Exodus New Direction New Life
The Providence of God
Text: Exodus 16
There was this fellow who worked for the Post Office whose job it was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day a letter came to his desk, addressed in a shaky handwriting to God. He thought, "Oh boy, better open this one and see what it's all about." So he opened it and read:
Dear God, I am an 83 year old widow living on a very small pension.
Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100.00 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension check. Next week is Christmas, and I have invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with. I have no family to turn to and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?"
The postal worker was touched, and went around showing the letter to all the others. Each of them dug into his wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $92.00, which they put into an envelope and sent to her.
The rest of the day, all the workers felt the warm glow of the kind thing they had done. Christmas came and went. A few days later after Christmas another letter came from the old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read, "Dear God, How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me?
Because of your gift of love I was able to fix a glorious Christmas dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $8 missing. I think it must have been those thieving employees at the Post Office."
Now that story, in a way, is an example of God’s providence which is the subject of our sermon this morning.
Providence and Manna Exodus 16:1-12
And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness: And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger. Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily. And Moses and Aaron said unto all the children of Israel, At even, then ye shall know that the LORD hath brought you out from the land of Egypt: And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the LORD; for that he heareth your murmurings against the LORD: and what are we, that ye murmur against us? And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the morning bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD. And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, Come near before the LORD: for he hath heard your murmurings. And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.
The Hebrews Experience God’s Providence
They are running low on supplies because it has been about 2 months since they left Egypt.
They have not yet learned to depend upon God but instead try to use force and their own will to get what they need. The Bible says they miss their fleshpots, their stew pots back in Egypt. They remember their slavery’s food but they forget slavery’s chains.
The LORD despite their complaining, meets their true need of food by sending bread from heaven in the morning and quails or partridges in the evening. Yet there is a condition they must collect only as much as they can eat that day, except on Friday where they must collect twice the normal amount and most important they must not look for any manna on the Sabbath day. This is a test, God says, to see if the people will obey Him.
The Manna that God sent was not a last minute solution to a rising crisis but was always what God had planned for the Hebrews as they traveled across the wilderness. The manna was the daily proof of God’s providence for His own.
Learning to Trust in the Providence of God
Today we also have needs as important as those of the Hebrews, needs in our family, our church, our finances, our health, or our future. We need to understand that God meets our needs according to His providence and that His providence today is as sufficient for us today as it was when He rained
manna on the children of Israel.
Definition for Providence
It comes from the Latin, “Pro” means “before” and “Video” means “to see” Providence means “to see before” This means that God sees before and plans accordingly. (did you know you were speaking Latin every time you say “Lets watch a video on Youtube.)
According to Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, providence is "the hidden, patient, sovereign enactment of God’s overriding purpose beyond the will and choice of human agents."
Theological Definition- Henry Thiessan “Lectures in Systematic Theology (Only preachers have favorite systematic theology books)
The Doctrine of Providence
The Christian view affirms that God has not merely created the universe, together with all its properties and powers, and that he is preserving all that he has created, but that as a holy, benevolent, wise and omnipotent being, he also exercises sovereign control over it. This sovereign control is called providence.
Etymologically, the word “providence” means foreseeing. From this basic idea has developed the meaning of providing for the future. But in theology the word has received a more specialized meaning. In this field, “providence” means that continuous activity of God whereby he makes all the events of the physical, mental, and moral realms work out his purpose, and this purpose is nothing short of the original design of God in creation. To be sure, evil has entered the universe, but it is not allowed to thwart God’s original, benevolent, wise and holy purpose.
Trusting in God for our daily bread is but a small part of providence, thought it may be the part that impacts most personally as it did the Hebrews. Providence is trusting God for my needs today but even more importantly it is trusting God and His will not just for me today but for all of creation for all of eternity.
Illustration: Trusting God through the death of my friend, Larry Jones.
Let me give you an example of needing to trust in God’s providence. You all know that we have been praying for my good friend Larry Jones. He has been a pastor and a missionary for right at 40 years. He has been faithful and he has been effective and he has been a great friend to me. Now he is dying of cancer.
I cannot comprehend why God doesn’t allow him to be healed. He is involved in God’s work on behalf of orphaned children, why doesn’t God send a miracle, or allow the medicine and treatments to work? I don’t know but I do know that God in His providence will meet the needs of Larry as he moves closer to God, of Larry’s family, his church and his friends in his loss, because God has already foreseen Larry’s death as he has foreseen the death of countless saints and servants before Larry and He has and He will provide. I trust in that providence. I trust that God’s Will shall be done even in death and loss. I don’t have to understand how. I just have to know that it will. That is how providence works.
Transition: Lets go on and look closer at God’s will as it works through providence.
Providence and God’s Will Exodus 16:13-21
And it came to pass, that at even the quails came up, and covered the camp: and in the morning the dew lay round about the host. And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did mete it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank: and Moses was wroth with them. And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted.
God’s Will Revealed in His Providence
They are told how to handle God’s blessing of the manna (what is it?)
They were to gather it every morning early with the dew. They were to gather an omer for each person and take it home. They were not to gather more than they needed nor try to keep it for later use.
Many ignored God’s word through Moses and tried to hoard as much as they could.
This was probably their practice back in Egypt. When they ignored the warning, when they disregarded God’s revealed will, the manna bred worms and stank. So every morning they gathered it and when the sun rose high in the sky, the manna just like the dew evaporated.
God’s Will Revealing in His Blessings
There are some wonderful principles in this passage which we can apply to all of God’s provision and blessing in our life.
First, Go to God early to gather his blessings.
Second, take as much as you need.
Third, God’s blessings, like manna, is meant to be poured out daily.
Fourth, Ignoring God’s revealed will results in busted blessings.
The purpose of the manna was not just to feed the people but also show them God’s will, is was to teach them to trust and obey him and it was to test his people so that through that test, they could be blessed by their obedience.
Those purposes have not changed God still reveals his Will through His word and then pours His blessing upon us so that we may learn to trust in His provision for our lives and that we might be tested in the way in which we will handle those blessings.
With each blessing, be it faith, family or finances, God has given rules, guidance, principles in order to sustain and continue the blessing. This is His revealed will. If we ignore His will, if we think we can receive the blessings of God without obedience, then that blessing is removed. Just like the Children of Israel instead of sweet manna we find worms and rot.
Let me give you an example in something we all experience, the family.
Illustration: God’s blessing of the family turns to a curse if we don’t follow His will.
God provides the family to be a blessing. It is our place of shelter, safety and security. If we follow God’s will for the family, if we apply His rules for how the family should be run then it is one of the greatest blessings we will ever experience in this life.
God says in Psalms 127: 3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
That is a blessing, children are God’s heritage, they make any man strong.
But notice what the Bible says in Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
There is a warning in Ephesisans 6:4 that if we are not careful as parents we can provoke our children and drive them to wrath. With the blessing of family, God sends the rules to handle that blessing. If we ignore the guidelines then just like the Hebrews ignoring God instructions for the manna, the blessing can turn to wrath for our children.
Don’t lose God’s blessings in your life by ignoring God’s will. God’s providence, which is the outworking of His will, includes both the blessing and the curse.
Transition: Let’s look at the final aspect of God’s providence in this chapter.
Providence and Rest Exodus 16:22-31
And it came to pass, that on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for one man: and all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the LORD said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day. And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
God Provides Rest
God decreed that they were to begin the Sabbath day rest. They probably had not been allowed to practice this in captivity. Usually there are no days off for slaves, but God’s people are not slaves to Egypt any longer and God knew they needed rest. They probably didn’t think about their need for rest, their need to trust God for more than just that day’s allotment of manna, but God knew what they needed for the entire journey to the promised Land and beyond. In His providence he would provide.
So on the sixth day, they would gather twice the amount of manna and the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord, they would be blessed in the rest that God had provided. God made provision on that day that the manna would rot but would remain until the following day.
Yet, once again, despite God’s proving himself faithful to His people, still some of those same people show themselves unable to trust Him by going out and looking for manna on the Sabbath day. They could only see that day’s needs but they should have learned to trust God for that day and for every day that would follow.
Trusting God For More Than Today
I wonder, if we had been there with the Hebrews on that first Sabbath Day or rest, would we have been with those resting in our Lord provision or would we have been seen outside our tents scrounging for manna that wasn’t ever going to be there?
There is much more that God wants to give to us than just what we think we need. The Israelites needed rest but they didn’t know it. All they could see was their empty stewpots but food was only one thing they needed. They needed rest and they needed to rest in God’s promises.
We may think that we just need to bring our list of necessities to God and faith begins and ends with the asking and the waiting for His answer, but true faith goes far beyond what we can see and know in the here and now.
True faith realizes that God is eternal and that He sees beyond today and tomorrow and right on into eternity. That He sees and knows all things that pertain to us and beyond just us. True faith realizes that trust is based upon knowing God not just knowing His blessings. True faith learns to rest upon the Lord and finds that eternity begins even before we die. True faith looks for and longs for the rest that God will provide though Jesus Christ, here and now and throughout eternity.
Scripture: Hebrews 4:1-11 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works.
And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
Oh how I want to move from simple dependence on God for my needs today to true faith in My Lord for all days and all things. I want to move from faith to faith. I want to move from expectation to trust. I want to move into the reality of the “rest” of God.
Illustration: Dwelling in Beulah Land
Far away the noise of strife upon my ear is falling.
Then I know the sins of earth beset on every hand.
Doubt and fear and things of earth in vain to me are calling.
None of these shall move me from Beulah Land.
Viewing here the works of God, I sink in contemplation.
Hearing now His blessèd voice, I see the way He planned.
Dwelling in the Spirit here I learn of full salvation.
Gladly I will tarry in Beulah Land.
I’m living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky.
I’m drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry.
O yes! I’m feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply,
For I am dwelling in Beulah Land.
Will You Trust in the Providence of God?
This is not just a stale theological definition. It is not just a label we use for the good things in our life. This trust is the path that leads to the experiencing of God!
Listen to what David says in Psalms 139?
Psalms 139:3-5 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.
This morning, do you trust that God has provided for you?
Do you trust Him to provide what is needed in the circumstances of your life now and for eternity?
Do you understand He has brought you here for a purpose today? Perhaps it was salvation, perhaps encouragement, perhaps recommitment, perhaps life service. Whatever it might be, it was not chance that led you here today, it was God through His providence.
What in the providence of God is waiting for you right now? Will you reach out in faith and believe it?
God knows your real needs this morning and He has provided for those needs. God knows if you are here this morning and are lost, without hope and without assurance of tomorrow. God has provided Jesus Christ for your salvation and in that same providence has put you here this morning to hear this message. Will you trust in Jesus Christ?
God knows your need of comfort, or help, of grace and He has made provision for it but you must go outside the tent and pickup the manna. You must act, you must make the choice to trust and to accept what God has provided.
Do you realize that the providence of God is so vast that it can include you in accomplishing His will but that it can also accomplish that will without you. It is so inclusive that it can deal with your choice to serve Him or to deny Him. God’s will shall be done but how wonderful to think He want to bless us if we will but trust Him!