|Photo by Nheyob 2014: God Feeds His People Manna in the Desert|
We had heard that a pastor we knew, and his wife and daughter, would be arriving at the camp later that day, and that they were hoping that we could show them around and help them navigate the system. I suddenly realized that I was embarrassed to meet this family here, as they were always impeccably dressed, and I only had one pair of shoes – house slippers, actually, that were dirty and threadbare inside.
But then I remembered that there was a general store of sorts, where supplies might be handed out if needed. Because inventory was limited, you might or might not be given what you requested, and once you took an item, it would be a long time before you could ask for anything again.
I walked down the long hallway, noticing the drab green paint peeling off the moldy walls, and entered the room that served as the supply station. In the corner a large Middle Eastern family huddled together, each sitting on an old-fashioned suitcase that resembled some that my mother used to keep in her attic.
A grumpy old man, bald and with glasses, peered out from behind the counter. I asked if he had any women’s shoes in size 8. He disappeared and returned carrying a large pair of quilted fabric tubes, which he threw at me.
These could hardly be considered shoes, I thought in despair. The fabric exterior, in an odd print of purple, gray and brown, would soil and wear out almost instantly on the rough, damp cement flooring. The padded quilting would keep my feet hot and sweaty, and there was nothing to support or protect my feet. Even worse, I would surely trip and fall if I wore them, for they were nearly six inches longer than my foot!
I felt chagrined that my vanity and pride had led me to make such a foolish request, for at least my old slippers fit me and had a rubber sole that protected my feet. At least they were cool and comfortable, even if ugly. Even worse, I had wasted an opportunity to get something else that the pastor's family might have needed, or perhaps the Middle Eastern family that seemed so dejected.
As I awoke and thought about the symbolism of the dream, I realized that in a sense, we are all refugees in a foreign land. Once we are born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6), earth is no longer our home.
We are just passing through, pilgrims headed homeward to Heaven (Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11), where He is preparing mansions for us (John 14:1-3) in the glorious Holy City with streets of gold, gates of pearl, and walls of precious stones (Revelation 21). Compared to that infinite beauty and glory, this world is like a detention camp.
Abraham, patriarch of God’s chosen nation Israel, and ancestor of Jesus Himself, wandered through the wilderness for forty years along with his compatriots. They were refugees from the pagan land where Abraham was a man of wealth and power, yet they left it all behind as Abraham set out on a great journey of faith. God safely led them through the desert so that Abraham’s descendants would ultimately reach the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:1-3; 15:18-21; Deuteronomy 1; 27:3; Joshua 23:5; (Hebrews 11:8).
God provided for Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham’s illegitimate son, when Abraham’s wife Sarah banished them from her household. God guided them through the wilderness of Beersheba and Paran, promising to make Ishmael the father of a great nation (Genesis 21:8-21).
Once again the Hebrew people became refugees from Egyptian bondage, led by Moses out of Egypt as God parted the waters of the Red Sea for their safe passage and escape from the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Then He led them through the wilderness of Shur, showing them the way by the brilliance of His Shekinah Glory, providing manna for them to eat and sweet water to drink (Exodus 13-16).
The Old Testament describes cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6-28), where those who had inadvertently killed someone could flee and be safe from family members of the departed who wished to avenge the death of their loved one. We are all sinners deserving eternal punishment in hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23), yet once we have trusted Christ, He is our Refuge (Psalm 9:9; 91:9), in Whom we can hide and rest assured that we will not receive eternal death that our sins deserve.
Instead, He has clothed us with the white robe of His perfect righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10), so that when His Father looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22) rather than our sins. Instead of hell, our eternal destination is now Heaven.
Even Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees, led by God through Joseph’s dream to flee Israel and to stay in Egypt until Jesus was old enough to escape the infanticide Herod had ordered (Matthew 2:13). If God provided for the Hebrews, the Holy Family, and others who were refugees, surely He will guide and protect us as we pass through this journey to our eternal home with Him!
While we are here on earth, He has appointed us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), spreading His Word, light (Philippians 2:15), truth, and love to a lost and dying world, and encouraging and uplifting one another by bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and can apportion resources as He sees fit, yet He wants us to be good stewards (1 Peter 4:10) and to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:4; Romans 12:10; 15:1).
In the dream I was selfish, not wanting to appear shabby before my friends, having my priorities completely misplaced. I should have been thinking about how to make my friends, or others who appeared to have recently arrived, more comfortable in their unfamiliar, frightening, and distressing surroundings.
I should have been a good steward, waiting to use my opportunity to request an item on something they would need rather than on something I thought I wanted but couldn’t even use. I should have had faith that you can’t outgive God, and that He will provide all your ministry needs according to His riches in glory (Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19).
As we wander through this earthly life, may we set our minds and hearts on heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) where we are already seated with Christ! While we are still here, may we use our time, resources and talents wisely to do His work, spread His Word, and encourage one another!