The Trust Test

Then said the LORD unto Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or not” (Exodus 16:4).

The LORD had done most impressive things for the people of Israel. It had not been that long ago that the Israelites were hopeless servants of the mighty Pharaoh of Egypt. The LORD then struck Egypt with ten plagues, led Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground, and drowned the Egyptian army (Exodus 6-14). Israel believed in the LORD and feared Him on the basis of these experiences (Exodus 14:31). But how deep was that belief and trust?

It was now God’s intention to test the people of Israel to see whether they would really follow His law or not. After all the great demonstrations of God’s loving kindness toward Israel, would Israel lean on its God?

They were now in the wilderness– an inhospitable desert. They would not be able to find much food or drink “naturally.” They would have to rely on God if they were to survive!

God would provide the people with food. They were to go out and gather a day’s portion daily save for the sixth day, when they would gather for two days (Exodus 16:4-5). The next morning, after the dew evaporated, a “fine flake-like thing” covered the ground– the “manna” that would sustain the people for the next forty years (Exodus 16:14-15). They were to gather an omer, or about two quarts, per person (Exodus 16:16). These were very simple and straightforward instructions.

Yet many in Israel did not listen. They gathered less or more than an omer per person, and discovered that no matter what, each had his omer (Exodus 16:17-18). Moses then told them to entirely consume it on that day and leave nothing over (Exodus 16:19). Yet again, some did not listen, and they discovered the next day that it had worms and was rotten (Exodus 16:20).

On the sixth day they gathered two omers per person, and Moses commanded the people to prepare it all but save half for the next day, the Sabbath day, a day of solemn rest (Exodus 16:22-23). They were to do no work on the Sabbath day, and they should not expect manna to fall on that day (Exodus 16:25-26). Yet many of the Israelites went out to obtain manna on the seventh day (Exodus 16:27). God was quite displeased with them because they kept refusing His commandments, and then and only then did they abide within His law (Exodus 16:28-30)!

This whole episode reflects mankind’s natural fearfulness and desire to test boundaries. In effect, God is testing Israel to see whether they will truly trust Him or not. Will they follow the commandments regarding the food He provides for them or not? At every turn, many fail to trust God. Some do not go out and get all of the required omer, and others try to get much more. Many do not trust, at first, that there will be manna out there every morning, and so they try to preserve some for the next day. And when God provides extra manna that does not go bad overnight, the people still try to go out and get more on the Sabbath day!

Israel has to learn to trust God, apparently, for they are not doing well at trusting God’s good will toward them and that what He says, goes. They have to find that out for themselves.

Every generation, in some sense or another, goes through the same process. Each generation is warned sternly about the pitfalls of life, and yet plenty of people in each generation must learn the “hard way” through experience. Humans are too bent on their own way!

Wisdom teaches us that it is best to learn from the mistakes of our own past and the past of others. Wisdom also would teach us to follow God’s commands, for they are designed for our own benefit (1 John 5:3). He establishes His will for us for our own good, to help us be more like Him (Romans 8:29, Galatians 2:20). In a sense, God tests every one like He tests Israel: He has decreed His guidelines in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and He will see whether we will follow Him or not, and whether we truly trust in Him.

Therefore, will we trust in God’s loving kindness, or will we doubt and have to push the boundaries like Israel did? Will our faith prove to be only skin-deep, or will we prove ourselves to truly trust in God no matter what? Let us strive to pass the trust test and not be like Israel!

Ethan R. Longhenry

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