Only Take What You Need

Two pieces of bread and some brown gravy. That was gourmet for our family back in the early 80’s. We loved it. We probably ate that once a week with green beans. As children, we didn’t know that was “poor people” food. We just loved it. Though not very nutritious, it was something we could afford. Other delicacies we ate were smelt (a small “junk fish” that you eat bones and all), chicken and rice, and the occasional hoagies when we wanted to splurge. Needless to say, I didn’t grow up with a very distinguished palette when I was younger. We had a very simple menu in our home, and we were good with it.

In 1985, we moved from Upstate New York to Northern Ohio, and while we still weren’t pulling in big money, we could now afford to eat a little better. Suddenly, we’re getting to eat beef and pork. We got to eat out about once a week. Our food choices had expanded, but so did our opinions on food. Now my mom had to deal with us complaining about food and getting pickier day by day. Gone were the days when we were happy with what we had. Now that we had expanded our culinary horizons, so did our ability to whine and complain about what we didn’t like. We were incapable of being satisfied with what was provided for us.

While the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, they became notorious whiners. The promised land had been offered up to them on a silver platter, but they let their fear get in the way and it cost them dearly. After letting this amazing gift slip through their fingers, they found themselves struggling to find food.

…and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Exodus 16:3

The sheer number of people leaving in the Exodus from Egypt has been calculated by many to be over 2 million. Others have stated around 60,000. In either case, there were a lot of mouths to feed, and the natives were restless. There were children to feed as well, so there was a touch of panic spreading throughout the camp. How would the Lord respond?

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, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”
Exodus 16:4–5

Moses took this message to the people, but God didn’t stop there. He wasn’t just going to provide bread, but also meat. 

And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘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.’ ”
Exodus 16:11–12

God was providing for the needs of his people, and the Israelites would know that He was their God. They were to only gather as much as they would need for the day, which was about 2 quarts per person. On the sixth day, they were to gather double so that they wouldn’t have to work on the Sabbath. 

And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
Exodus 16:17–21

God was trying to instruct His people on how to live simply. Gather only what you need. Don’t buck the system. Unfortunately, some of the Israelites wouldn’t listen. They decided to keep extra for the morning, and that didn’t go well. There’s a lot we can learn from this passage. 

The first thing we learn is trust. God will provide for our needs. When we place our full trust in God, he will take care of us. We shouldn’t fear whether or not our daily needs are being provided. God is very clear about this. 

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 6:26

God values us, and He hears us. That’s the second thing we pick up from this passage. God did not turn a deaf ear to His people. He came through in their time of need and continued to do so throughout the 40 years that they were in the wilderness. Regardless of what you are going through, God is listening. This just emphasizes the need for prayer and constant communication with God. 

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

Finally, be content with what God gives you. Live simply. The Israelites chose their plot in life when they didn’t go into the promised land. Now they would have to live out the next 40 years eating this bread called “manna” and quail each night. Would that get boring? Yes. Would their needs be met? Yes. Remember that this life is extremely short in the grand scheme of eternity, and our treasure is still yet to come.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19–21

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17–18

The simple life is one that realizes we have a hope that far outweighs the physical needs of this earth. When we trust in God and His provision, we can find the freedom to  live without fear of what the next day will offer.

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