My Little Jar of Manna (part 2 of 3)


February 11, 2013

Last week we started a series of three devotionals around the phrase “all behavior has meaning.” We’re focusing on why care receivers (and us too!) can continue to choose dysfunctional behaviors, especially when those behaviors leave us scratching our heads.

This week we pick up where we left off last week, with a jar of stinky manna that was full of maggots. The behavior in question was why, if God promised to provide the Israelites with food each morning, would some gather manna for the next day when it would be smelly and full of maggots. Isn’t God’s promise enough to go on?

All behavior has meaning.

To get to the meaning, let’s look back at what this people group went through. First there were the generations of slavery. The Israelites were slaves to the Egyptian people and worked tirelessly under brutal conditions. What would generation after generation of slavery do to a people group? What beliefs would take root in them about themselves, God, life in general? Most likely there would be some significant distortions.

But there’s something else.

How did the people come to find themselves enslaved? It all started because Joseph sought to honor God in all he did. Joseph practiced righteousness, was rewarded and over time this place that became a refuge for his family became their place of slavery. This was the foundation they had to build on.

Then the people are set free in a horrific manner. Water turns to blood, frogs and flies take over the land, and children die. Not a very peaceful exit.

So the people are finally set free, they move out with great hope and then they look back and see Pharoah’s army in pursuit.

Here we go again.

Then after walking between two walls of water and watching an entire army drown, it happens again…

Then the whole community of Israel set out from Elim and journeyed into the wilderness of Sin, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there on the fifteenth day of the second month, one month after leaving the land of Egypt. There, too, the whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron. “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” (Exodus 16:1-3 NLT)

Uhhh…Moses? We have a problem. We are in the desert with no food.

The rollercoaster continued the next morning as they found some mystery food all over the ground. God had provided food for them, but with one string attached. Only take enough for today. He will give another supply tomorrow.

That brings us back to the maggots again.

There were some people who collected enough manna for that day and the next day. We don’t know how long this went on, but it was significant enough of an issue that Moses found out about it and had to deal with it.

Again, I’m left scratching my head. Why would people do this? God said he would give them more tomorrow.

All behavior has meaning.

Imagine for a moment you are one of the Israelites. Your people have gone through countless generations of slavery. You have witnessed the incredible drama of the plagues, being set free, pursuit from Pharaoh’s army, walking through the sea and watching an army drown, running out of food and seeing it form on the ground.

For me, the word uncertainly comes to mind. What if we wake up tomorrow morning and there’s no manna? What if God doesn’t come through? What if he forgets?!

Sometimes holding a small jar filled with smelly manna can provide some security.

“I know there will be maggots in the manna tomorrow, but at least I know I will have something to eat.”

My point is this. The people of Israel lived through so much trauma. I can’t even imagine the amount of anxiety and fear they lived with every day, and how tiring that must have been. AND, if the only thing you can do to make yourself feel a little bit better is to hide a jar of manna, then sometimes you hide the jar of manna.

Or eat a brownie, or look at images on the internet, or stay in that relationship.

All behavior has meaning.


A challenge for today:

-          Could you ask Jesus to bring to mind a behavior that is getting in the way of your ongoing journey with him?

-          Could you listen to his voice to hear what emotions drive the behavior and even what experiences from your past drive that emotion?

-          Let him minister to you in that place.

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