My ladies’ Sunday school class just finished the Breathe Bible study by Priscilla Shirer. The study focuses on, to quote the subtitle, “Making Room for Sabbath” and creating “margin” in all areas of life. The concept is an excellent thing to ponder in our busy, distraction-filled lives.
In the interest of honesty, I have to confess that the skeptical side of me wanted to say that the study stretched the “Sabbath principle,” as opposed to actual Sabbath-keeping, to its absolute theological limit. After all, the Bible has lots to say about the Sabbath, both in the Old and New Testaments- we really don’t have to read very much into it. But, I took a step back and realized that Breathe, with its emphasis on turning our focus to the Lord, had a lot of wisdom, and I should probably try to quiet my skepticism and be a little more teachable.
Through the course of the study, the Israelites and manna came up repeatedly, and I had a chance to see the story from a new perspective. I’ve mentioned before the daily nature of God’s provision. The story of Elijah and the widow at Zarephath has guided me through many tough spots in my life.
The prophet came to a widow and asked for bread. She told him that, due to the extreme drought, she had only enough oil and flour for that one day. After that, she and her son would starve. Elijah convinced her to share what she had. “Do not fear…For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up nor shall the jar of oil run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” (1 Kings 17:7-16) The interesting thing about this story, of course, is that the Lord didn’t send a stockpile of flour and oil. The widow simply didn’t run out. Each day, she got up, and what she needed was there. Daily provision. Daily trust.
I try to remember that as I go through my life. Don’t worry. God’s mercy is new every morning. He doesn’t give us one big lump to portion out as we have need. Tomorrow will require a new portion, and so will day after that, and the day after that.
And then there was the manna. I had always seen that story as another example of that daily provision, and, in fact, it is. But there is a crucial difference: The Israelites had a choice. The widow simply had to get up each day and use what was given to her. The Israelites had options. They could have chosen not to go out and gather the manna. They could (and many did) choose to gather more than their daily allotment and hoard the excess.
I realized, as I contemplated the story anew, that there are times when I also have a choice. I can be disobedient and lazy (“Lord, I’m too tired to do that.”) and refuse to gather. I can run around like crazy, worry about future days, and attempt to store up provision against shortages. And for me, like the Israelites of old, it never ends well. “Every man had gathered according to each one’s need…But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank.” (Exodus 16:18, 20)
So in my life right now, I’m seeking the Lord’s guidance each day: What is His portion? What does He desire for me to gather? And I know, as I trust His leading, I’ll see His daily provision.