Waffles from Heaven
My name is Sandy. I'm here to tell you a story. It's a story about faithfulness, power, mercy and love. And bread. And waffles.
My family has waffles for breakfast every Wednesday. I don't remember how or when this got started, but "Waffle Wednesday" is a firmly established tradition at our house. Before our son Toby could tell time, he learned which day of the week was Wednesday, because Wednesday meant waffles for breakfast.
Sometimes we use frozen waffles, sometimes we make them fresh with a waffle iron. I like to have warm apples and maple syrup on my waffles. My wife Lori likes blueberries. Our kids spread peanut butter on waffles and dip them in syrup. (Don't knock it 'til you try it!)
It doesn't really matter how they're made or what's on top; after six days of cold cereal, Waffle Wednesday is a highlight of the week.
On Tuesday, April 20 of 2004, one day before a Waffle Wednesday, we had a problem: there were no waffles in the house. Normally, this would just mean a trip to the grocery store, but on this day, the problem was more serious. We had no money to buy waffles.
Our finances were at an all-time low. It had been two years since I had steady work. Our line of credit and our Visa cards were at the limit. We were in trouble. We were in debt. We had a new baby. We needed to replace our car with a more reliable vehicle with room for six.
A more immediate problem was the first of the month. We did not have enough money to pay the rent on May 1st. With ten days to go, and no work on the horizon, we had no idea where the rest of the rent money would come from.
That morning at breakfast, we prayed about our finances with our children. We asked God to provide, somehow, so we would have enough money to pay our rent and meet our other obligations on the first of the month. We asked God, once again, to meet our needs.
Doubting and grumbling
I confess that my attitude in that prayer was not very good. Although God had always been faithful in the past to provide for our needs, we had been living from day to day for a long time. As I went out the door that morning, I was doubting God and I was grumbling. I was tired of having just enough to get by. And I was tired of relying on God.
That brings me to Exodus, chapter 16.
Even if you've never read the Bible, you're probably familiar with the basic plot of the book of Exodus. The children of Israel have been living in slavery in Egypt. God chooses a man named Moses to free the Israelites and lead them to the Promised Land.
God sends 10 plagues that humble Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and shows that the so-called gods of Egypt are nothing compared to Yahweh, the great I Am.
God provides a way out for the children of Israel. Their Egyptian masters give them gold and silver and drive them out of the land. When Pharaoh and his soldiers pursue them to the sea, the people are terrified. But God rescues them. The waters of the Red Sea divide and fall back, and the Israelites are able to cross the sea on dry land.
Maybe you've seen the movie?
So we come to Exodus chapter 16. It's been about 10 weeks since the Israelites fled Egypt in a hurry, with no provisions. Now they are in the desert, without food. The people are hungry, and they're unhappy.
"In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron."
In other words: I can't believe you brought us here! If only we had died back in Egypt, where there was plenty of food. Instead, you brought us into the desert to starve to death!
If I was God, there would have been some smiting at this point.
You want to go back to Egypt?!
"Look," I would say, "I just saved you from a life of slavery. I spared you when death passed over, I filled your pockets with Egyptian gold and silver, I brought you safely across the sea -- on dry land, I might add -- and drowned your tormentors. Now you are on your way to the Promised Land, just as I promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This might be a good time to trust me."
In fact, back in Exodus 6, before all the frogs and locusts and boils, God, through Moses, had told the Israelites what He was going to do:
"I am the LORD , and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD ."
Here we are, just three months later, and God has "brought the Israelites out from under the yoke of the Egyptians" and "redeemed them with mighty acts of judgment," but they still don't trust him.
Doubt and disobedience
They say hindsight is 20/20, and I know we have the whole Bible at our disposal, so this isn't really fair, but it always amazes me that the Israelites never seem to get it. God wants his people to trust and obey, but they never figure that out. Instead, they respond with doubt and disobedience.
Back to our story. Exodus 16. The people are in the desert, they're hungry, and they're grumbling.
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. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days."
Aaron tells the people what's going to happen, and rebukes them for grumbling against God. ("Who are we, that you grumble against us?") While Aaron is speaking to the whole community, they look toward the desert, and the glory of the LORD appears in a cloud.
The LORD said to Moses, "I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, 'At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.' "
That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was.
What is it?
The people called the bread manna, which means "What is it?" Verse 31 says it was white like coriander seed and it tasted like wafers made with honey. That description makes me think of baklava. Mmm!
Moses said to them, "It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.' "
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.
Then Moses said to them, "No one is to keep any of [the manna] until morning." 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. So Moses was angry with them.
Again, I would be smiting here.
After a couple of days, they figured it out. Fresh manna comes every morning. It spoils if you try to keep it. Okay, we get it.
Fast-forward now to the sixth day. The novelty of the manna was probably wearing off for some of the adults, but I bet most of the children were still excited. Imagine that: you go to bed, and when you wake up in the morning, there's fresh bread on the ground. That's pretty cool.
This might be a good time to mention how I first heard the manna story. I heard about it in Sunday School. The teacher told us kids the first part of the story, then made us all pretend to sleep -- probably for a long time. She turned off the lights in the classroom, and we heard noises. When she turned the lights on for morning, we found Corn Pops cereal all over the floor. We were allowed to gather and eat as much as we wanted.
I'm pretty sure I gathered and ate more than an omer. But I digress.
On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much-two omers for each person-and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, "This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD . So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.' "
So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. "Eat it today," Moses said, "because today is a Sabbath to the LORD . You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any."
Things you can't explain
This is one of the many details I love about this story. Six days out of every week, the manna appeared in the morning with the dew. If you tried to keep some overnight, it would spoil. But the manna from the sixth day could be cooked and kept overnight. On the seventh day, when God wanted you to rest, there was no manna to gather. The absence of manna was its own little miracle.
Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?"
In other words: "What part of Sabbath do you not understand?!"
"Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out." So the people rested on the seventh day.
God keeps His promises
The chapter concludes with quiet evidence of God's mercy and love. Verse 35 says the Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they reached the Promised Land.
Do you understand what this means? God kept sending manna even after the people disobeyed Him. If you read the book of Numbers, you discover that he kept sending the manna after the people complained about eating the same thing day after day. When the people reached the Promised Land but refused to enter because they were afraid, God continued to feed them manna while they wandered the desert for forty years. He fed them for the rest of their lives.
The manna continued until every one of the unbelieving generation was dead and their children entered the Promised Land. When they ate the food of the land, that was the end of the manna. (Joshua 5:12)
There's more amazing stuff about manna in the New Testament.
The gospel of John says that Jesus referred to Himself as the "bread of life" sent from heaven. He urged people to consume this bread from heaven in order to be truly satisfied. This teaching came when bread was on the mind of his disciples, just hours after Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people using just a few loaves and fish. (John 6)
But that's another sermon.
Waffles from Heaven
Let's get back to the waffles. I bet you've almost forgotten that part of the story.
After we prayed at the breakfast table that Tuesday morning in April, I was still discouraged about money. Although God had always been faithful in the past to provide for our needs, there was no way hundreds of dollars were going to just magically appear. I spent the day doubting God and grumbling about having to depend on Him.
When I got home that day, I found a mysterious envelope with no return address in our mailbox. What is it? I wondered. Inside the envelope I found $600 cash in fifties and hundreds. There was no note, no explanation, just money in a plain envelope.
In that moment, God tapped me on the shoulder, and rebuked me for my grumbling. There was our answer to prayer. We suddenly had enough money to pay our rent and meet our obligations for May 1, and a little left over. Bread from heaven.
We went to the grocery store and bought milk and eggs, baloney for the kids' lunches, chicken for dinner, plus waffles and real maple syrup for breakfast. The next morning, our Waffle Wednesday was a celebration of God's goodness and mercy.
I thought about Exodus 16 and the story of the manna. And waffles.
"I have heard your grumbling. Tonight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with waffles. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God."
We still eat waffles each Wednesday. They still remind me of bread from heaven. God provides -- we can testify to that. But when times are tough, it's surprisingly hard to trust Him, or to remember the miracles that have gone before.
I wonder. If I was among the Israelites who fled Egypt, would I have complained and grumbled? When I was hungry, would I have remembered the plagues and the Red Sea and trusted God? Or would I have spent sleepless nights staring at the sky, worrying that the manna might not be there in the morning?
Don't you get it?
When I read Exodus, I want to yell at the people. You idiots! How can you doubt God after all you've been through?
Then I live my life, and I discover that I am just like those people. It seems that I never learn from past miracles. I doubt and I grumble.
I'm not satisfied with "enough." I want more than enough. I want enough to retire. I want to win the lottery. I want to be safe and secure without God's help. I don't want to have to trust God day after day. That's hard.
Our financial situation has been slowly improving since that day in April. We have been loved and cared for by our families and by Christians inside and outside our local church. God has provided for our family in many amazing ways.
On more than one occasion, we have been given gifts that so clearly matched our need, they could only have come from God. I could tell you many amazing stories of how God has provided for us.
No problem is too big
The most obvious testimony we have is our new vehicle. When our car was on its last legs and we needed room for a fourth child, we were given more than $15,000 to buy a used van that would accommodate our family. This answer to prayer was a gift from a Christian client of mine who asked to remain anonymous in order to give the glory to God.
Each time our family has had a financial need, God has provided more manna. Each gift has been a new reminder that God is faithful and He keeps His promises. As long as we are going where He wants us to go, we don't need to worry about food or drink, where we will live or what we will wear. He knows what we need, and He is faithful to provide.
We Praise God for who He is and how He loves us.
That's my story. It's a story about God's power, mercy, faithfulness, and love. And bread from heaven. And waffles.
Please don't misunderstand
I want to mention a couple of things here at the end, to avoid any misunderstanding.
First, I am not telling this story in order to ask for your help. As I said before, we have already received a lot of help from our family, from our church, and from many others, and our finances are improving.
If your response to this message is a burning desire to write a cheque or to share your stuff in some way, I think that's good. But don't give it to us! Pray about that tug you felt in your heart and ask God to show you someone who needs your help. Be prepared for the possibility that the help they need may not be financial!
Second, if you're led to give, I encourage you to give anonymously if possible. I say this for a couple of reasons. When you give an anonymous gift, you know your motives are pure. You're not giving to get a tax receipt or a pat on the back or your name on a plaque.
More importantly, anonymous gifts direct people's attention to God, where it belongs. When a gift is undeserved and impossible to repay, it reflects the grace of God's gift of salvation in a powerful way.
Everything we have is His anyway, and we're just looking after it, right?
Do you need help?
If you are in debt or poor health or you have some other big need, I invite you to tell me about it (email@example.com). As you've read here, I probably can't help you financially, but I can pray for you.
If you are part of a local church, don't be proud; talk to one of your pastors or church leaders and ask if there is any help available. Our local church has something called the Benevolent Fund that allows us to help people with short-term financial problems.
Finally, if you don't know much about Jesus, I encourage you to pick up a Bible (or follow this link) and read the gospel of John. Jesus described himself as "bread from heaven" and "living water." If you are hungry or thirsty in spirit, meet Jesus and be satisfied.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
God's love is amazing, steady and unchanging. He is faithful.
September 5, 2004