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“Unlocking the Treasures
of the Lord's Prayer”

Part :3
"Day-by-Day Help

Based on Exodus 16 & The Lord's Prayer
Delivered on May 2 & 3, 2009
by David J. Claassen
Copyright 2009 by David J. Claassen

        The economy has been the main topic in the news, in politics, and in conversation for the last several months.  We haven't seen hard economic conditions like this in a very long time, and it has hit all of us in one or more ways.  As your pastor I'm aware of many of our people losing their jobs, taking pay cuts, having their hours cut, and losing benefits.  Most people have seen the bottom drop out of their pensions and retirement plans, and that includes Diann and me.  We just received our latest report on our retirement plan funds: through 2008 and into the first three months of 2009 — that's fifteen months — our retirement plan has lost 40% of its value!
            Here we are, gathered together for worship.  Most of us are followers of Jesus, and many of us seek to be fully-committed followers of Him.  A few people here may be spiritual seekers, wondering what role God should play in your lives.  I think it's fair to ask what kind of response those of us who factor God into our lives should have when it comes to all of this economic bad news.
            We can do no better than to start with a phrase in the prayer that Jesus taught His followers to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)  We're continuing our six-part series, “Unlocking the Treasures of the Lord's Prayer,” with the reminder from Jesus that we're supposed to have a day-by-day dependence on our Heavenly Father.  God's people had to learn that lesson early, when Moses led the people of God for forty years in the wilderness. 

Manna Meals from God
Moses had led God's people out of slavery in Egypt.  There wasn't just a logistical nightmare of how to feed those hundreds of thousands of people; it was also a question of what they should feed them!  There were no caterers with chariots selling kosher hot dogs!  God had Moses lead the people into the wilderness, but then what?  The historical record says, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the Lord's hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’” (Exodus 16:3)  They weren’t happy campers, and that's what they were: campers, camping — as it would turn out — for forty years in the wilderness.
            Through the experience of Moses and the Israelites we can see how God works.  God had told Moses to lead the people out of slavery in
Egypt and into the wilderness, but God hadn’t bothered to explain to Moses how all those hundreds of thousands of people were to be fed!  Now the people were complaining, imagining the great food they had had in Egypt.  Undoubtedly they were painting a far rosier picture of what life had been like there.  They hadn't exactly been lounging around big vats of stew; they had, after all, been slaves to the Egyptians.  Nevertheless, here they were: led by Moses, who was led by God, into the wilderness with no obvious means of getting food.
            Though God hadn't informed Moses or the people ahead of time, He had a plan.  (By the way, that often seems to be the way God works: not giving much preliminary information or assurance before asking people to do something.)  God provided them with a food source called manna: “Then the Lord said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you.  The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.’” (Exodus 16:4)

            When the Israelites got up in the morning and stepped out of their tents they found the ground frosted with a white, edible substance.  The text states, “The people called the bread manna.” (Exodus 16:31)  “Manna” may mean “What is it?”, and it was probably a good name.  I can just picture the folks at meal time: “Abner, please pass some more of 'whatever it is'.” 
According to the text, it “tasted like wafers made with honey.” (Exodus 16:31)  The people were told to “bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil.” (Exodus 16:23)  (One wonders how many ways they figured out how to prepare it; after all, they had to eat it for a long time.  Did Moses produce a cookbook titled “Moses' Manna Manual” subtitled “One Hundred and One Ways to Prepare Manna”?  OK, probably not.)
            It's interesting that Moses told them that they were only supposed to gather enough for one day.  Of course, some people didn't listen: “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.” (Exodus 16:20)  We humans like our security!  We want to store things and stash them away, but God didn't want the Israelites to be self-reliant; He wanted them to be God-reliant.
            There was an exception on one day a week.  Every Friday morning — the morning before the Sabbath — they were supposed to gather twice as much so that they wouldn't have to work at gathering any on the Sabbath, which was the day of rest.  (By the way, in verse 23 of this story is the very first use of the word “Sabbath” in the Bible.  The idea of resting on the seventh day is mentioned in principle in the story of creation at the very beginning of the Bible, and in law in the giving of the Ten Commandments a little later in their wilderness journey, but this is the first actual use of the word.)
            The text says, “So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.” (Exodus 16:24)  Unlike any other day, the manna's shelf life increased by one day from Friday to Saturday, so they didn't need to gather any on the Sabbath.  Of course, again some people didn't listen: “Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.” (Exodus 16:27)  When they tried to gather more on the Sabbath, even though they had enough saved up from the morning before for Sabbath brunch, there was none to be found.
            God was teaching His people a lesson — and it's a lesson He still wants to teach His people, including you and me.  We’re supposed to have a daily dependence on God.  Jesus would have us pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  We're to ask for no more than what we need now.  God's concerned that if He gives us too much — enough so that we can stash some away — we'll feel independent, as if we don't need Him.  He loves us too much to let that happen! 

Needs vs. Wants
It should be noted that God provided the Israelites with manna, or bread; He didn’t give them two-layered cake with double chocolate frosting and sprinkles.  OK, they didn't have our kind of cake then; the point is that God provided them with a very basic food, a food staple.  God provided their needs, not their wants.
            God is interested in providing, as D.A. Carson put it, “our needs, not our greeds.”  In this economic downturn, the secular media has often used the word “greed,” a word that we haven’t heard much of before.  Many people agree that we’re in the fix we’re in because of greed.  People kept buying more than they needed and bigger and better things than they needed, putting it all on credit.  Companies greedily overextended themselves, and the heads of companies greedily took more than they should have.  People greedily built and bought houses of a size and extravagance that they wanted but that they didn’t need.
            Jesus would have us pray for daily bread: for our daily needs to be provided for by the Father, not all of our wants.  The world says that you’ll be satisfied when you get more; Jesus taught that we'll be satisfied when we want less!
            Moderation is a wonderful way to live!  The proverb writer Agur stated, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?'  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8-9)
            It’s a mistake to try to find our greatest satisfaction in what we can possess.  Our greatest satisfaction should come from being possessed by God! 

Placing Our Trust in God
Wouldn't it be great to be able to experience God as never before?  The way to do that is to pray — and live out — the prayer that Jesus would have us pray to our Heavenly Father: “Give us this day our daily bread.”  The best way to experience God’s working in our lives is to live with a day-by-day dependence on Him.    I believe that these economic times are providing a golden opportunity to do that!

            We can respond to these difficult economic times in one of two ways: we can live with fear or live with faith in God!  In the face of the worst of economic times — leading a vast number of people who had no homes or food — Moses, one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen, said a remarkable thing: “In the morning you will see the glory of the Lord.” (Exodus 16:7)  They would see God's glory when they saw the manna that He provided for them in the morning!  Seeing God's provision was seeing His glory!  God wants us to experience His glory — the glory of His provision — and that's why He wants us to trust Him to meet our needs one day at a time.
            It's a major paradigm shift to see our lack of what we have as an opportunity to experience God's provision in a way that we never would if we were sitting comfortably.  Poor times provide a rich opportunity to draw close to God.  We just have to change the way we think!
            Have you ever had a little bit of cash come your way, so you started thinking about all the different ways you could use it, and just when you got the extra cash, some emergency came up that took it all?  We immediately think, “What lousy timing!  I just get a little extra money, and now it has to go to this emergency.”  Why not think, “What great timing on God's part!  I just got a little extra money, and now it's there to go toward this emergency!”
            We should always live with the belief that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, . . .” (James 1:17)  Can we believe that our Heavenly Father will provide?  We're supposed to ask and believe that He’ll give us our daily needs.
            Part of the trust we’re supposed to have in the Father's generosity to provide what we need involves continuing to be generous ourselves.  We show our trust in God's provision best when we continue to provide for the needs of others who are less fortunate and for the Father's work.
            Let me share a personal testimony here.  Diann and I continue to be committed in supporting the Lord's work even when times get tough.  There have been serious economic struggles in years past, with double-digit inflation and interest rates and high unemployment.  Over our 37 years of marriage (as of June) we’ve been committed to the Biblical guideline of tithing: giving a minimum of 10% of our income to the Lord's work.  We’ve raised two children, helped them through college, and struggled through other hard times, as have many of you.  God has always provided.  We haven’t always gotten what we wanted, but we’ve always had what we needed!  Part of trust is putting our money where our mouths are.  We say we have faith, but do our pocketbooks prove it?
            I'm not suggesting that all of your financial problems will go away if you tithe.  Sometimes it's tough, because you have less money to spend elsewhere.  However, I believe that it shows a trust in God that allows Him to draw near to you and give you the wisdom to live with what you have, and allows you to do that with peace and joy that He's going to take care of you.  Sometimes there’s also a little extra that comes your way, and you know that He's provided it in a miraculous way!
            It was said of Jesus after He had spent some time in His home town of Nazareth, “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:58)  We’ll see the glory of God’s miraculous provision when we have the faith to trust Him to supply our daily needs — and to act as if we believe that He’ll do that.
            Most of Jesus' original disciples didn't have an easy time of it economically.  We presume that all twelve of them gave up their day jobs to follow Him (we know that four fishermen and a tax collector did).  Things aren't easy for many people today, either, even many people who follow Jesus.  However, He would have us pray to our Heavenly Father as He taught those first disciples, and believe that our loving and generous Father will answer when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

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