My little flock of mixed chickens are pretty easy to care for. Once a day I go out to the coop and refill their food, maybe bring them a treat, say hello, and gather the eggs. But out here in West Texas the biggest need those birds have is water. In the winter their water is frozen, in the summer it evaporates. Therefore, checking their water is something that needs attention more often. My husband thought that the solution to the water problem was to buy a bigger waterer. So, once when I came home from a weekend away, (the only time the hubs deals with the chickens at all) I found a huge, new waterer in the coop. At first glance I agreed that this was a great idea…. then I tried to move it. You see, when the giant waterer is filled, I cannot budge the thing. (You know, because I’m not Country Strong). We have had a lot of sloshing and heaving and a few chicken baths since the new waterer.
The other frustrating thing about it is that it easily gets clogged up. Oftentimes I will come out and guiltily notice that the little ring around the bottom is empty and dusty and my girls have no water. But, when I open the top I find that it is filled to the brim. The tiny hole that allows the life-giving H2O to flow from the large supply has been clogged by a bit of dirt or hay. Though the container can hold more than enough water for all of my chickens to live on for days, it does them absolutely no good if it is not accessable to them. If we were not there to take it apart and clean it out, my girls could die of thirst with gallons of water right next to them.
Do you remember the Israelites’ 40 year jaunt in the wilderness? I feel like their journey is filled with inexhaustible life lessons for us, and as much as I would like to shake some sense into them, I can see myself in their foolishness so many times. One such occasion is the story of the manna. In Exodus 16 we find the Israelite community 2 months into their caravan towards freedom. Please keep in mind that the Lord had just rescued them from Egypt after 400 years of harsh slavery. Remember that just 60 days ago they had walked across the Red Sea on dry ground. This is where we find them. Exodus 16:2-3 says, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted. but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Now, I’m not sure what “pots of meat” are but I am totally sicked out…. Sorry. Anyway, drama much Israelites? I’m sure Moses and Aaron probably said those exact words. But the same gracious heavenly Father that heard their cries for freedom, performed plagues and miracles on their behalf, led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night did not strike them down in their wining and drama. Instead in 16:4-5 He says to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
This was the manna from heaven. The word manna literally means “what is it” because they had never seen anything like it before. They were hungry and The Lord provided. But as we pass over this perhaps well-worn story we may miss a key element to His provision. He literally rained down the substance that they were in need of but then He gave them the instructions to gather it. You see, I think it is important to point out that God could have cured their hunger in a number of ways. He could have quelled their hunger supernaturally. He could have just stopped their physical need for food and kept them satisfied indefinitely. In fact He did this very miracle with their clothes and shoes. In Deuteronomy 8:4 it says, “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.” So God actually, miraculously caused their clothes and shoes to remain intact for 40 years of extreme conditions and harsh wear and tear. Could He have not done the same in their stomachs? Could He have not let the last Egyptian “pot of meat” or the Passover meal they ate before their escape fill them for 40 years? He could have, certainly, but that is not how He chose to sustain them. He could have just produced the manna right in their tent. Every night while they slept the manna could have just appeared in their jars within the tent. That is not what He did either.
He did a miracle and He provided for their needs but He also gave them instructions on how to procure this miracle. He said, “gather the manna.” What would gathering the manna have entailed for the Israelites? They would have to physically get up everyday but the Sabbath, leave their tents, walk outside, and do the work of gathering. The provision of the bread of heaven would do them no good until they gathered it. They could have laid in their tents and cried out in hunger with manna right outside their door.
It makes me wonder if some of us are praying for a miracle, or provision, or perhaps a blessing and all the while it is outside the flap of our tent of isolation or despair. Maybe you are desperate to find your tribe, to be a part of real community…. maybe you feel like you are dying of loneliness. And yet, your schedule is so full that if a best friend dropped out of the sky today you wouldn’t have time for coffee. Maybe your tent is fear, insecurity, a critical spirit, selfishness….. You sit inside praying for kinship, for company, for friendship and God is saying, “gather the manna.” Get up. Get out. Be brave. Be selfless. Sacrifice a little of yourself. Do the work. Gather the manna. Perhaps you are longing for a relationship with Christ that is full of faith and power and yet you remain within the tent boundaries of your current experiences and knowledge. He may be standing right outside asking you to come gather the manna. Get up an hour earlier and spend time with Him. Be intentional about prayer. Clear your schedule for a Bible Study. Stretch your brain and read something by an ancient saint. Memorize scripture. Turn off the radio and listen to a sermon. Gather the manna. A relationship with Christ does not happen by osmosis. You cannot simply put your Bible under your pillow at night and attend church once a week and walk in any real power and faith. But He is not trying to make it difficult. He has done the miracle, you only need to gather it. Maybe the manna you have been praying for is a breakthrough in your marriage. You may be asking the Lord to do a redemptive work in your husband from inside the tent of bitterness and pride. Maybe the manna He has asked you to gather comes in the form of an apology, a letting go, a hard conversation, forgiveness. Perhaps He has asked you to step away from relationships and influences that aren’t good for your marriage… Maybe He has asked for a little more time, devotion, Proskotereo. Maybe you are longing for some intentional time as a family, an actual dinner around a table with eye contact and deep conversations. But, you have your kids in so many activities that you have not heard their hearts in weeks. You can continue to pray for your family but the manna maybe as simple as a pot of spaghetti and a “no.” I don’t know what it is but I know that many times we are too busy complaining to gather.
We could go on and on…. health, finances, parenting, ministry. Sometimes the Lord does the big crazy miracle we hope for. Sometimes that huge check miraculously appears in the mail. Maybe the marriage fairy visits you in the middle of the night. Maybe you wake up to perfect, pleasant children. Maybe you walk out your front door and literally bump into the person who will be your BFF. But usually not. God is always working. He is in the business of providing. He loves to bless His kids with not only what they need but their hearts desire as well. He is a good Father. But usually He asks us to do a little gathering. We may have to shut up for a sec and listen to the gentle falling of manna right outside our tent of self. We may actually have to get up and get out of our comfort zone, our opinions, our entitlement, our junk and do some work. We don’t have to produce the manna, we are just asked to gather it.
My silly chickens cannot get to the water when the waterer is clogged. They are physically unable to gather what they need though it is right in front of their beaks. But we are better than that. We are smarter and stronger and braver. We have the still small voice of the Holy Spirit living within us saying, “gather.” Yes, gather sisters. Pray, ask, and then throw the flaps of that tent open and gather.