Thoughts from Rev Debbie van Welie

No stockpiling in the desert

Not only the physical, but also the mental, emotional and spiritual vulnerabilities of each human being are being exposed at this time of the pandemic. Such exposures to strong opponents are what the stories in the bible often are about: missions impossible.

CVD19 is the Goliath who was scoffing at the physically unprotected young shepherd David. It is both the Egyptian pharaoh who killed Israel’s baby boys and king Herod, who did the same as a way of making sure that the baby boy that was born in the stable would be killed with them. Opponents, in all their different forms and characters, are presented to us to show that they aim to destroy life; life created for the purpose of loving. Self-isolating in the desert to spend time alone with His heavenly Father, Jesus was challenged by God’s enemy to turn stones into bread, when bread was precisely what He needed, physically. However, no luck for the devil due to Jesus’s choice to stay firm, in complete harmony with God. Isolated in the desert, Israel was instructed not to stockpile the bread from heaven, manna, but to take what they needed for each day, while on the sixth day they also had to take the portion for the Sabbath. An exercise in putting trust in His strength, care and plan.

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (Exodus 16:4-6)

Let us be encouraged by these words to continue to have hope for the future. The same Lord who brought Israel out of Egypt will bring us out of the grip of CVD19, but not without the many, who risk their own health by carrying on doing what they have to do: caring for the vulnerable, under the most difficult circumstances. We are urged to care for these carers, by keeping ourselves within the restrictions that are put in place for the purpose of opposing the spreading of the virus, and minimising the risk to become ill. It is of crucial importance to let the boundaries, within which we find ourselves, be what they are: protection of ourselves and others, while recognizing them as such and letting them determine what we do.

The passage about the generous gift of manna in the desert shows that restrictions as instruction is nothing new. It was put in place by God for Him to see, ‘whether they will walk in my law or not’. That law was, is and remains the law of love:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So it is not different now. In God’s law, ‘loving our neighbour’ is a consequence of loving Him first. Put in a certain order, the two go hand in hand. By letting this law be what it is, while letting it shape our thoughts, words and actions, we help our Loving Carer to care for both ourselves and others.

Deborah van Welie