Day 7 – When Manna from Heaven Is Not Enough
Part of the tragic irony in Numbers 11 is that God was graciously and miraculously providing for His people. Each morning, manna (some sort of seed/grain that could be crafted into bread) appeared on the ground. God had demonstrated His provision in delivering them from bondage in Egypt and now they were having a difficult time appreciating His provision of manna.
This manna from heaven was not enough. It failed to live up to their expectations. In Psalm 23, we are told the Lord is our shepherd and that this reality leaves us in a place of having “no want.” However, we often find ourselves having a hard time seeing the provision, and instead we compare it with our previous provision or our expectations of what life would be like. At a foundational level, God always provides what is truly needed to live a life of dependence. Let that sink in for a moment. He gives us what we truly need to live a life of dependence. How often do our ideas of provision have more to do with living in such a way that we are independent and self-sufficient as opposed to vulnerable or dependent upon God?
In Isaiah 58:3, we observe this dynamic as the people of God fasted (entered into a wilderness of sorts) and asked: “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” The Lord responds by saying: “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers.” What can subtly creep into our lives is a kind of transactional theology. God, I’ll do this (fasting, prayer, service) so that I get that (my ideas of the good life). It’s a transaction. God never promises this kind of relationship. What he promises is Himself, and our invitation is to move toward trust and dependence.
A few verses later in Isaiah 58, we read: “and the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (v. 11) The questions that surface in the wilderness are: can I trust? Will he really provide? Can I put all my eggs in this one basket?
The questions are answered as we wrestle with the idea of satisfaction. What do I believe will truly satisfy me in this life? Is He enough? Is His provision enough? If we can be honest enough to say that God is not always what satisfies me, then we’re making progress. It starts with wrestling with what we really believe and then it progresses as we actually wrestle with God. We can hold all the right “beliefs” and never see those beliefs worked out in the reality of our experience. How do we wrestle with God? Quite simply, in prayer. Perhaps our prayers might sound like this …
God, I want to trust You, but I don’t.
Lord, these other desires feel stronger and more powerful than my desire for you.
Father, I desire You, and yet I also desire to find my satisfaction in my work or …
Jesus, help me. I feel so dissatisfied. Give me eyes to see your provision.
As we experience misdirected desires, the invitation is to bring them to God in prayer. As we bring ourselves to God over and over, our response to desire begins to be: God Himself. Our desires begin to be directed toward Him. This is often a messy process and not for the fainthearted. We see this modeled over and over again in the Scripture. We see it in Jesus. Before Jesus went to the cross, He agonized in prayer. He prayed His desire: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42) The apostle Paul had a thorn in his flesh and he wrestled with God. He didn’t know if the desire was misdirected or not, so he simply prayed. What he heard from God was: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God reshaped and reframed desire for Paul. First with the reality that God’s grace (His love, His presence) was enough for Paul. Second with the truth that weakness or dependence is where power is experienced. It wasn’t just believing the right things but hearing them from God in listening prayer … a dialogue in which we share and then listen. This happens, not as we try harder or simply believe the right things, but as we wrestle with God in prayer.
Alan Jones puts it so well: “A human being is a longing for God and nothing less than God will satisfy us; the seductive voices that would make us anything less than this are to be resisted.”
Question for reflection: can I be honest enough to say that God is not always what I desire? Can I bring that to Him?
Prayer: Father, I bring all of who I am to you … all of my desires. I desire You, and I also don’t desire You. What do you want to say to me? Amen.