The Upper Room Devotion for Thursday, September 28, 2023, was written by Melissa R. Levi of Tennessee.
1 The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’ ” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” 13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’ ”
Exodus 16:1-16 NRSV
While in the wilderness with Moses, the Israelites complained that even though God had rescued them from Egypt, at least they had meat and bread to eat there. So God provided sustenance for them. When the Israelites saw this provision, they asked, "What is it!" and eventually named it manna. I can imagine the Israelites overlooking the manna, which is described as resembling coriander seed, as they searched for the promised bread. Although manna was not what they had expected, God provided for their needs.
Sometimes we might pray for days, weeks, or even years, seemingly without answer. Often the answer to our prayers is not what we think it should be. Instead, what we receive could be exactly what we have needed. How often do we miss the answers to our prayers because we are looking for what we think the answer should be? Let us pray for discernment and wisdom to recognize the answer when God gives it.
Pastor Anthony's Thoughts
An indication that we have matured as people of faith, is the ability to accept how God chooses to answer our prayers. Melissa's reflection reminds us that too often we get stuck waiting for God to answer our prayers in the way we imagine/expect them to be answered. Many of us have heard the story of the person, standing on their roof during a flood, who prayed for God to rescue them. God sends three different methods, but the person did not use any of them. Instead, the person drowns, gets to heaven and ask God: why didn't you save me?
As we deepen our relationship with God, our ability to discern (perceive and recognize) how God moves in our lives also increases. Discernment refines our prayers, fortifies our faith, and expands our compassion. Discernment moves us from selfishness to selflessness, recognizing that we can serve joyfully for God is simultaneously working on our behalf. May your daily time of prayer be enriched, as you attune your heart and mind to recognize how God is moving in your life.
Dear God, give us discernment to recognize you and your provision, especially when what you offer is not what we expect. Amen.