By Joe Chesser
After being freed from Egyptian bondage, the Israelites’ first major challenge to their faith and trust in God came at the Red Sea. After witnessing the awesome power of God by making a dry path through the sea with a wall of water on each side of them, and after seeing how God destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army by releasing those walls of water, the “people feared the Lord and put their trust in him” (Ex. 14:31). But it wasn’t very long until their trust in God began to fade and fail them. When they got thirsty and hungry, they leapfrogged their God (and the dead Egyptian army in the Red Sea) and wished for Egypt again (Ex. 16:3).
Yet, as always, God was patient. He gave them sweet water to drink (Ex. 15:35) and quail and manna to eat (Ex. 16:11-12). All they had to do was go pick it up. Simple. Sufficient. Satisfying. Anyone could do that. There were only two conditions regarding the manna. First, gather only enough for each person for that day (about 2 quarts). Second, on Friday, gather twice as much (about 4 quarts) so that there would be food on the Sabbath. So for 40 years, every day except the Sabbath day God provided manna.
But we know in every group of people there will always be some who will test the rules, even when they are simple and clear. Israel was no different. Some of the Israelites paid no attention to what God said through Moses (Ex. 16:20). They decided to keep some of the manna overnight. Big mistake. The next day their manna was filled with maggots (yuck!) and began to stink up the tent (Ex. 16:20). What’s more, on the 7th day when they were supposed to stay home and eat what had been prepared the day before, some of the people went out to gather manna. Not only was there no manna, but they had angered God: “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?” (Ex. 16:28). As simple and clear as God’s instructions were regarding manna, there were always some who wanted to press the issue and do it their own way.
It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. Just ask Cain (Gen. 4:1-5; Heb. 11:4) or Nadab and Abihu (Num. 3:4) or Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) or the Pharisees (Matt. 15:1-9). It didn’t work for them either. Placing your ways above God’s ways is always a bad idea.There will always be some who will want to challenge God by pushing the issue or seeking to “improve” His word. There will always be some who are not satisfied with what the Bible teaches about worship or salvation or Christian living and will want to explore more modern and innovative ways to “serve” God. While being open to new ways of applying God’s word can be very good, being open to new ways that alter or replace God’s word is always wrong. The very last warning in scripture concerns adding to or taking away from the word of God (Rev. 22:18-19). Nonetheless, there will always be some who will test God’s rules. Let’s just make sure we are not them!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org