Can God really prepare a table in the wilderness?
I must confess, I can identify with the Israelites' foul attitude when, after three waterless, wilderness-wandering days, they finally came across a spring. Only problem was, the water was undrinkable. Who can blame them for complaining to Moses, “What shall we drink?” (Ex. 15:24). Who can blame them, indeed, for doubting they would ever drink again? But they had forgotten one thing — God's unlimited to do anything He wants:
So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet (vs. 25).
You would think they had learned their lesson. But not them. Days later, food rations at an end, they grumbled again:
And the children of Israel said to them, "Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (Ex. 16:3).
The real folly of the people is captured beautifully in Psalm 78:19:
Yes, they spoke against God: they said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness ?
Oh that such folly should be. After all they had seen, these people just did not get it. Of course, they had good reason for doubting. How could even God supply food out here where supermarkets were unknown and traveling traders never trod? Herein lies the point of this blog: God can do anything He wants; doubting this truth can get you into all sorts of trouble. Of course, God had not forgotten about their needed daily calorie intake, He was merely allowing them to reach the point where no human solution could save them. Then He instituted His plan for their survival during forty years of wandering in the desert — the miraculous daily downpour of “bread of heaven”. If He chooses, God can make food out of nothing. After all, He created the entire universe.
He doesn't always use the same strategy when solving similar problems. During the time of the prophet Elisha, the Syrians besieged the city of Samaria. Food became so scarce that a donkey's head cost two pounds of silver (2 Kin. 6:25) and women ate their own children (vs. 29). When absolutely all seemed lost, Elisha declared,
Thus says the Lord: “Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria”.
Surely we can identify with the mocking response of the king's officer when he said,
Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could this thing be?
This man's doubting-Thomas attitude and shoot-first-think-later questioning of divine power cost him his life. The next day, when Elisha's words came true, the officer was trampled in the stampede to get to the abundant food rolling in through the gate. Want to know what happened? In this case famine was averted not by manna but by a… well, why not read it for yourself in chapter 7.
One of the mightiest truths believers should incorporate into their every waking moment is just this: God can do anything (Jer. 32:27, Matt. 19:26). What a liberating, glorious truth! Scripture suggests strongly that a temple will be built in Jerusalem to His honor and glory before the end of this age, yet the chances of such a thing happening from the human perspective seem even more remote than finding food in the desert; the Israelis generally don't want a temple, the Christian West believes it has no further purpose in the divine plan, and the entire surrounding Muslim world do anything it could to prevent it. You and I may not live to see it, but one day we'll hear how God implemented His will in this matter.
Of even greater significance, God has informed us of His intention to save mankind — John 3:17, 1 Timothy 2:4. If we are to take Ezekiel 37 literally, God is even going to save dead Israelites (see vss. 13-14). Certainly, Romans 11:26 tells us that “all Israel shall be saved”. The great “mystery” of salvation history is that God loves not only Israelites but all peoples of all nations, and that He intends to save all:
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth -- in Him (Eph. 1:7-10).
God intends to give full opportunity for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ to every person who has ever lived. Jesus' sacrifice has made atonement possible for all human beings. In due course, He will turn possibility into reality. Sound impossible? Can God provide a table in the wilderness, or can't He? As an old friend would say, "Hide and watch".