God's ‘one day at a time’ approach
Updated: Oct 25, 2021
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.
Maybe, but God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and, for good measure, omnibenevolent. If anyone can pick his own time scales, he can.
First off, what do all these ‘omnis’ mean? Omnipotent means all powerful; omniscient, all knowing; omnipresent, present everywhere all the time, and omnibenevolent, possessing perfect and unlimited goodness.
Years and days
Given all these divine credentials, it’s small wonder that Peter told us, ‘But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.’ (2 Peter 3:8).
So does God like doing things one day at a time? Here are a few intriguing thoughts. The first takes us way back into ancient history, the Old Testament, specifically the Exodus.
After the Israelites had been set free, they had to trek over the Desert of Sin (between Elim and Sinai). It didn’t take long for them to start moaning because they were hungry and thirsty. They even convinced themselves that they’d been better off as slaves making clay bricks in Egypt. It’s amazing that it had taken such a short time (less than two months) 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.
Bottom line, God decided to give them another lesson in trust. He told Moses ‘Tell them, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”’ (Exodus 16.12). But let’s stick to the ‘bread’. When it duly arrived next morning, the people didn’t know what it was, so they called it manna (probably means: what is it?). Apparently it was ‘white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.’ (Exodus 16.31).
What’s interesting is the manner in which the people were told to collect their manna – 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, ‘No one is to keep any manna until morning.’ (Exodus 16.19).
Keep to the instructions
Inevitably, a few paid no attention and kept back some for the next day. Needless to say, disobedience to God’s rule did them no good. By morning, it was full of maggots and had begun to smell. Back to the Sabbath – the no work day – and the no manna day as well. That’s why Moses told them to collect twice as much on the sixth day and to keep it for the Sabbath. Guess what. It didn’t go maggoty or smelly overnight. It was fine for the Sabbath.
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 their food from the ground. He could have added a preservative to stop the manna going off, 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. Does it sound a bit like God wanted a daily relationship with his people?
Then and now
Back then, Moses was God’s representative. No one could approach God because he was holy, and they were not. Jesus changed all that. He made us a holy people (as Paul bears witness in many of his letters). Jesus also taught us to pray, including: ‘give us each day our daily bread’ (Luke 11.3) – daily, not weekly – and not necessarily literal ‘bread’ as Jesus is the ‘bread of life’ (John 6:35). So are these prayerful words an echo of the same message God gave to the Israelites all those centuries ago?
I think they are. God still wants us to trust him. He still wants us to know that he’ll provide the things we really need. He still wants us to understand and obey his rules. And he still wants a relationship with each of us individually – not once a month, or once a week, but every single day.
The Lord's Prayer
Maybe next time we say the Lord’s Prayer, we should pause at the word ‘daily’ and ponder the things God is doing for us. Being thankful is a given. Wonder what else we might do to deepen our relationship with the God who’s there for us every day, content to do things one day at a time.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.