In the morning there was a layer of dew all around the camp. When the layer of dew evaporated, there were fine flakes on the desert surface, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it?” because they didn’t know what it was. Moses told them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.” ~ Exodus 16:13b-15a
The Lord answered Moses, “Go on ahead of the people and take some of the elders of Israel with you. Take the staff you struck the Nile with in your hand and go. I am going to stand there in front of you on the rock at Horeb; when you hit the rock, water will come out of it and the people will drink.” Moses did this in the sight of the elders of Israel. ~ Exodus 17:5-6
Sometimes the answer to our prayers is a bit convoluted, but God is always, always faithful! The Israelites learned this lesson first-hand just weeks after God rescued them from the cruel hand of Pharaoh.
Exhausted. Shell-shocked. Confused. But safe. This was the nation of Israel after God split the Red Sea for them, but threw it over Pharaoh’s army, burying them in a watery grave. One minute God’s chosen people were running for their lives. The next, they were safe, standing on dry land, staring into the water that had just wiped out their pursuers.
Moses leads them away from the sea, and as the reality of their situation starts to dawn on them, they quickly find themselves wondering where their next meal would come from. Suddenly, Egypt looked like Paradise. It had all this great food, it had actual houses, and wells, and shops, and… It’s a bit of a strange story on first reading, but the parallels between the Israelites’ hearts and our own quickly become painfully obvious. Yes, we too forget God’s faithfulness as we move from crisis to crisis. It’s the legacy of humanity.
The Israelites turn their wrath and fear on the closest thing they see: Moses. They blame him for the fact that they don’t have food and water. So, Moses asks God for a little bit of help. And God provides, because He’s God and that’s how He chooses to operate. Do you have a need? God will meet it.
But here’s where things get a little weird. God didn’t provide food in a normal way. Not at all. Plants didn’t suddenly spring up out of the desert ground. A stream didn’t suddenly come into view as the people wandered around complaining and crying out in fear.
No, rather than giving them what they knew, God answers them by giving them something they had never seen before: Manna. And the people were confused. The word Manna means something like, “What is it?” What was it, indeed? Psalm 78:25 tells us it was “the bread of angels”. Human beings ate food that had its origins in the heavens. Unexpected. Unprecedented. Hasn’t happened since.
And the water they so desperately needed? It came out of a rock. Have you ever gotten water to come out of a rock? It doesn’t happen. But God…
When we ask God for what we need, there are two things of which we can be 100% sure:
- He hears us.
- He will always provide what we need.
But there’s something really important we need to see in this story: The Israelites asked for meat, for garlic, for leeks, for the food they ate in Egypt. They asked for what they wanted. God gave them what they needed. This is critical information for us to understand if we’re going to learn to recognize God’s provision and His answers to our prayers.
God will answer our prayers. But more often than not, the answer will look nothing like what we imagined. Why? Because God is all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and He is beyond all we can imagine. God is not us. We are not God. That should go without saying, but sometimes, we just need the reminder.
God will always answer our cries for help. Always. But if we’re too busy looking at His hands, we will miss or misunderstand His answer. If we look, instead, at His face, we’ll see His love, compassion, care, and yes, His creativity. And only then will we see the answer He provides the way He does: It will be the absolute best for us in our situation. It will be the perfect answer to our imperfect prayers.
The bread of angels. A water-spewing rock. Sometimes the answer to our prayers is a bit convoluted, but God is always, always faithful!
What are you asking God to do for you today? How can you adjust your gaze from His hands to His face as you wait for His answer?