You Are On God’s Unlimited Plan
By Beth Demme
Have you ever run out of something? Maybe your car ran out of gas? Maybe you were baking and you didn’t have that cup of sugar you needed? Perhaps, like my teenage son, you’ve run out of data for your cell phone?
It happens. We run out of things.
Do you ever worry that God is going to run out of grace? That maybe God has reserved only so much for you and you will, eventually, reach the end of it?
Well, don’t worry. You’re on God’s Unlimited Plan.
The Verizon unlimited plan is good, but God’s is even better.
This is illustrated in many Bible stories, but I think we especially see it in the story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land (the land God promised to Abraham many generations before the Exodus (Genesis 12:1-7)).
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On the journey, the Israelites worried again, and again, that God’s mercy had run out. But, no, it never did. God kept showing up.
The food God provides is a substance the Bible calls manna. The manna is delivered every morning, with a double portion on the day before the Sabbath. God provides manna the entire time the Israelites wander in the wilderness, all forty years.
This surprises me every time I read it.
The forty years in the wilderness was a consequence. When the Israelites first arrived at the border of the Promised Land, they sent spies in to do reconnaissance. The spies came back saying it was an impossible mission. (Numbers 13)
Again, the Israelites thought God’s mercy would run out. They were afraid God would lead them to the border of the land of milk and honey, but not help them get in. When the spies came back and reported their hopelessness, the Israelites “raised a loud cry and the people wept that night.” (Numbers 14:1) In response, God says, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done in them?” (Numbers 14:11)
This is a low point in the relationship between God and the Israelites. God’s people are weeping because they feel abandoned and even God is asking “how long is this going to go on?”
And yet, in spite of Israel’s lack of faith, God continues to provide! The Israelites receive the manna for forty years, right up until the day they first eat the produce of the Promised Land. (Joshua 5:10-12)
The manna God provides isn’t really about the bread. It’s about showing the Israelites they can, and need to, rely on God.
It’s a God-sized response to their constant walking-on-eggshells, oh-boy-now-we’ve-reached-the-limits-of-what-God-will-do-for-us, attitude and fear.
This is a thread throughout the story of Israel – a fear that God’s love, mercy, and provision will run out.
This thread runs through my story and maybe yours, too.
Like the Israelites, I have wondered if God is really with me. There have been times when I have doubted God was (still) listening to my prayers. I understand why the Israelites would say, “just send us back to Egypt. It wasn’t so bad after all.” Sometimes the suffering of the world today makes me long for the suffering of last week or last year – the suffering I know I can get through because I have.
There are times when it might feel like we’ve reached the end of God’s goodness, or at least the goodness God set aside for us.
When that happens, it’s helpful to remember that God provided the manna, even in the wilderness. When the people of God, the Israelites, doubted God’s continued presence and provision, God was steady. God’s provision never failed.
It turns out, they were on God’s Unlimited Plan.
What about you? Do you feel like you’re on God’s Unlimited Plan? Do you think there is a limit to God’s grace and mercy? Is it helpful to think about the Israelites receiving the manna even during the 40-year period that was a punishment? Tell me about it in the comments, in an email, or on Facebook.
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