As we continue our series on the lessons we can learn from the manna experience of the children of Israel, we come to lesson three which, I have to admit, is one of the most difficult ones for me. In the Scriptural account of the manna blessings, the Bible makes it clear, in a few different ways, that the children of Israel had to act according to God’s timetable, not their own.
And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted. - Exodus 16:21
First off, we see that God commanded them to collect the manna in the morning. The bread from heaven covered the ground as the Israelites woke, so all they had to do was gather it up. But they had to do so before the sun waxed hot; otherwise, the manna melted away. Therefore, the children of Israel had two choices: gather it when God said to or go hungry that day. It was their decision. Follow God’s timetable or suffer the consequences.
And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. - Exodus 16:19-20
Next, we see that the people were commanded to gather only what they needed for that day, which takes us back to lesson one, right? They were explicitly told not to hoard any for the next day, but, as we’ve already discussed, some of the people decided to do things their own way and in their own timing. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well for them nor for those who had to smell the maggot-infested lodging place. And that leads us to our next point.
And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses.And he said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. - Exodus 16:22-27
God gave them specific rules concerning the Sabbath. On the sixth day, they were allowed to gather enough manna for two days, and it wouldn't spoil. This way, they didn’t have to work on the Sabbath as it was set aside as a day of rest. Once again, the Israelites had a choice: do it God’s way in God’s timing or go hungry that day. I have a feeling some people went hungry that day because the Bible tells us that some of them went out to gather on the seventh day, and there was no manna to be found. It’s possible they were still trying to hoard up for later, but I get the impression that they didn’t follow the orders that God gave them and instead followed their own logic. “The manna has been on the ground every morning. It will be there again tomorrow, and I’ll get what I need then.” But they couldn’t because the manna wasn’t there. By not acting according to God’s timetable, they suffered the consequences.
I will be the first to tell you that God’s ways and timing seldom make sense to us. We tend to think we have it all figured out when it comes to the timing of our needs being met, but God begs to differ. Just ask Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Ask Jesus after three days in the grave. These things seem so strange to us. They appear so wrong. They have us scratching our heads and wondering why God isn’t coming through for us. As today’s song proclaims, God will pass by at the right time. What is the right time? That’s for Him to determine, but if we trust in His love and care for us, we’ll agree that whatever time He chooses is best, and we’ll wait and act in His timing, not our own.