Wormy Manna… Pragmatism in the Wilderness

In Exodus 16 when the people of God are no more than a few weeks travel out of Egypt they grumble against God and Moses, wishing they could go back to Egypt because at least they had bread there. God feeds them with manna instructing them to collect no more than what they need for one day's food. If they did, it grows worms and gets nasty. This applied to everyday except the day before the sabbath when they were commanded to gather twice as much because no manna would come on the sabbath.

Basically, this is nuts. Any fool can see that if manna gets foul on days 1–5 it will get foul on day 6, and that if it will keep on day 6 surely it's possible for it to keep on days 1–5.  

There is a moment of decision here for the Israelites. Faced with a daunting task will they trust the Word of the Lord despite its apparent ineffectiveness or develop their own practical scientific methods of allocating the manna from heaven?

Some of the Israelites of course gathered more manna when they were commanded not to and of course it grew worms. But they weren't crazy, they were simply pragmatists, taking on the responsibility to develop manna-preservation strategies that made better practical sense than God’s instructions. But God dropped bread from heaven! He had taken the responsibility completely and simply wanted their faith and obedience to His Word.

We face a similarly daunting task. Jesus said, 

Matthew 28:19–20

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

This a task of enormous breadth and depth, all the nations?! And everything He commanded?! Who is equal to this task? Like the Israelites, we face a decision. Are we content with the less than glamorous planting of healthy churches, careful teaching, raising up of elder-qualified men, and making room for every part of the body to God’s Work? Or will we put our hope in our own strategies and methods?

Again like the Israelites, some have derived their own strategies, Four Fields, Rapidily Advancing Disciples (RAD), Training for Trainers (T4T) and other Church Planting Movement (CPM)-motivated strategies take on this daunting task.

And like the Israelites, we have forgotten that God has sent us the real bread from heaven in sending Christ, it is He who will accomplish the growth of his kingdom we need only to work according to his instructions.

By placing our hope in these plans we are still gathering extra manna. God's plan for the nations is the church. But we don't think that's getting the job done fast enough. So we strategize on making it faster, more reproducible, more simple. No time to see elders appointed who can teach sound doctrine, just gotta get them obeying seven things so that we can move on to new fields. But speed is not the plan. The church is the plan. Rapid isn't the key, gospel-centered discipleship is. Jesus is the real bread that came down from heaven, and the church is his body… God knows the numbers He doesn't need speed he wants faithfulness to his Word.

Brothers, let's stop trying to improve on God's plan, leave our wormy manna and put our energy into seeing his church become the beautiful bride that He is coming back for and against which the gates of hell will not prevail and, "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:13–14). Zealous for good deeds?! Now that's a plan.

The Word of God is enough, and besides… wormy manna doesn't taste good anyway.

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