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  • Writer's pictureChristian Insights 4 You

God's 'one day at a time' approach

Updated: Feb 20

Description: God provided the Israelites with manna in the desert every day for 40 years. He could have made life easier. Clearly he wanted something.

God chose a method of daily manna provision for the Israelites, so there had to be a deeper purpose, and this invites intriguing thoughts.

The omnis

Of course, God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and, for good measure, omni-benevolent. But what do all these omnis mean?

Omnipotent means all powerful; omniscient, all knowing; omnipresent, present everywhere all the time, and omni-benevolent, possessing perfect and unlimited goodness. Given these divine credentials, it’s evident that God operates completely outside our constraints - and this clearly includes time constraints. Small wonder Peter pointed out that, for God, a single day can be like 1,000 years; and 1,000 years like just one day (2 Peter 3:8). If anyone can pick his own timelines, our omni God can.

So, does God favour doing things one day at a time? A few intriguing thoughts follow. The first takes us back into ancient history, the Old Testament, specifically the Exodus.

Being forgetful

After the Israelites had been set free, they had to trek over the Desert of Sin, between Elim and Sinai (Exodus 16.1). It didn’t take long for them to start moaning about being hungry and thirsty. They even convinced themselves they’d have been better off as slaves making clay bricks in Egypt. It’s amazing it took so short a time for them to forget how God had intervened to save them; all those miracles that had finally made Pharaoh change his mind and let them go. They’d even seen the Red Sea parted and Pharaoh’s army destroyed, yet they still couldn’t bring themselves to trust God.

Free food

In response to their moaning, God decided to give the Israelites another lesson in trust. He told them they’ll be eating meat at twilight and bread in the morning. He wanted them to know he was indeed their God (Exodus 16.12).

Next morning, the bread duly arrived, but the people didn’t know exactly what it was. They called it manna (which probably means: what is it?) Apparently it was the same white as coriander seed and had the taste of honey flavoured wafers (Exodus 16.31).

The process by which the people were to collect their manna required trust and obedience. They were to gather just one omer for each person in every family tent, every day (an omer is about 1.4 kg (3 lbs)). The exception was the Sabbath, but we’ll come back to that. Moses told them not to keep any manna overnight (Exodus 16.19).

Keep to the instructions

Despite clear instructions, a few disobeyed and held back some manna for the next day. Their disobedience did them no good. By morning, the manna was full of maggots and had begun to smell (Exodus 16.20).

Back to the Sabbath – the no work day – and the no manna day as well. This is why Moses told them to collect twice as much on the sixth day and to keep it for the Sabbath. Intriguingly, it didn’t go maggoty or smelly overnight. It was fine for the Sabbath (Exodus 16.22-24).

Trust and relationship

The message was clear: God wanted his people to learn to trust him and follow his rules. He could have given them a week’s supply, or a month’s, and saved them the six-day-a-week labour of plucking food from the ground. He could have added a preservative to stop the manna spoiling, but he didn’t. Certainly he wanted their trust, but he also wanted them to understand that he was providing for them every single day – that he was looking after them every single day – that he was their God every single day. In short, he wanted a daily relationship with his people.

Then and now

Back then, Moses was God’s representative. God was holy; people were not. Jesus fulfilled a transformative role, making believers a holy people (as Paul bears witness in many of his letters). Jesus also taught us to pray, including asking God to give us bread daily (Luke 11.3) – daily, not weekly – and not necessarily literal bread. The Bible confirms Jesus as the bread of life (John 6:35).

Such reinforcement is surely affirmation of the same message God gave to the Israelites all those centuries ago. God still wants us to trust him; to know he’ll provide the things we really need. He still wants us to understand and obey his rules, and still wants a relationship with each of us individually – not once a month, or once a week, but a continuous relationship every single day.

The Lord's Prayer

Next time we say the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps we should pause at the word daily and ponder the things God is doing for us. Expressing gratitude is a given. This prayer is also an opportunity to contemplate ways to deepen our daily relationship with God – our mighty God who operates one day at a time.


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