Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thankful in Times of Sacrifice – Part 1 of 5

It’s easy for us to recognize God’s faithfulness and protection towards the Israelites because we know the outcome of their story. They, on the other hand, had a much harder time believing that this crazy adventure would have a happy ending.

We know from the Bible that God took care of them. He provided them with food and drinking water. The first miracle food that He gave them they called “manna”, which, translated, means “what is it?” It was a kind of bread that tasted like wafers, honey, and fresh olive oil. None of them had ever eaten heavenly food before and now they were expected to eat “what is it?” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and for how long? This one-item menu became monotonous, and they wound up complaining again.

Remember that until then, God hadn’t required anything of them other than to leave Egypt and to follow Him. At the time of their leaving, not one Israelite had to die fighting the Egyptians and whatever they needed of their oppressors they could take before they left. However, God was now requiring something more from them. He wanted them to sacrifice fleshly desires; to give up what they loved (familiar food) for something better (heavenly food). Despite everything that God had already done for them, they still weren’t willing to make any personal sacrifices.

Perhaps you might be tempted to judge them as thick-headed. Maybe they were, but we’re not much different from them. Have you ever eaten food from a foreign country and wondered, just like the Israelites, “What is it?” Having traveled to many countries around the world, I’ve had the privilege and opportunity of trying different traditional foods. Some have been tasty, others terribly spicy, and some pretty unusual.

After eating unfamiliar food, most of us can’t wait to get back to real “home cooking.” That’s because it’s hard to adapt to new things. Our familiar things, like family traditions, home cooking, or anything else, bring back memories that feel right and comfortable. The Israelites, like many of us, wanted to have those foods that they were used to and so they grumbled over God’s choice of provisions.

In some ways, God had put them on a forced diet – not because He wanted to lord it over them, but because He knew what was ultimately best for them. The mere fact that it came from heaven meant that it had to be good for them.

The same is true for us today: if we eat right, we will live well. This was a diet like none other. It was supernatural! Besides being a heavenly diet, it was also a kind of fast, not a fast from food, but a fast from earthly food.

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