I’m not a big fan of being in need, and the spread of coronavirus is revealing needs both large and small. This makes me uncomfortable because, left to myself, I prefer being comfortable and secure to being vulnerable and at risk. If there are needs to be met, I’d rather be the one to give the help than be on the receiving end. This is one of the reasons why I so love and appreciate the story of the manna in Exodus 16. It gives me a whole new way of thinking about needs and what God is up to during times when I’m in need. The lesson of the manna seems to be that a need can become a friend who leads me to God.

What is a need you have right now? Take a moment and consider. How do you feel about it? Is it a friend or is it more like a bad houseguest you’d like to shoo away as soon as possible (assuming you weren’t living in a time of social distancing!)?

Picture the scene in Exodus 16 with me. The people of Israel are in the desert, somewhere in between redemption from slavery and arriving in the promised land. They are hungry, the food is running out, and there are no markets for shopping, no crops for picking. How did they get there? Bad planning? Bad leaders? No, God has brought them out there and is turning the desert into a school for them. He is testing them and teaching them. What is the lesson? Here’s the summary Moses gives 40 years later:

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Why would God lead people he loves into a desert and let them be hungry? Because he wants their hunger for bread to take them to a deeper hunger, their hunger to know and find satisfaction in him. Bread is important, essential, but you can have plenty of bread and still miss out on life. God is teaching his people to keep the first commandment by making him first in their lives.

Their hunger could have become a friend that led them to an abundant life in God. Let’s think about how this could have happened. Instead of godless grumbling, what if the people had brought their need to God? What if they had called a prayer meeting to bring this up with God? What if they had reminded God how grateful they were to be redeemed from slavery, recounted how he’d saved them through the Red Sea and given them water in the desert back at Mara? Then, what if they had appealed for daily bread, and rested in the confidence that he is who he says he is, “The LORD your God” (italics added)?

This experience of need could have become a friend to lead them to find satisfaction and hope in God. How about us? What is that need you identified at the beginning of this post? What if that need became your friend to bring you to God with thanks and remembrance and petitions? Jesus says he is the bread of life, satisfying a hunger no loaf of sourdough could ever meet. Each time we feel the pinch and angst of need, may that moment become a friend to lead us back to feeding on the One who gives life, abundantly and eternally.

Mark Mullery

P.S. Got comments or questions about this post, or ideas for another one? Email me at midweekmusings@rgcfairfax.org.