"What is it?"
It’s the first thing out of your mouth when the phone wakes you up in the middle of the night. You know something’s very wrong for them to be calling now. So you ask.
The doctor calls you into his office to talk about something "interesting" he found on your recent test results. You can’t help but ask.
It’s the question the Israelites asked when they saw some strange bread-like stuff on the ground in the morning. "What is it?" The interesting thing is — the answer to all those questions is the same. Read our text and notice how God answers. His words: "Then you will know that I am the LORD, your God." Three times he says that. But did they get it? Not so much. Sadly, all too often, neither do we.
You see, in just the past month, God had sent 10 miraculous plagues to rescue them from slavery in Egypt, saved them from the pursuing Egyptian army by splitting the sea and bringing his people through on dry land just before drowning Egypt’s army right behind them in that same sea. And then, when they complained about bad water in the desert — God miraculously made it sweet and then brought them to a spot to camp with 12 springs… in the desert! You’d think the Israelites would get the picture that God was able to take care of them, right?
But no. This is what they said: "You have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death." How slow can they be to figure out who God is? It’s almost shocking, isn’t it?
Or is it? What did you do with the news you heard on the other end of that phone line? Or what was your reaction when the doctor said there was nothing they could do? Or when your loved one died, or the car breaks down, or the mortgage gets behind, or the job went away or the pay was cut, whatever it is that happened to you? Ask the question: What is it? What are al these things? Sure it might be something we never wanted to happen, but deep down, what is it?
It is an opportunity. It, whatever it is, is an opportunity to remember who is really in control. It’s an opportunity to remember the Lord — the same one who had done so much for the Israelites in the preceding month — the same Lord who has done so much for you. Think about it. Just today, he has given you breath to breathe and blood to flow, energizing your body parts. Just today, he has opened your eyes to see and given you a mind to be able to read this paper.
But that’s not even the big stuff. Romans 8 says: "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" I know you hear it all the time, but don’t take it for granted, don’t gloss over it, or else you’ll end up like those Israelites grumbling as if God doesn’t love you, as if hasn’t forgiven you, as if he didn’t have power to cure the cancer or fix the car or fill the pocketbook to overflowing, and provide and protect and all the rest. He gave his son. He can handle all those things, and in fact, he’s going to do even better than what we ask.
What is it? No matter what it is — what is it? It is a reason to trust in God. It is something through which God will show us his love. It is an opportunity to lean that much more on him. So no matter what happens, don’t forget to ask the question the Israelites did and to hear God’s answer. "What is it?" "Then we will know that He is the Lord."
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.