For a long time, I thought that I must read my Bible and pray every day in order to please the Lord. A sense of duty easily turns to ritual and when gaps occur, a sense of guilt piles up. However, God began showing me that my ideas were non-biblical, to say the least. He teaches me that pleasing Him means trusting Him for everything, not relying on my own performance or lack thereof.
The Israelites struggled with trust too, but in a different way. When food ran short, or their water supply dwindled, they were quick to accuse Moses of bringing them into the wilderness to die, first of hunger, then of thirst. But Moses told them they grumbled not against him, but against God.
In spite of this gross sin, God came to their aid and supplied manna (and water) to meet their needs. However, God knew they had lessons to learn so with the manna came a lesson in faith. He told them, “Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day. (Exodus 16:26–30)
They gathered the manna, tried to keep some for the next day and it went bad. They gathered manna on the sixth day and tried to gather it on the Sabbath, but there was none. They gathered a double portion on the sixth day and the extra did not go bad – so they had enough for the seventh day. It was a difficult lesson for them.
Today, I’m thinking how much this is like taking my life into my own hands and doing what I think will work best. My ideas may not seem sinful just as their efforts with the manna didn’t seem like a big deal, but God is specific with His commands. He had reasons for what He told them do with manna, just like He has reasons for telling me to rest from my work, and to trust Him to provide. I’m not to think I’m duty-bound regarding my efforts to please Him. I’m not supposed to panic if a time comes when I cannot gather my daily bread or “manna” on one day because He is able to make last what I have gathered from the day before. This is not an excuse to skip a daily quiet time, but a gentle reminder that He is providing for me; I am not providing for Him.
The second reading is again a love story that points to the energy of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . “The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills.” (Song of Solomon 2:8) God never gets tired. His care for His people is boundless, never ending. He loves to do it. Why then do I presume I have to do it myself! This is certainly a pride that is based on nothing but an unwillingness to trust Him.
The NT reading is about John the Baptist. He had a ministry of baptism for repentance, but when Jesus came on the scene, those who had followed him now were turning to Jesus. Some asked him about this and he said . . .
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:28–30)
I’ve always loved that last line, but realize it is easy to relish the words about me decreasing and Him increasing, but much harder to live it out. ‘Me, myself, and I’ continually want to be in the spotlight. Instead of glory for God, I want it. Instead of trusting Him for my daily bread, I make a ritual or a duty out of it. Instead of obedience to His rules, I make up my own. Instead of resting on the Sabbath, I try to work all the time. Instead of decreasing, I stubbornly try to increase. Yet, “He who comes from above is above all. (She) who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:31)
The children of God learned that God is above their hunger and thirst, their grumbling and lack of trust. Solomon learned that the Lord is lovely and tireless. John learned that the Lord Jesus must increase, and indeed He did, for the Lord of the earth is also Lord of the heavens and truly above all. I’m so slow to learn.