They had all been waiting for this very day - waiting forty years to be exact! Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan and into the land they were to inherit. God promised them the land, and God had promised them victory over all their enemies. They needed to trust him, fight their battles, and prevail. But the promises also brought change, and change as an idea is very different than change experienced as a daily challenge.
Change is inevitable.
When something new enters, something familiar departs. This change hit the Israelites in a very practical, daily way.
On that very day, they ate of the produce of the land. Wait for it: And the manna ceased (Joshua 5:11-12).
Make no mistake: it was a great day! Their taste buds must have been on overdrive. Imagine tasting a peach after forty years of manna granola, or think of savoring a juicy steak after a lifetime of manna bread. Fried eggs, butter, lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, grapes, wine, and a hundred other spices and flavors they had never tasted. You can imagine them running from food truck to food truck at the Taste of Israel Extravaganza - a land flowing with milk and honey, and no more manna!
Change brings challenges.
But wait! The next day they learned that there was a hidden price behind all this produce. There was no more manna on the ground outside the tent just appearing miraculously overnight without planning or labor. Israel awoke the next morning to the reality that produce, livestock, fruit, and vines require care and cultivation.
Fruit or grain eaten today doesn’t magically reproduce itself in the storehouse tomorrow. It must be planted, stewarded, harvested, and stored.
That requires work, intentionality, tools, and sweat. Post-manna living meant a radical change for Israel. They went from being gatherers to growers. From finders to farmers. From collectors to cultivators. Their whole lifestyle was radically changed. No more manna.
Change has also arrived in the church.
This is a fitting parable for the living church in America. For most of our lives, it’s been easy to be gatherers. We gather together and invite others to gather with us. For the most part, people have responded and ministries have expanded. We have lived in a culture unlike any other for its benign tolerance of our faith. We thank God for that! Though we have seen a great deal of erosion away from a Judeo-Christian worldview, we have been largely unaffected in our own homes and environments. But that has changed! The age of manna has ended, and the living church is entering a new era.
Change requires a new strategy.
Farming the land for Israel required the acquisition of a whole new set of tools, rhythms, and tasks. Their harvest was less certain, the workload increased, and there was much to learn about agronomy and animal husbandry.
So, too, does cultivating the hard soil of post-modern America require a new mindset, teachability, and resolve.
We will need to be much more strategic, nimble, and resilient. With the increasing incursions of government, the fears of the pandemic, and the woke mentality, our assumptions about the ease and abundance of “doing church” will need to shift.
Change brings growth.
This will deepen the body of Christ. We will learn to use new tools. We will need to pay closer attention to the environment around us. We will learn patience, skills, and prayer. When God chose to stop the manna, he was ushering his children into a new stage of maturity. So it is today with the threats and restrictions against what we have always thought to be normal.
Jesus is still building his church! We can moan about the loss of manna, or we can learn to embrace the new territory God is inviting us to conquer.
His people will find new joys and new solidarity as we learn a whole new type of dependence on the Lord of the Harvest. He is sending us as his workers into that harvest. We can walk into this new day with joy and confidence.
Check out the Daniel sermon series for more on Taking a stand through life's shifts and changes: