But Moses said, “The people among whom I am number six hundred thousand on foot, and you have said, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month!’ Shall flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, and be enough for them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, and be enough for them?” And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”
Some time ago, my wife and I took our then two-year-old daughter to the beach for the first time since she’d been able to walk. I was not sure how she would respond to the sand and the waves. Excitement? Nervousness? Paralyzing fear? Some children are terrified by the vastness of the ocean, its waves, and the creatures that live in it (thanks to Finding Nemo’s shark, Bruce, and the Little Mermaid’s villain, Ursula…among others) but not our little girl. Brynn loved the sand, the shells, the waves; she was virtually fearless. She was even strangely fond of the recurrent birds circling overhead, waiting for her small hands to fumble goldfish or PB&J or yogurt-covered raisins. At one point, she demanded I try to catch a bird. Being a good father, I obliged. I’m sure you can imagine the scene—a barefoot father running back and forth leaping in the air with outstretched arms, trying to grab a bird as my daughter giggled, demanded another try, pointed, and giggled again. She couldn’t understand why the birds were so hard for me to capture. They were just out of my reach. How do you explain our physiological differences except to say that Dad’s arms were too short? She wanted a bird, but my arms couldn’t make it happen. I was willing but clearly unable.
This disconnect is similar to Israel’s situation in the wilderness except “Dad” is quite different. Never before that day had Brynn seen her father catch a bird. My arms had always been too short. But Israel! O Israel! She had witnessed her Father exceedingly willing and abundantly able to provide. She had witnessed the strength and length of His arms through the plagues, at the shore of the sea, with the manna falling from the sky in the wilderness. Time and time again, His arm proved long enough and swift enough and strong enough to deliver them and provide. And every time, the provisions were exceedingly above what they imagined. Every insurmountable foe—whether it be Pharaoh or hunger—had been surmounted. Yet here they are again—led by their deliverer Moses—questioning the power and reach of God. Can His arms provide what His people need?
There is a similar story in the New Testament about Jesus feeding more people than any reasonable person (or disciple) would think possible to feed. Five loaves and two fish for 5,000 men, not including women and children? Impossible. Again the question resounds: can His arms provide what His people need? And yet we are told as the wait staff cleared the tables that “they all ate and were satisfied, and they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over” (Matthew 14:20).
Of course His arms can provide what His people need. Bread from the sky? Meat in the wilderness? Bread and fish for thousands? Not a problem for our God; His arm is long, and His heart is wide. Satisfaction for your starving soul? Yes! His arm is able and wiling for you, today.
What might be troubling you this day? Do not let life make your God into a feeble father trying to capture birds with shortened arms. Instead, be aware that our trials are temporary and His arms permanent. We doubt, grumble, and question, but God’s arm is not too short; neither has it been shortened. His outstretched arms can provide what His people need. His outstretched arms have provided what His people needed most. His arms bore our sins on the tree so that we might die and yet exceedingly and abundantly live. His arms suffered the curse of sin for us that we might exceedingly and abundantly inherit the promise of blessing. His arms burst the bonds of death and the gates of hell that we might exceedingly and abundantly taste newness of life. Though our perspective tends to be shortsighted, His arms never fail to be out-stretched.