One of my favourite Bible verses, with reference to the experiencing of change in church life, is Joshua 5:12: “Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.”
The children of Israel had entered the Promised Land after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and when they did so there was a corresponding change in their diet. For forty years the Lord had fed them each day with manna from heaven but now they would be fed from the “produce of the land.” Rather than being fed by miraculous intervention the children of Israel would now be fed through their manual labour. No longer would they be sustained with manna from heaven but rather they would be sustained by corn from the earth.
But let it be noted that, though the means of provision changed, the meals of God’s continued provision had not. That is, they were still being sustained with food, albeit it was through common, ordinary means rather than through a miracle. Yes, in spite of the change in their circumstances, God’s people would still be fed.
I have always found comfort in this truth as BBC has undergone various changes. We have seen over the years many good leaders come and minister here, and then the Lord has moved them on. I think for example of Steve Miller, Dan Crichton and Francois Koch. When these men left for other churches, we all felt the loss. We perhaps felt like some of the children of Israel did; that is, that the “manna” had ceased. And perhaps we felt like some of them may have felt: as if the blessings went with them.
Personally, in each of those cases, I experienced separation from some very close friends. I struggled with a very real sense of loss. And yet I also came to experience the Lord’s provision of friendship with others. I came to experience the Lord sustaining both myself and our church through other gifted brothers and sisters who filled the gaps left by these whom had been called elsewhere. Yes, the manna ceased, but the Master kept feeding us.
I share this to make an important observation with reference to our recent World Outreach Celebration. Let me explain.
I don’t think that we have ever had a better WOC than our most recent one. Those who organised the nuts and bolts of it did a sterling job, for which we should all be grateful. And we should also express this thankfulness to those who served in so many ways to make it so.
The presentations of the missionaries and their work, as a whole, were unparalleled; at least in my experience. We were not only informed but were also challenged by what we were exposed to.
The ministry of the Word through the congregational singing and the blessed special items was wonderful beyond description. The attendance each night was exceptional. If we kept records, this week would have set a new one.
The Faith Promise Commitment was a historic high. We were praying for a 10% increase and the Lord gave us a 16% increase!
And, of course, the preaching . . . what more can be said! It was terrific. The Lord used our speaker in a marvellous way to deliver His message to us, for which we are very grateful. Yes, in a myriad of ways the Lord did exceeding abundant above all that we asked. To God be the glory.
But what now? In some ways, the manna has ceased, and one week later we are sitting down to corn.
I doubt anyone senses this more than I do.
To be truthful, I thought about having someone else preach today for the simple reason that the manna ceased and I did not want to see people’s expressions when all they got this Sunday was corn meal! But since I did not think that shirking my responsibilities was very responsible, or pleasing to the Lord, I decided to bite the corn cob and just go for it!
But even though the manna has ceased, the Lord is still committed to feeding us on His Word. And though the excitement of last week has subsided, the Lord has not changed, His purpose for us has not ceased, and His promises are still true.
What I find interesting in the book of Joshua is that, even though the manna ceased, the meals continued and so did the miracles (for example the conquering of Jericho, the sun standing still, etc.). In other words, even though the spectacular daily cuisine came to an end, the Lord’s blessed presence, provision and power continued. And so it will be with us.
Yes, the special event has passed with its wonderful sense of both anticipation and fulfilment. Yes, the special speaker with challenging messages is back in Kitwe and today we begin a study of Leviticus! And, as far as I am aware, there is no special feast prepared in the kitchen for us after the service. And yet we will continue, this Lord’s Day and on all the succeeding ones, to gather to worship our great and glorious and unchanging God who continues to sustain us, with or without special meetings.
There is much more that can be said about this matter, but let me point out one helpful lesson. It would seem from the history of the children of Israel that the daily supply of manna did nothing to mature them in their walk with the Lord. In fact they even got to the point where they complained against it (Numbers 11). We can learn from this that it is usually not the miraculous manna that matures us, but rather it is the daily slog as we labour in the fields to harvest the mundane corn where lasting growth takes place.
And so as we embark on a new missions year, let us be grateful for this past week of manna. Let us not forget the great things that God has done or the great things that He has taught us. But at the same time let us now go forth into His fields, sowing, watering and reaping. The resulting corn will bring glory to God just as much as does His manna.