Manna in the Wilderness


Whilst we in Britain concern ourselves with the important questions of, ‘How?’ and “When?”, it is wise to relax the constricting rules under which we are living, including from the point of view of the Church, when we may open once more and meet for worship, there is growing alarm at the effect of the global economic catastrophe hitting the poorest countries of the world.  Reduced food and other aid, in addition to the already dire circumstances for countries such as the Yemen, is threatening many millions of people with starvation.

It is easy to criticise decisions that must be taken at the heart of governments in this country and other wealthy nations - I have done so myself with exasperation - but being in the position of a politician, and especially a cabinet minister under these conditions, even with the wisdom of Solomon, is to find oneself with huge responsibility.

The feeding of the hungry is part of the Exodus story and today at Morning Prayer we move on to chapter 16 verses 11-end.  In this passage we read of the provision of manna.  A number of themes are interwoven into this story, but centrally the teaching is that whilst God provides, it takes  humanity to share, and individuals and families not to grasp more than they require.  The Children of Israel had to learn in the desert some harsh lessons, and they lasted for forty years.  

Today we also read Psalm 30, which in verses 6 and 7 has these telling words:

In my prosperity I said, ‘I shall never be moved.  You Lord, in your goodness have made my hill so strong.’  Then you hid your face from me and I was utterly dismayed.

Generally this portion of this psalm is given the interpretation that what the psalmist is saying is this:  When we are well and strong, we may feel, with it, an unconscious arrogance, possibly even a deceptive feeling of holiness; but sickness opens our eyes and we can look back on better days almost frightened, at least ‘dismayed’ or ‘put to confusion’ (another translation) at our complacent selfishness. 

Being in the Easter season, and living through the searching unease of the disciples, as they established in their minds how they were to respond to the completely changed circumstances in which they found themselves, does break up the ground for us too; ready for new planting and fresh direction.  A time, certainly, to look forward.  Not yet, perhaps for planning or mapping a path, but to ponder what is before us in trust that God will lead us, as he led Moses and the people in the wilderness, and guided them through the challenges along the way, both to individuals and families, and to the whole people of God.

John Mann