“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them…’” (Ex 16:4).
In almost every great gift there is a test of whether we will cling to the gift or cling to the giver. With something like manna, which was a matter of life and death, our impulses are all the more powerful. We want to control our supply of the thing itself, rather than trust the one who can arrange for food to fall from the skies. So v.27 is almost inevitable: “on the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none.” We want to take him at his word, but we would also like to hold the future in our own hands. We tend to be up and down, and some days are better than others.
The law of God was never about obedience, never about performing under a moral system. It was always something much more personal, much more intimate. It was always about trust. Given the choice of following our own fearful hearts, or following his great, courageous heart, which would we choose? The end of Ex 16:4, quoted above, reads this way, “…that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” Given the choice of two ways, one under our dominion, the other under his, the law asks us to walk into the uncontrollable unknown, his voice whispering in our ears, “do you trust me?”
Jesus came to love and save us, knowing all our trust issues: “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Mt 6:30). We don’t need to be perfect in trust to belong to him or follow him, but we do need to see our little faith for what it is and ask him for strength to believe. Just after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, the disciples were ministering in an uncertain world, threatened by Jew and gentile alike, knowing that death was a genuine possibility. In that moment they prayed: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness…” (Acts 4:29). This says so much. Perhaps just like us, they are afraid of suffering and death. Their prayer is shaped by the fact that they are not bold. But they know boldness is right, and they know the one who can give them boldness, so they ask.
This is all we need: to know the one who can feed us from the skies, to know the one who can keep us safe, to know the one who gives us boldness to minister in the face of danger. All we need is to know the giver of all these gifts.