Fresh Start

Ever wish that life had a ‘restart’ option?

Feel like running away and starting new?

All of us have had moments when we’ve felt that way.  We all have regrets and we’ve all made our share of mistakes.  Sure, we know that we have forgiveness and a second chance through Jesus.  However, Jesus doesn’t erase our mistakes or the natural consequences of them.  He doesn’t take us back where we missed it to allow us to try again.

In Exodus chapter 16, we find God’s people in a similar situation.  God had set them free from literal slavery and harsh mistreatment.  He promised to give them a land all of their own that was rich in abundant blessings.  He was leading them to it by a cloud by day and fire by night. 

As they crossed through the dessert on their way to it, they began to have regrets.  They were looking forward to where they were heading, but were growing weary on their way there.  They wished that they were back in their slavery.  Even in those horrific circumstances, they fondly remembered the good food that they were able to enjoy.

They began to grumble and complain and even began to say that they wished that they had just died at the hands of their captors, the Egyptians.  Their hope had dried up and their trust in God had withered.  This happens as we try to go backward in life and forget about God’s promises and where He is taking us. 

Regret is a relentless beast with an unquenchable hunger and thirst for our hope.  It swallows it whole and leaves us empty.  Resist the enemy of regret by remembering the promises that you are heading into and the good things that God has done for you in the past!

God responds to their grumbling in this way:

Exodus 16:2-5

2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 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.”

4 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. 5 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.”

God chose to respond to their grumbling with the test of a blessing.  God provided them the meat that they craved and daily provided them a unique bread from Heaven.  It was white in color and tasted like wafers of honey probably much like Baklava today.  God promised to provide just as much as they needed every day and twice the day before the Sabbath so that they could rest on it and not gather.

Every day was a fresh start.  Every day God miraculously provided them exactly what they needed.  Every day God proved Himself faithful, trustworthy, and reliable.  Every day God gave His people the opportunity to simply trust Him.  God was patient with His people.  God was giving them chance after chance to grow and mature and develop their faith enough to be able to walk into His promises and take hold of them.

Did the people trust what God said and instructed them in?  Nope!

They were told to gather about three pounds of it per person.  Some went out and gathered a bunch and some gathered a little.  However, when it was weighed, they each had just what they needed.

They were told to eat it that day and not to keep any of it until morning.  They saved some for the next day.  When they woke up, they found it full of maggots and smelly.

They were told that they would find none of it on the Sabbath day.  They went out to gather it in anyways.  Guess how much of it they found.  Right, none at all.

God sent them a blessing as a test of whether they would trust Him through their obedience and they were failing it.

35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.

Forty years to travel a few hundred miles, a trip that should have taken days and not years.  In light of this Thanksgiving season, we remember the power of gratitude versus the drain of grumbling.  If you feel like you are taking the long, difficult path in life, if you feel like you’re a wanderer still so far from blessing, there may be a purpose in it. 

It may be a result simply of our attitude and unwillingness to grow and mature.

Initially, God intentionally chose to take them the long way for their own good.  Their hearts were not yet ready for what it would take to take hold of His promises.  After all, to ensure that their land remained rich and productive, He permitted strong people to maintain the land to stay there who would need evicted.

Exodus 23:29-30

29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

That very thing that opposes you, that very obstacle that you view as a hindrance and curse may be there for your good and benefit.  No, it doesn’t belong there, but it is there for you to overcome and kick out of your promised land!  Perhaps your mind is still unstable.  Perhaps your commitment is still wavering.  Perhaps doubts and uncertainty still plague you.  It was for this very reason that God brought His people the long way around to His promises.

Exodus 13:17-18

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.

God gave His people all of the time that they needed to prepare themselves for the war that would be required to walk into His promises.  God can’t force us to mature, however.  Our maturity and our attitude is ultimately our choice. 

Will we choose to be thankful and grateful with steadfast hearts who trust in God and be fully convinced that there is nothing too hard for Him?  Will we prove this to Him by obediently following His lead into His promises?  Or, will we continue to wander?  Will we wander in our hearts and minds by grumbling and complaining wishing we could go back to the good old days?

In Numbers 13, God’s people were literally on the border of their wandering and their promise.  Some of you may feel that way right now, too.  You sense that breakthrough is so near, you feel the closeness of God’s promises.  You’re so close to them.  Twelve men literally tasted and seen God’s promises. 

They all agreed that it was just as good as God had promised.  Ten boasted in the strength of their enemies occupying the promise and caused God’s people to grumble and complain again.  Two boasted in the strength of their God and His ability to do what He promised by driving the enemy out and giving the promise to them.

After forty years of God’s patience, He waited until the grumbling generation died off and then chose Joshua and Caleb’s generation to receive the promise.  They walked away from having a daily provision of just what they needed to get through the day into an abundance that provided enough for their lifetime and generations to follow them.

Joshua 5:10-12

10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. 11 The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. 12 The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.

The very day that they passed over from grumbling to gratitude, from doubt to trust, from fear to faith, God’s daily provision stopped being replaced by abundance.  That very day that they obediently marched around the walls of Jericho and watched them fall, they exchanged manna for the bountiful food that they had been craving and were created for.

This morning, Jesus is calling us to pass over, too.  It is time to stop wandering in the wilderness and it is time to walk into His promise.  Wherever you are at, it is time to take the next step.  Today is the day for your fresh start and new beginning!

If you’ve never asked Jesus to be your savior, it’s time to step.  It’s time to say, “Goodbye” to the Egyptian captivity of your sin and begin the journey toward every one of God’s promises.  It’s time to leave your oppression and harsh treatment and time to truly live in the freedom that Jesus has bought for you.  He made a way where there was no way on your own and He invites you to start following Him on it.

If you find yourself longing for the good old days and have succumbed to grumbling, it is time to start trusting Jesus again.  It is time to take the next step; to leave the crowd headed for death in the desert and to begin following the faithful few into God’s promised future.  It’s time to get in His word and remind yourself of His promises once again.  It’s time to return to your first love with a new passion and zeal ready to obediently follow wherever He leads.

It’s time to pass over from reliance on His daily provision of new mercies and grace that is good only for that day into the overflowing abundance that His Kingdom possesses for you.  It’s time to mature beyond our crawling and milk drinking to walking and cereal eating and into running and meat eating.  It’s time to stop stalling and wandering and take the next step of faith to obedience and battle.

If you have tasted and seen God’s promises, it’s time to be like Joshua and Caleb and start encouraging the grumblers to start believing again.  It’s time to boast in the Lord and remind people how awesome He is and what He is ready to do through their lives.  It’s time to speak hope and life and encouragement.  It’s time to take the lead, to ready the army, and to start kicking the enemy out of our promises together!  It’s time to start winning some battles and gaining some victories!

Revelation 2:17a

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.

What do we hunger and thirst for? 

The Egyptian food of our captivity? 

The new manna provided every day? 

The fruits of a land flowing with milk and honey?

It’s time to pass over from craving sin to enjoying manna and finally, to getting our fill on the bread of life!  It’s time to grow and mature and develop into all that we were created to be.  It’s time to stop dabbling in the valley of indecision merely tasting and seeing God’s promises.  It’s time to put on our armor, take up our arms, and run boldly into His promises! 

It’s time to silence our own grumbling and complaining as well as those around us spreading such things and start speaking hope and faith and life to one another.  It’s time to begin building each other up and giving each other the faith that they need to join the battle and receive their victories!