God Working on Our Behalf
August 28, 2014
By Bob Terry
Most Christians acknowledge God at work at creation; even that God worked on behalf of humanity as He brought all things into being.
One reads the powerful declaration, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). “Created” is an action word so obviously God was at work. The rest of the chapter is punctuated by the phrase “and God said ... .” Repeatedly the author uses this phrase to introduce new cycles of work as God created all things through the power of His Word.
The chapter concludes with God creating humanity — male and female — and giving them together dominion over creation itself. Humanity was different from all other creation because humanity alone was created in the image of God. It was only humankind that God invited into relationship with Himself and welcomed to join Him in continuing creation by caring for the garden in which Adam and Eve lived.
The story of creation illustrates that God works on our behalf.
The story of redemption teaches the same truth. Humanity forsook God to pursue its own selfish desires (Gen. 3:1–7). The God who had worked on humanity’s behalf in creation was abandoned for the idol of self and sin entered the world.
But God would not give up on humankind. Ultimately God worked again. His “Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). In Jesus Christ, God acted to create a new humanity (1 Cor. 15:22). When Jesus died on the cross the righteousness of God was satisfied. The price of sin was paid, not by a human being like Adam or Eve but by the Word of God that became flesh and dwelt among us, through the only begotten Son of God.
Once again God acted on behalf of humankind. He built a bridge across the chasm caused by sin that no human being could do alone. He restored the relationship of fellowship with every human being who would believe on the name of the only begotten son of God (John 3:16).
Creation and redemption demonstrate God working on behalf of all humanity. God also works on behalf of particular human beings.
Exodus 16 recounts the disheartened Israelites complaining about their conditions. They were about six weeks into their journey. The fantasy of an easy existence following their flight from Egypt was gone. So were their resources. They were hungry and out of food. The people grumbled that it would have been better to die in Egypt than to starve to death in the desert.
The passage tells how God promised to “rain down bread from heaven” every morning for the people to eat as well as quail each evening. God gave specific instructions about how much to gather and said obedience to the instructions would show how much the people trusted the Lord.
The people called the bread manna (v. 31). “It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.” Verse 35 says, “The Israelites ate manna 40 years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.”
Learning from manna
The story shows God working, this time on behalf of a particular people with a particular problem. But there is more to be learned from the story about the manna.
By the time described in Joshua 5, Joshua had succeeded Moses as leader of Israel. The Israelites had crossed the Jordan River and were at last ready to enter the “land of milk and honey” — the land promised to their forefather Abraham.
Their first campsite after crossing the Jordan River was at Gilgal. Most scholars place the site just north of Jericho between the fortress city and the river. There the Israelites observed the Passover so we know the river crossing was made in the spring of the year.
Verse 11 marks a significant change for Israel and a lesson for us. The verse says the day after the Passover, the children of Israel did not eat manna. Instead they ate “the produce of the land.” Specifically they ate unleavened bread and roasted grain.
Producing milk and honey
What they ate had been produced by the land. Even the description of the Promised Land — a land of milk and honey — implies not only abundance but also work to produce the milk and honey.
Interestingly verse 12 says, “The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna from the Israelites but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan.”
Is it coincidence that the manna stopped exactly at the time the Israelites had other options? No. God may sometimes intervene and provide miraculous solutions to our problems but the expectation is that we are to work with the resources available to solve our problems.
It is a mistake to act as if we can live by our own strength and not acknowledge our need for God. It is equally wrong to acknowledge our need for God and do nothing to solve our problems. This principle has sometimes been expressed in the quip to “pray like it all depends on God and work like it all depends on you.”
One writer explained it this way, “Our ability to produce does not arise solely from our ability or diligence but also from the resources available to us. Conversely the land does not work itself. By the sweat of our faces must we produce bread.”
As the nation turns its attention to the Labor Day holiday, it is important to look for ways God is working on our behalf today. It also is important to dedicate ourselves to the work God has given us to do. Both actions are necessary to accomplish God’s will for our lives.