1- Exodus 16: 2-15
2- Matthew 20: 1-16
You may recall, last time that I spoke, I gave a 5 minute summary of the Pentateuch, Joshua and Judges. And one of the recurring themes throughout these 7 books was that the children of Israel grumbled, complained, fussed, griped, groaned, kvetched, muttered, mumbled, moaned, protested, spluttered, snuffled and snivelled. And yet, God still came through for them.
Our reading this morning from Exodus 16, starts with:
The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
If only we had died… in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.
Our course, Christian don’t complain, the same way we never gossip. Have you ever actually heard a Christian say: “I don’t like what God’s given me!”? or: “I can’t believe God is taking me down this road! It’s not like I have a lesson I need to learn…”
Of course not.
At least, that’s not HOW we complain…
We merely vociferously express our discontent with what God has given us, couched as a “prayer request”, so that others can pray about it with us.
I want to ask you today:
How BLESSED are you? Have you counted your blessings lately?
Let me give you a short-list of how blessed I am:
1- I am married to a good man, with strong family ties; and he loves me! He makes me feel special and loved.
2- Both of my parents are still alive, and more importantly – still together. My nephew Luka-James was born September 7th, no C-section required, my brother was able to cut the umbilical cord, and both mother and child are healthy with no complications. I now have 6 nephews & nieces, ranging from a few days to 21 years old.
3- I have a fantastic network of friends and loved-ones, who are there for me in my times of need, helping to work through problems or issues that I may have.
4- I have my health!
5- There are 925 million hungry people in the world, mostly living in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. I eat well: nutritious, regular, balanced meals, 3 times a day, and snacks when I’m peckish. My fridge & pantry are usually full.
6- 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10.00 a day – that’s less than $300.00 a month. So, how blessed are you?
7- More than 660 million people live without sanitation, and live on less than $2.00/day, and more than 385 million on less than $1.00/day. My comfortable 3 bedroom apartment, with 3 bathrooms, running water, and flushing toilets is looking really nice!
8- There are about a billion people that cannot read and write or sign their names: I am blessed with having 2 law degrees, and struggling to finish my thesis for my Master’s degree.
9- In the world, with a population of 7 billion, there are only 812 million people that own cars. I’m one of them.
I am truly blessed.
My needs: roof, clothing, food & security – they are all taken care of.
This reminds me of Proverbs 30, verses 7 to 9:
Two things I ask of thee; deny them not to me before I die:
#1 – Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
#2 – give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.
That is to be truly blessed by God. A magical word: “enough”.
So – how does God deal with the complaining Israelites in our reading from Exodus? He gives them what they need: raining bread from heaven every morning with the early morning dew, so that they could simply have enough for each day. But with a test: can they follow instructions?
Collect only enough food for today; BUT, on the day before the Sabbath, collect enough for both days.
How well do you think the children of Israel did at following those instructions?
Yeah – you’re right – they failed miserably.
There were some that stored the manna on the first day, and found to their disgust on day 2 that it was rotting, with worms, and smelt awful; and yes, there were those that didn’t collect before the Sabbath, and went hungry on that day… and there is a “note” made in Exodus “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments & instructions?”
Every evening quails came up and covered the camp, and so they had bread and meat to eat. And they ate manna, every day, for 40 years.
2 simple lessons:
#1: GOD PROVIDES FOR US DAY-TO-DAY.
#2: HE TAKES CARE OF OUR NEEDS – EVEN IF NOT QUITE THE WAY WE WANT.
Our earthly desire and insecurity lead us to want to store up for “a rainy day” that extra so that we will never go without. But God has promised us food each day. Day-by-day we are to present ourselves before God.
Day-by-day we ask for strength, for patience, for understanding and wisdom, for that special anointing of the Holy Spirit, for power – enough for today.
Jesus warns in Luke 12:15:
Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
And then goes on to say in verses 22 to 30:
… do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap,… and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! … But if God clothes the grass which is alive in the field today and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O men of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, not be of anxious mind. For all the nations of the world seek these things; and your Father knows that you need them.
Most of us struggle with the concept of God provides:
• I’m self-sufficient!
• I work.
• I earn a salary.
• I go to the grocery store and buy my food with the money that I earned.
Where is God in this?
Maybe it’s easier to see God when you live and work on a farm: where you depend on the rain and sun and frost at just the right time, because the change in weather can either mean bounty or lost crops.
Have we lost touch with Jehovah Jireh?
Deuteronomy 8 warns:
He gave you manna to eat in the desert… to humble and to test you… You may say to yourself: “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth.
Or maybe, we don’t notice God’s hand in providing for us, because we’re looking for the supernatural:
1- Manna raining down from heaven
2- 5 loaves and 2 fishes feeding 5,000
3- Ravens bringing food, when you’re hiding in a cave
4- Your oil and meal never running out during a famine
5- Or maybe like what God did in Exodus 3 – where the Egyptians gave the Israelis all their gold & silver and fine clothes as they were leaving.
6- Or maybe like in Ezra 1, where Cyrus (king of Persia) commands all the neighbours of the Jewish people that want to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple that they should give them silver & gold, and goods and livestock and freewill offerings.
I’m going to try that sometime – go and tell all my neighbours that God says they should give me all their gold & silver & precious things.
7- Or maybe you’re looking for the big miracle, mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:
When the Lord your God brings you into the land He swore to your fathers… a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant….
How do you think that would go down with my neighbours?
Are you too busy looking for the supernatural to notice God’s hand in the everyday common & mundane life?
Do you see God’s hand: when you get or don’t get that promotion or new job that you’re after; when the offer you made on the new house got accepted; when the loan you needed to buy the car came through…
Or did you presume that was a result of your own hard work, just normal business practice. That’s how life is, how things work… it wasn’t a miracle…
But, I believe God takes care of us each day.
Phil says I’m a bit of a mystic – because I believe in a supernatural God. And I do. I absolutely and completely believe in a God of miracles. If the Bible says that you can move a mountain with faith the size of the mustard seed, the fact that I can’t move a mountain only tells me that I haven’t reached that level of complete trust and understanding of God where I know which mountain I’m supposed to move, when it has to be moved and where it’s supposed to be moved to. Letting me move mountains right now would be dangerous (and probably irresponsible on God’s part.) How many environmental permits would I need to do this?
But I know that God does provide in unusual and miraculous manners. When Mum & Dad were missionaries here, saying that they lived “by faith” seems an understatement. When they got to Panama, and the mission leaders asked them how much had been pledged to them monthly, dad’s response was $2.00. Yeap – that’s what they had in pledges. The rest was going to be “by faith”.
Did I wear hand-me-downs? You bet! Did we eat a lot of veggies out of our own garden? Absolutely! Where there times where we had rice and beans, rice and beans, and rice and beans? Just ask my Mum!
And yet, when we left Panama to move back to New Zealand, we moved into a house that was ours. We hadn’t bought it. But we moved into this 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house, with about 1/5th of an acre of land around it, in dad’s home town. About 1 block away from Jamie’s primary school, and maybe 8 blocks away from high-school. Once we moved back, and dad had a job, this lady organised with the bank that held the mortgage for us to take over the mortgage, but ½ of the house was fully paid and gifted to us.
Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a mansion – it was in a humble part of town, with a rainbow of nationalities and backgrounds as neighbours.
I find it hard to complain about how God provided for us when we moved back to New Zealand without a dollar to our names. We had furniture (second hand, perhaps a little worn, but comfortable); a friend of dad’s gave us an “indefinite loan” of a beat-up ol’ car, until we could buy one; dad got a job quite quickly (although a humble one), and we were settled. Everything we needed was taken care of. In all those years of my parents living “by faith” – I don’t remember going hungry.
Jehovah Jireh provides.
So now let’s talk about our second reading, the parable about the landowner that hires workers for his vineyard. What can we learn from this about Jehovah Jireh, our Provider?
He hires one group of workers first thing in the morning – agreeing with them the wages for the work.
He hires another group at noon, at 3.00 p.m., and then at 5.00 – with each one agreeing the wages to be paid for the work to be done.
And at the end of the day, the foreman pays each of them the agreed upon wages.
Now, those that had worked all day, had something to say about receiving the same amount of wages:
These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.
And the master replied:
Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?
God provides for each of us in a different way – according to His purpose and plan – not according to our wants or sense of what is right and just. We may look at other Christians and feel that they are more “blessed” than we are – but who are we to question what God has chosen to give to them?
And what about those murderers? Thieves? Drug dealers? Arms dealers? Those that traffic people and keep them in slave labour? Why does God let them also have their food, roof and clothing?
Matthew 5:44-45 tells us:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
While it might not make any sense to me, God not only is providing for me, but He’s also providing for those guys that don’t believe in Him and don’t even realise that He’s providing for them!
Because He chooses to. And it is His to give.
And what about the gift of a relationship with God? A murderer may, the night before his execution, turn to God… and we believe that this simple act of faith will be enough to save him. Why does he get the same treatment from God that I do?
GOD’S RESPONSE: I make the sun rise on the evil and on the good; I send rain on the just and on the unjust. Because I choose to. Because I am God.
Why do some Christians get to speak in tongues, have the gift of prophecy, or words of science or wisdom?
GOD’S RESPONSE: Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?
Why do some have the faith to lay hands on the sick and heal them, cast out demons, while others lack the supernatural touch and anointing?
GOD’S RESPONSE: O ye of little faith! I said that these signs will accompany those who believe…
We read in Romans 9: verses 14 to 21:
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! …
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”
So it depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. For the scripture says to Pharaoh: “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”
So then he has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”
But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me thus?”
Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?
And so, each of us can say with confidence:
My God will supply all of my needs, according to His riches in glory.
In quick summary:
1- As Christians there is no room for complaining and murmuring, we are to be thankful and count our blessings
2- We are to present to God our needs, request our daily bread and whatever else we need each day
3- Our faith and trust should be in God, not in ourselves, our savings, our retirement plan, but like the Israelites we need to learn to trust God – one day at a time
4- There is no room for envy in life as a Christian – go back to point one – be thankful for what you are given and count your blessings. Jehovah Jireh has promised to take care of your needs.
It’s because of this that we can give food to the hungry, give something to drink to the thirsty, welcome strangers into the safety of our homes, give clothing to the naked, take in the sick and care for them, and visit those in prison:
Because as we treat the lowest and most needy of all people, we are treating Jesus.