God desires that His people become people of the ear rather than people of the eye.
Adam and Eve became people of the eye, instead of people of the ear, when they disregarded God's prohibition (what God had spoken regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree, "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked . . . " (Gensis 3:6-7, emphasis added). The prohibition was an opportunity to walk by faith, to be people of the ear, to obey what God had declared about the forbidden tree and its fruit.
After ten years of waiting for God to fulfill His promise Sarai looked down at her aging body and acted on what she saw instead of what God said. Sarai defaulted to the eye and introduced Hagar to Abram and secured a son, but not the son of promise. She flunked the opportunity to transform sight into faith. The consequences of that sight-based decision continues today.
God led Israel into the wilderness to transform them into people of the ear instead of people of the eye. They failed miserably, "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" (Exodus 162-3).
God responded by setting up a test. Would Israel continue to act on what they saw or would they trust in God's character and Word and act in faith?
"Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily . . . 'see! For the LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day" (Exodus 16:4-5, 29).
Sure enough, many in Israel failed the test; they acted on what they saw instead of what God said and their leftovers rotted and bred worms. The sixth day offered another opportunity for hearing-based faith when God promised to sustain the double portion to provide for Israel over the Sabbath. God is the God of the Sabbath. To have His promise in the wilderness is to experience an oasis of His rest.
Instructions, promises, or prohibitions given by God require hearers to choose between being people of the eye or people of the ear. They provide a test that either transforms sight into faith or sight into unbelief. They demand that man decide for himself that God is enough--that having a promise, instruction, or prohibition from God is to have God's activity. Wilderness experiences combined with God's promises create an opportunity to transform people of the eye into people of the ear, to prove that God is enough, "For we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7).
God says, “Trust Me!” Man says, “I’ll trust what I can see.” It’s unnatural to walk by faith. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! Adam and Eve learned that truth in the garden when they chose what they could see over what God had revealed about His goodness and veracity. Ever since the Fall men have struggled to believe God, to trust Him, and to walk by faith.
Now God has 2.5 million such faith-strugglers to contend with. Exercising faith in God challenges many in Israel when their food supplies from Egypt run out and water is but a mirage. Sadly, their faith in God drowns in the emptiness of their bellies.
God’s provision of manna and water requires daily trust: “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily” (Ex. 16:4-5). Each man has to come to grips with three questions: “If I eat all that God has provided for me today, will He provide for me again tomorrow?” “Will God really provide enough on the sixth day to last until the morning of the eighth day?” “Will He really withhold manna on the seventh day?”
God certainly stretches their faith to include doubling their portions on the sixth day to last through the seventh day when no manna would appear. The test follows—“Will God come through on the eighth day?” Many in Israel could not see beyond the immediate and lived accordingly—in unbelief and rebellion against God and His designated authority, Moses.
Israel must learn that God can be trusted. The wilderness provides the classroom to teach them that truth. To have God and His promises is to have His provision, protection, and peace—to believe Him regardless of natural conditions or what the eye may see. The impossible situation is the probable situation in which God will work.
The wildernesses of life demand faith in God. It takes faith in God’s Word and in His unchangeable character to walk by faith instead of by sight. Feeding on God’s faithfulness prevents unbelief from taking root and bearing fruit.
“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3, emphasis added).
Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Exodus 16:1-19:25):
- Why does the Lord allow Israel to come to the end of the resources they have brought with them from Egypt?
- What does this reveal about how God works?
- How do God’s instructions regarding His provision of manna test Israel’s faith?