The title of this post, in modern English, would read, “Has the LORD’s arm been shortened?” However, I like the quaintness of the King James version’s, “waxed short.”
What does that mean?
In the book of Numbers, chapter 11, God recorded the story of how the Israelites complained in the desert because they only had manna to eat day-in and day-out. They missed “the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” Moses appealed to the Lord, who promised to send meat, “not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the LORD who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?'”
Not long after, there came “a wind out from the LORD, and it brought quail from the sea and left them fluttering near the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and about a day’s journey on the other side, all around the camp, and about two cubits above the surface of the ground. And the people stayed up all that day, all night, and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers); and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was aroused against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very great plague. So they called the name of that place Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had yielded to craving.”
All the time, God could have given them meat to eat, if He had wanted to. At first, Moses had trouble envisioning that possibility, and said to God, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot [my note: if you include women and children, there were probably more than a million people]; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to provide enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to provide enough for them?”
Then the Lord responded:
“Has the LORD’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not” (Numbers 11:23).
What God said would happen, happened. He was not limited in any way. A million people or more to provide with meat–not a problem. I believe there are two lessons here for us:
1)The Lord is fully capable of providing for all our needs.
2)We need to be content with the way in which He provides for our needs, and not complain about His provision.
First, let’s talk about how God can provide for all our needs.
As parents to six children (the sixth is still in the womb), we are sometimes confronted with the remark, “Well, it’s alright for you to have that many children…IF you can afford it.” Is that biblical thinking, or is that humanistic thinking? We believe that if (a)children are a blessing from God, as the Scriptures say (Psalm 127:3-5), and if (b)God controls conception and the consequent formation of each tiny human being in the womb, as the Scriptures also say (Psalm 139:13-16), and if (c)God is capable of providing for all our needs, THEN (d)we don’t need to worry about whether we will be able to provide for that many children, or not. It’s not that we are not in tune with reality, but rather, that we are profoundly aware of the fact that God’s hand is not shortened in the midst of whatever circumstance we may be going through!
Just recently, I was worried (yes, I know, even despite all I say, I was worried) about where we were going to get the money to pay for more than a thousand dollars of bills and other expenses, even though my husband works very hard to provide for our family. I actually cried about it, even as I prayed. It felt like too big of a problem for me. Then, God provided more than enough money to pay for every single one of those needs! How happy I feel! I have been reminded that, “The earth is the LORD’s and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). God owns everything, so He has no trouble moving a little bit of money (or a lot of money) from one place to another, from one hand to another.
I know that there are those of you who have mountains of bills totaling perhaps tens of thousands of dollars. Perhaps you are in debt because you mis-spent your money. In that case, you must learn to be more responsible with your resources, and live within your means, not depending upon credit cards. If you submit your spending habits to God’s ways, He will help you get out of that debt, eventually.
Other people are in debt through no fault of their own, but perhaps are dealing with medical bills and emergencies that they had no may of knowing would pop up. Trust in God’s provision! He will take care of you, if you trust in Him, and you ask Him to!
“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
The second point I want to make, is that we should be content with the way in which God provides for us. The Israelites were unhappy with manna; they wished God would give them a menu with more variety. Well, He could have, couldn’t He? So, why didn’t He? I don’t know the answer to that, but perhaps it was because manna was what was best for them, at the time. Perhaps it was a test, too, to see if they would have a good attitude about it. After all, their tummies were full, weren’t they? And weren’t their bodies being nourished properly?
But isn’t that what we do, too? Don’t WE complain when we don’t have what we want? We aren’t happy when our needs are being barely provided for (even though that provision really is enough to cover our basic needs), but expect that God will always shower us with gifts in abundance. He could, couldn’t He? Then why doesn’t He? Maybe, the way in which He is providing for us is what is best for us, at the time. Or, maybe it is a test, to see if we will have a good attitude about it. Another consideration, is that when we are aware of our needs, we turn our eyes to God, instead of trusting in “uncertain riches”!
The Bible says:
“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11b-13).
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Will the Christian sometimes suffer scarcity? Yes, according to the Bible. Our lives here on earth are not meant to be comfy and cushy. However, we know that when we ask God to help us, He listens. He is capable of causing our cups to overflow with blessings! And even when He, in His wisdom, only fills the cup just barely to the rim, we know that He is still caring for us, in the way that is best for us, at the time. We must learn to give thanks in everything!
Sometimes, I will hear people complain about how “expensive” children are: first are the diapers and clothes; then come school tuition, expensive toys, sports, dance and music lessons; and later on, cars, college, and weddings. Whew! What a lot of money! Better to have only one or two children so we can be able to afford all of that, right? Well, who said that we need all that stuff? The Bible says that “God shall supply all your need,” not all your want!
I save all of my children’s clothes to be passed down from the bigger children to the smaller children. And you know what? The little ones are actually excited to get to wear older brother’s or sister’s clothes! They don’t feel left out because they don’t get a wardrobe of new clothes just for themselves every year. We homeschool our children, which saves on tuition and transportation. Obviously, I stay home with them, which saves on paying for childcare–and my children are happy to be at home! They hardly ever get sick, either. They aren’t involved in sports, or music or dance lessons. I know that sounds sad to some; but, they have fun riding their bikes outside, playing games with each other, playing on the piano we have here at home, drawing pictures, reading books, and using their imaginations. My husband and I almost never go out on dates (how horrible, right?) But, we always make time to talk to each other about our day. If the children are being noisy, we take a short walk in front of our house, or we go to our bedroom, or we simply sit down at the table, and let them know that we don’t want any interruptions for a little while. It works! I don’t feel neglected by my husband, and I certainly don’t feel that I’m lacking alone time with him. I could go on and on about all the ways that we are saving money by not doing things the way most other people do. And…we’re happy! Sure, there are certain things that I wish I had, that I don’t have now. But, who says I won’t ever have them? Maybe one of these days, God will give them to me! And even if not, the most important thing is not to get everything I want, but “to [learn] in whatever state I am, to be content.”