(By Michelle Snippe)
“What is THAT!?”
If you have children and you’ve ever set something new on the table for dinner you might be familiar with that three-word question.
It’s often accompanied by scrunched-up noses, little bodies leaning in, and faces peering into the dish they’ve never seen before. While it usually takes some coaxing, eventually, because they trust you and because you have provided many tasty meals for them in the past, they adventurously take a bite and discover that the foreign food actually tastes good.
A little funny. Maybe a lot relatable. But, the whole anecdote reminds me again of the Israelite people in the wilderness.
In Exodus 16 we read the account of them complaining to Moses of their hunger and the Lord providing food. The Bible calls it “bread from heaven” in verse four and interestingly, upon seeing this new “food” for the first time, the people of God asked the same question my children have: “What is it?” Man hu, the Hebrew word for this curious provision sparks the term we are better acquainted with as manna.
I don’t know if the Israelites turned up their noses at it or got down on their knees to inspect it, but I do know they eventually ate it. Moreover, despite their initial curiosity, it seems they ate it without knowing what it was. One author put it this way: they ate a mystery.
While they may not have known what it was, they did know this: Who it came from.
They ate of the mystery, the “what is it,” because they knew it had come from the hand of their faithful God.
Just like my children have eaten unknown things because of my past faithfulness to feed them what tastes good, so did the Israelite people eat what was unknown to them because they had experienced the faithfulness of God’s provision in the past.
What is beautiful is that in moving toward it and partaking of it they experienced even more of God - that His provision is inexhaustible. That He is a generous God, giving and giving again. And they experienced it day in and day out all the way to the promised land.
Maybe it’s odd, but all of this brings to mind how, in life, we often look at something God has laid in front of us and we see it as one big mystery. Just a package of question marks and a whole lot of unknowns. How do we move toward and partake of the mystery we know is from God with so little clarity?
I think there is only one way:
We look back. We look back and recount God’s faithfulness in our past.
With this in view, we gain confidence to move toward the mystery without all, or any, of the facts, trusting who God is. If we wait until we understand it all, until all the questions turn into answers, until everything is clear, we may miss out, never experiencing what could have been if we had only “eaten” the mystery.
Furthermore, we may miss out on experiencing more deeply that our God is always faithful.
Faithful in His provision.
Faithful in His promises.
Faithful in His goodness.
Faithful in His love.
And if our faith wavers, Scripture assures us His never will:
“If we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Dear Friend, there may be a whole lot of mystery lying at your feet. You may see only questions and unknowns ahead. But can I encourage you to take a glance back to trace the faithfulness of God in your past? Then lean into Him as you partake of the mystery in front of you that He has provided and watch Him faithfully guide. He’s done it in the past. He’ll do it in the present. And He’ll do it forever, over and over again.