IS GOD A POOR PLANNER? - The Warrior's Journey®


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As you read through the book of Exodus, you’ll detect a pattern of problems arising and God responding. But it makes me wonder, didn’t God plan for Israel’s journey through the wilderness? Why did it take their shortages of water and food to alert God to their need? Did it suddenly dawn on God, when they got hungry and thirsty – “Oh, wait, these people need food and water, don’t they?”

For instance, in Exodus 15:22-26, only three days after God opened the Red Sea to deliver Israel and destroy their pursuers, God’s people ran out of water. They came to a watering hole, but the waters were toxic. Israel grumbled to Moses, who cried out to the Lord. God showed Moses a tree, which he cast into the bitter waters, transforming them into pure, fresh drinking water. The apostles saw in this a picture of how the cross of Christ, which they sometimes refer to as “the tree” (e.g. Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) transforms the bitterness of God’s wrath into the sweetness of His love.

Immediately after this, in Exodus 16:1-30, Israel starts to get hungry. Again, they complain to Moses, who prays to God. And God comes through again by sending quail into their camp. But a greater miracle is the Sunday through Friday morning supply of manna that begins at the same time. But, why did God wait until they became hungry before He initiated the morning by morning manna?

Well, in the very next chapter, Exodus 17:1-7, Israel again runs out of water. Again they grumble to Moses and again God miraculously provides water – this time from a rock. This miracle occurs again in Numbers 20:2-13. But according to 1 Corinthians 10:4, God may have provided water in this manner numerous times. Yet, it makes me wonder, why did God wait until His people became thirsty before he met their needs?

Now, if it had been up to me, I would have suggested to God that He position caches of food and water. Make each cache sufficient for all the people’s needs and set them at intervals of ten to fifteen miles. This way God’s people would have predictability in their lives. Instead of worrying and grumbling, they could rest assured that a big supply of food awaited them at the end of each day’s journey. Consequently, God wouldn’t have to react to an emergency when it arose – as it seemed He was doing in the Exodus narrative. He’d have it all planned it out. Right?

What a jerk I’d be to make such an assumption. God is a perfect planner. He knew exactly what He was doing and exercised infinite foresight and wisdom in the way He dealt with Israel. In Deuteronomy 8:3 God explained His strategy. He allowed Israel to experience hunger and thirst to both humble them and to build their faith. He was teaching them that their lives did not depend on physical food, but on God’s promises. God was training them to trust His word.

But why did they have to ask Him all the time? Why didn’t God supply their needs automatically – before they became hungry and thirsty?

This question brought me back to something my wife and I did when our kids were very young. Whenever we visited the mall or went shopping, we’d first stop at the candy store. Then, holding onto the bag of their favorite candy, we knew our children wouldn’t wander too far. They’d quickly finish one piece of candy and then come back to us for more. Was that cruel? We didn’t think so. It kept our kids close at hand. We were worried for their safety and didn’t want them to be abducted.

In a similar way, God must keep us coming back. Yes, we’d love it if God established those caches of supplies along the way that we could count on. We’d love it if God would give us a lump sum of money and supplies to last us our journey. But if God did this, He’d never hear from us again. We’d forget about God and go along our self-centered way.

This, of course, would defeat the whole purpose of Christ’s atonement. Christ died on the cross to reconcile us to God, that we might know Him personally and be known by Him. As incredible as it may seem to us, God loves our company. When Jesus walked the earth, He enjoyed the company of His disciples (Luke 22:15, 28). And He defined eternal life as knowing Him and His Father (John 17:3).

Paul the apostle declared that God has called us into fellowship with His Son (1 Corinthians 1:7). And Paul said that he gladly gave up all of life’s privileges in order to know Jesus Christ, both in the fellowship of His sufferings and in the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Paul came to the point in life that he welcomed affliction and adversity. For he knew such circumstances would overflow with Christ’s comfort and fellowship (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Yes, that’s why God allowed Israel to get hungry and thirsty before He came through with the supply. It wasn’t poor planning. It was a loving wisdom. By doing so, God captured their focused attention. He drew them unto Himself through human need and their prayers. And each time, He showered them with His love, attention, and supply.

I strongly suspect, the more faithfully we seek the Lord through prayer and Bible reading, the less God would need to resort to using human need to get our attention and fellowship. If we’d cultivate our relationship with Jesus, and give Him our undivided attention each day, we’d escape a lot of the troubles that plague us. Our Christian life would be so more joyful.

Of course, not all adversity is escapable. Even Jesus had to attend the school of hard knocks (Hebrews 5:8-9). And we are told that this life’s adversity is part of God’s discipline and training to make us holy and fit for heaven (Hebrews 12:3-11). But much affliction would be avoided if we’d faithfully acknowledge God as our Creator, Sustainer, and Savior – and humbly seek Him for His provision and protection.

So, don’t despise times of adversity and need. Submit to it as God’s discipline and training. Yet, be wise and stay close to the parent with the candy bag. Stay close to Jesus and yearn for His friendship as much as He yearns for yours.


PRAYER:  Dear Father in heaven, make me thirsty for Your presence and companionship. Make me hungry for Your word. And as I read its pages, please speak to my heart by Your Holy Spirit. As I pray, open my eyes to Your goodness and love and teach me to worship You. Draw me, O God, into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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