do it better” or “surely He doesn’t mean it for this instance.” Maybe we’ve almost circled the Israelites by spending years in disobedience. Hopefully we learn sooner than 40 years.
Even though I like to be compliant, I know of times that I thought I knew better than God and operated outside His instructions—only to find myself back where I started, maybe a bit worse off, or preserved from further missteps by His merciful grace. I sensed that in my impatience, God was having me repeat lessons until I learned patiently to follow His instructions, to shed rebellion, to trust Him implicitly, no matter how tedious, mundane or odd the instructions.
I can recount such instances even in my earlier years such as this scenario with me and my brother:
In my hurry and struggle to open the package that clearly instructed “Open Here,” I tore into the package on the opposite end, thinking that I had one-upped the creators of the product — only to find out in my disobedience I had opened the package incorrectly.
“Nik, you’re so heavy-handed,” my brother would say as we both stood with our mouths open in shock over the item that was now broken because I bypassed the instructions on how to appropriately access it. “Now look what you’ve done,” he said. Why hadn’t I learned this lesson? Why did I bypass the instructions provided by the product creator? It also begs us to ask why do we presume to know more than God our Creator and bypass His instructions? Then we immediately feel the burden of our mistake and wish we could rewind time to reverse that outcome. We’re now also grumbling because of the situation our disobedience has caused.
In life, when we bypass God’s instructions, He also presents us with the lesson again for an opportunity to obey. Praise God! But if we continue in disobedience we will be met with those consequences and possibly without God’s intervention.
Are you about to circle the Israelites by spending more time in disobedience? Could your 11-day journey turn into 40 years by your sheer disobedience?
There are many scriptures to encourage our obedience to God. God absolutely desires our obedience which also shows our love for Him. When we really love Him, we desire His ways. This moves Him! This also moves Him to give us more when we can be faithful with little. He will give you the instructions. God will not leave it to you to figure things out. He will absolutely lead you (and me) if we trust Him and obey.
For more on the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness read this Got Questions? article.