Okay, the best hunch is that there were somewhere between two million and five million people in the crowd. About 600,000 soldiers; assuming each of those was head of a family and had a wife, that’s 1,200,000. The Israelites tended to have large families. (Jacob would have a dozen.) It isn’t hard to come up with a number somewhere near five million.
They had been on the road about a month and both water and food were in short supply. (Gen.16) Now what? They weren’t just short on groceries, the bigger problem was that they were short on trust. Lack of food was not a problem to God, but their lack of trust, was.
I mean there were the ten plagues – supernatural in origin – that should have been evidence God could provide for their needs. Being chased by Egypt’s army, the Red Sea opened so they could walk across on dry ground, then it collapsed on the army and drowned every soldier. Those are miracles on a scale that cannot be attributed to a chance happening. But when their food supply dwindled the people turned on Moses and threatened a mutiny.
God enters the conversation and promises to “rain food down from heaven… The people can go out each day and pick up as much food as they need for that day.” They were to pick up twice as much on Friday (which wouldn’t spoil over the weekend), “and I will test them in this to see if they will follow My instructions.”
Question: Test them for whose benefit? God’s? No, He knew. The test was for their benefit. It would give them a measure of their trust in Him. Did they trust Him with the tough spots? Did they trust Him with the road ahead when they couldn’t see around the next corner? Did they believe He was a God who was powerful enough and loving enough to provide everything they needed?
That has always been the issue between God and His people. That was the test in the Garden. That was Jesus’ test in a different garden four thousand years later. Adam and Eve flunked; Jesus could say, “Not My will but Yours.” That’s the issue with the tithe. Jesus doesn’t need the first dime out of my dollar; He wants to give me the opportunity to demonstrate that I am learning to trust Him to provide as He promised. The watching universe says, “Look how God kept His promise! That’s the kind of God He is.” And that’s the key issue in this great controversy.
By Don Jacobsen