This Sunday’s sermon was another eye-opener for me.
Pastor Todd has been taking us through a series on changes in life, God’s purpose for them, and the tools He’s made available to us in dealing with those changes.
The primary example for changes God walked people through has been the story of the Israelite’s release from Egyptian bondage and subsequent travels and travails to the land of God’s promise.
This Sunday we dealt with the subject of God’s provision for us, using the example of God’s providing manna in the wilderness.
In the timeline of the Promise Land journey, this event occurred just two months after God’s parting of the Red Sea, and only about 2 weeks after God had led His people to an oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees. In other words, God’s provision in greater and lesser (though still great) ways was fresh on the minds of His people.
Or was it.
Exodus 16 opens with the people grumbling.
And not just the regular travel pains, this is specific whining and wanting for the comforts of Egypt. God had shown them the Egyptians low regard for their lives. He’d shown them His own supremacy over and above the greatest kings of this earth. He’d shown them his tender and remarkable hand in the smallest of details by leading them to a symbolically perfect place of provision.
And they were already complaining.
Ingratitude is a morally despicable attitude and an ingrate is an ugly person. Yet here was the entire congregation of Israel grumbling at their want in this wilderness and wishing for the meat pots of Egypt.
If any of us were in God’s position, we’d consider ourselves quite justified in being incensed at the complaints of this recalcitrant and backward people. We’d rail at the ingrates and give the whole nation a dressing down they wouldn’t soon forget.
But God doesn’t.
And that’s where it is most true that this lion is no tame lion.
How’d we get to Narnia already?
Instead of taking a human approach, and even an approach He took other times in berating the buffoons, God chose instead to prove once again His mighty hand waxing strong on behalf of his wayward and ungrateful and yet fully loved and fully cherished children.
The expect response to the complaints from below would be a diatribe about the history of the universe such as Job received, mixed with the venom of the most vicious Psalm.
The actual response:
“Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you…
At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”
The closest God came, in His words with the Israelite ingrates was that He was setting this as a test and a reminder:
“the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.”
John Calvin himself had a great issues with the narrative:
It is probable that Moses passes over much in silence, because it is not consistent that the insolence of the people was left without even a single word of chastisement. For, although God in His extraordinary kindness gave food to these depraved and wicked men, who were unworthy of the sunlight and the common air, still He was without doubt unwilling to foster their sin by His silence, and, whilst He pardoned their ingratitude, sharply reproved their forwardness. But Moses, passing over this, proceeds to a history especially worthy of narration, how God fed this wretched people with bread from heaven.
Calvin cannot believe God did not speak out in wrath against the grumblings and murmurings.
And yet, we know that God’s ways are not our ways, nor are our thoughts God’s thoughts. Not even the ways and thoughts of theologians of impeccable repute and highest authority of man come close to the ways and thoughts of God.
So we know the how and the what, but what about the why?
What divine lesson did God have through this surprising and incomprehensible story?
That He is not at our beck and call.
God does not come running when we call because of our call.
God is always there and chooses to act upon our call because He it is His nature to provide for His children.
As a mother cannot refuse the cry of her child, and yet, it is not the child’s cry that commands her but her own design that compels her nurturing response.
As the mother does it for her own peace, God does it for His own glory.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and praise Him forever.
The chief goal of God is to bring greater glory to Himself forever through everything from the vast sweep of the universe to the plaintive cry of His willing children to the grumbling whine of his most wayward lamb.
God does not act based on our need, our willingness, our spiritual health, our closeness to Him, our distance from Him, our height, our weight, our gender, our color, or anything else that binds to us as an attitude, quality, measurement, or idea.
God acts based on His own sovereign will and unchangeable character.
Which is a great relief.
Were God to be like the insurance company you failed to pay premiums to and deny you coverage in time of need because your account with Him wasn’t up to date, he’d be no God worthy of trust and respect and honor and lives sacrificed to Him.
Instead, God works in us at His good pleasure to carry out His divine will and bring about His greater glory.
Does this leave God open to abuse?
From our meager human perspective, yes it does. And the Bible tells stories rife with unfaithful people failing to give God his just desserts until that moment when He brings about the deep darkness necessary to chase those unwilling souls back into His path and He is there, willing and ready and waiting, because He wasn’t waiting for the needy to call, He was waiting for the precise moment when His greatest glory would be achieved.