Without Trade or Tillage: Pondering Providential Provision

Sometimes, in the midst of the forest of cultural, spiritual, financial, and personal trials, we forget to lift our minds and spirits upwards and remember our source.  This isn’t news. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the primary personal perspectives that all Christian’s struggle to maintain. So, how does one maintain one’s balance living in the world while not being of the world? By looking backwards in order to look forwards. By looking inward and upward before looking outward. Don’t get stuck focusing on Maslow’s pyramid.

Turn your thoughts and hopes towards one the of the greatest, if not the greatest, biblical example of providential provision; the Israelite exodus from Egypt. The story of the Israelite exodus is a Sunday school favorite, and offers a great variety of lessons for readers to learn. The lesson I want to focus on regards God as a Christian’s source of sustenance and strength. Once you realize that God omnipotent is in charge your life, you will quit worrying about how to fight your inner and outer demons. No assault is strong enough to overpower Him, and nothing can penetrate your front lines without His permission. The Egyptians thought they had Israel dead to rights when they saw them march into a dead-end by the sea (Ex. 14:3). And so they would have been, but almighty power stepped in and brought them safely through. Then what? No sooner did they survive this danger, than they found themselves in a wilderness without so much as a roof over their heads. Yet, despite expectations of their soon demise, they lived for forty years without trade or tillage, and without begging or robbing any of their neighbor nations.

Can you imagine having no visible financial income, or even food source, for forty years? Do you wonder why the Israelites were occasionally skeptical of Moses‘ leadership and vision of a promised land? I don’t. I could easily see myself struggling with the stress of making sure my family was provided for. I worry about it now.

This thought patterned is hard wired into the male mind-set.

They told Moses, “Weren’t the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt?12 Back in Egypt didn’t we tell you this would happen? Didn’t we tell you, ‘Leave us alone here in Egypt. We’re better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.'” (At least we had a place to live and food to eat.) 13 Moses spoke to the people: “Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you’re never going to see them again. 14 God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut!” 15 God said to Moses: “Why cry out to me? Speak to the Israelites. Order them to get moving. (MSG EX. 13:11-15)

We know how the story ended. The Israelites made it to the promised land and a new nation was established. The simplistic summary of success is often all we see, and therefore struggle to relate with. Yet, the journey was filled with human doubt, skepticism, and lot’s of complaining; Even while God was performing miracles of provision daily, right in front of their faces (i.e water, manna, pillars of cloud and fire). We like to relate ourselves to the hero of the story, but is that where we truly fit in the traveling caravan. Do we trust God daily for our provision, keeping the promised land in our minds eye, positive that we can overcome the “giants” in the land? Or, do we struggle to have faith like the masses of those following Moses; complaining, gossiping, attacking fellow travelers, and wishing for more? The good news is, God didn’t destroy the nation of Israel for lack of faith, even though he wanted to. Many Israelites finally made it to the promised land.

I have to ask myself, because that’s just the way I’m wired, What were/are the prerequisites for appropriating God’s provision on the journey towards the promised land? I can think of few. Feel free to reply to this blog to add additional requirements to the list. I’ll start it out…

1. Membership in the tribe: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt” (ESV. EX 3:10).” It may seem a little obvious, but only the Israelites, and those adopted through circumcision, were the recipients of God’s amazing miracles. What does this mean for us? Christianity is not hereditary. Whole books have been written regarding the meaning of “membership.” At the risk of being overly simplistic; membership means faith and fruit.

2. Join the journey: “All the people of Israel did just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the Lord brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts (ESV EX. 12:50-51)”. It goes without saying, while God may demonstrate his power to get us moving, if we want to appropriate His provision we have to leave Egypt. Just like the Israelites, we complain about our current circumstances, but if we want to receive the prize we have to leave our comfortable existence in slavery and join the journey wherever it will take us, no matter how scary.

3. Get your game on: “There the Lord made for them a statute and a rule, and there he tested them, saying, “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer” (ESV EX. 15:25b-26). If you want to get in the game, you’ve got to play by the rules. This implies that you know the rules. If you decide that you want to play out-of-bounds, then you have to recognize that you are not going to score. Running down the sideline doesn’t count. Those Israelites who expressed outright rebellion and lack of faith didn’t cross over into the promised land.

What other requirements can you think of? Join the conversation.

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