When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” (Hebrew -manna). For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat… The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled. (Exodus 16:14,15,19, NIV)
The account of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and their subsequent wandering in the wilderness for forty years was formative to both Israel and to modern followers of Christ. God’s provision to the people in the form of quail during the evening, bread-like manna in the morning and water gushing miraculously from barren rock makes for fascinating reading. Furthermore, Paul states that all of the historical events that happened to the ancient Israelites had a double meaning in that they were meant to be spiritual lessons for New Testament believers as well (I Cor. 10:1-12). “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (vss. 11,12).
Most of us have adequate food and water. Most of us have not had to survive in a desert situation. So what is the lesson that Paul encourages us to keep in mind?
As I read the story, I can see two teachings for us. First, God’s people initially rejoiced that they were freed from slavery. However, after entering into the desert of Sinai they began to re-evaluate. At least in Egypt, they received three meals a day. At least in Egypt, they knew what to expect each day. Unbelievably, in spite of their miraculous deliverance, they began to wonder aloud if they should go back. The deliverance from Egypt has often been compared to Christian salvation – for our deliverance from the slavery of a life of sin. When you think back to some of the habits, attitudes, and pleasures that you had before Christ drew you to Himself – at times, there can be a yearning – a desire to return to some of those pleasures. Just as most of us see the Israelites yearning to return to the “pots of meat in Egypt” (Exodus 16:3) as ludicrous – so we must stay vigilant and realize how ludicrous it is to want to return to activities & attitudes that previously enslaved us.
Second, the Exodus passage gives instructions to the Israelites to not try and store up multiple days of manna for security. They were to gather what God provided each day. True to human nature, a number of people ignored this instruction and hoarded some manna in their tents only to see it rot within 24 hours. I see this ‘Manna’ Principle as relevant to the lives of business people. The demands, uncertainties, and risks of business can make us want to be secure and self-sufficient. The world teaches us to build our businesses and our net-worth to a point where we will be safe from the need to rely on anyone or anything else. Now do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with strategic planning for the future in a God-honouring way. But if you are driven by the need to not have to rely on others…, or on God – that is improper motivation to build up resources or capital.
The ‘Manna’ Principle in Exodus is a lesson to reflect upon. Before God’s people were ready to enter the Promised Land, God desired that they move beyond their need for independence and learn the obedience of relying upon resources daily from His hand. They were instructed to not even try to get a few days of security. They had to rely each day that God would come through with their needs for that day. In the business context this raises the question, “When does the pursuit of capital and the desire to be successful cross the line from responsible strategic planning and enter into the realm of unhealthy desire to be a self-sufficient, master of your domain?”
Discerning the location of that line, and when it is crossed, is probably not possible for you to do on your own. Most of us need the community of others to identify our own insecurities and motivations. I encourage you to discuss the ‘Manna’ Principle as a devotional focus with your Forum. Paul’s admonition still rings true today, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”
John Wiseman – Corpath Business Forums – firstname.lastname@example.org