Key verse: Exodus 16:21
Big idea: God sends out what we need, when we need it.
More than 80% of New Years' Resolutions are dropped by Valentine's Day. If one of yours was to read the Bible more, congratulations! The fact that you are here puts you in the final fifth. It is a little somber to think that our best intentions fall to pieces in just a month and a half. But it could be worse. Can you imagine being rescued with a set of ten miraculous plagues, walking through the sea on dry ground, seeing the most powerful military in the world being crushed behind you, and a month and a half later forgetting about it all and thinking God had just abandoned you? That is where we find the Israelites in Exodus 16. They grumble that, in Egypt, they may have been slaves but at least they had full bellies.
But God fed them with a miraculous little bread called manna (which just means "What is it?"). Manna was small like the seed of the coriander plant (that's British for cilantro), white like a pearl (Numbers 11:7, we cannot be completely sure what bdellium means), and sweet like pastries sweetened with honey. I like to imagine them as little tiny vanilla wafers on top of some of Mrs. Milam's banana pudding, but some Hebrew scholars might disagree.
There was a few interesting things about manna. First, there was enough for everyone everyday. Millions were fed in a land where hundreds could not survive off the land today. Second, if it was stockpiled, it spoiled in a single night. It needed to be collected fresh, morning by morning. Third, it did not come on the Sabbath, and the only day where extra could be stored was Friday, the day of preparation for the day of rest. Every day they needed faith that God would provide the next day's meal. There were no banks or account cushions, just continual reliance on God. That is tough. It is convicting for me to write about! We always want to have some sense of security, an assurance that we have enough in place to get by if things get bad. But if we have a loving God looking out for us, there is no reason to live with that mindset. This day He gives us our daily bread. Not enough for a retirement, a year, or even a week. Just today. But tomorrow morning, there will be more.
The hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" takes its chorus from our key verse: "Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand hath provided; Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me." Each day, God is faithful to give us what we need. If He does not leave us with great surpluses, maybe He is teaching us to trust Him and not our account balance. He gives us the strength and resources to do His will today. Could we really need anything more?
Discussion idea: Beyond the obvious example of food, what are some steady ways God provides in your life? How are you tempted to try and stockpile to prevent the need to trust?
Prayer focus: Thank God for the steady faithful provision in your life.
Key Verse(s): Hebrews 8:1-2
Big Idea: In the Son of God we find the bridge between Heaven and Earth.
One of the most frustrating experiences I have while driving in cities is the ability to see where I want to be, without an easy way of getting there. With most of the highways in Houston under perpetual construction, sometimes it seems like it is just impossible to get from point A to point B. It is there, tantalizing but untouchable. In a sense, worshiping God ought to be like that. We can look at the heavens, the mountains, or the oceans and see God's power. God's skill and wisdom are displayed in the delicate balance of the laws of physics, the patter of a hummingbird's wings, or the complexity of the trillions of cells that make up our bodies. On our own, we could see that there was someone to worship, but could never actually get there.
We know who God is, not because of the might of our brains, but because He has come down and revealed Himself to us. He gave us the Law and the Prophets to tell us about who He was, what His expectations were and what He does. To begin to bridge the gap, He gave Moses plans for the tabernacle, where each element served as a shallow shadow of the spiritual realities.
When my kids play, a PVC pipe can be a horse, a sock can become a baby, or (horrifyingly) the changing table in a public bathroom can become a fort. They just need something which suggests what they want to play with and their imagination connects the dots. The types of the Old Testament are something like that. They were not the fullness of what would come but an outline of the salient features, to whet the appetites of humanity for what would come later.
Jesus goes beyond the pictures of the Old Testament and, as the God-Man who came down to Earth, staggers both Earth and Heaven. He is the bridge that gives humanity access to God. He is Jacob’s Ladder: the place where Heaven and Earth collide. In the Holy of Holies, Jews believed that Heaven came down and touched the Earth. But Jesus claimed that these were all shadows of the true place God would come to dwell: Him. He, as our great High Priest, gives us access to the real Heaven. We can really know and worship the God that otherwise we could never touch. In Jesus, God reaches down to us, and, in Jesus, we are given the pathway to God.
Discussion Idea: Why do we need a bridge to connect us to God? What are some of the things that keep us from accessing Him directly?
Prayer Focus: Pray that God would help us to see the permanent, spiritual reality that He gives us access to, and to realize that those unseen things are eternal, while the visible and material things are temporary.