Prayer for the day
Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.
Scripture for the day
Every day as I drive home from work there is a man who walks between stopped cars at the red light. He has a small, hand-made sign that says “homeless…need food.” People stopped at the light suddenly find much interest in their dashboards, their phones, their purses, or anything else, in order to avoid eye contact with the man. Some windows are rolled down, and a reluctant dollar is passed.
Begging is not pretty.
It’s difficult for those who have to do it, and uncomfortable for those on the receiving end. Yet as uncomfortable as we can be with someone begging of us, God seems to have to endure it all the time in the Bible.
In the First Testament story today, the people are tired of eating plain old manna (the super-naturally abundant, God-given source of nutrients without which they would die) and so complain to Moses. They beg him for something different, for some meat. They whine and complain about their lot in life, and how miserable they are, how much better off they were as slaves in Egypt (short memory!).
In the book of Mark, another begging story confronts us. A man is possessed by many demons, and the demons (THE DEMONS!) beg Jesus not to send them to the abyss where they belong, but into a herd of pigs.
In each of the cases, with whining and begging, amazingly, God answers. God responds. He responds to the Israelites with distaste and anger, but also, with provision. Incredibly, God gives them what they’re begging for. With the demons (again, THE DEMONS) Jesus gives them what they ask.
In the end, neither really gets what they NEED. They beg, but they beg for things that will not ultimately satisfy them. In the story of the Israelites, the meat brings plague with it. In the story of the demons, the pigs they inhabit run into the water and drown.
So what’s the point? That God will give us whatever we want?
I don’t think so. I think the point of these two is less about what God will give and more about the spirit with which we ask. You’ve doubtless heard the phrase “be careful what you wish for.” These two stories exemplify that principle perfectly. Before we ask, let’s do the hard work of determining whether or not we actually know what it is we’re asking for, and whether we’re willing to brave the consequences that come if we get it.