Recommended Reading: Deuteronomy 8:16–18; Matthew 6:31–34; John 6:48–51
When you were a kid, did you ever wish you could see into the future? Most kids wonder what will happen to them as the years pass by and they grow older. Where will they go to school? Will they go to college? What about a career? Will they get married and have a family?
This kind of thinking doesn’t end when a person reaches adulthood. Singles wonder whether there’s a spouse for them out there somewhere. Parents dream about what their kids will grow up to be. College freshmen wonder about their eventual career path; older workers prepare for—or worry about—their retirement years.
Human nature compels us to look ahead with wonder. Dreams of the future make the drudgery of work today worthwhile. Anticipation of future events gets us up in the morning and forces us to plan for tomorrow. It’s what separates a man from his best friend, his dog.
The Israelites in today’s story were no different from us today. Faced with an uncertain future and an immediate need for food and water, they started grumbling. While they’d labored hard during their years of slavery, at least in Egypt they’d always had plenty of food and water. Now here they were, out in the desert, and they and their kids were hungry and thirsty. Put yourself in their place, and try to look at the situation from their perspective. Chances are you’d have had a few pointed questions for Moses as well.
God heard them, and responded by promising to provide for them. Those of us who attended Sunday school know the story well—each morning, flakes of bread appeared on the ground; in the evening, quail covered the camp. But they couldn’t hoard what they gathered, and they couldn’t store it. Moses instructed the Israelites to gather only what they needed for the day—no more, no less. Tough to do when you’re thinking about what the kids will eat for breakfast!
Why was limiting what they gathered important to God? Because the Israelites needed to understand what we all need to learn—that we can sustain a relationship with God only in the present.
Our past is nothing more than the story of how we got to where we are, and dwelling on it causes us to become stagnant and unsatisfied. We can’t find God by worrying or dreaming about the future, either, because that just makes us want to control whatever lies ahead.
Yes, we have concerns and hopes and dreams for the future. But this story tells us that we can live out our relationship with God only in the here and now. God longs for us to trust him every hour and every minute of today.