Azaria stood at the entrance of her tent. The evening air was cool on her sun kissed skin. Though the sun had faded beneath the horizon, her face was still pink from it’s touch. A breeze gently tossed tendrils of hair around her face. What a welcome relief after weeks of wandering. She looked down at her feet, dirty and calloused. She removed one sandal and pressed her toes into the cool sand. Scanning the horizon of tents and small crackling fires, she listened to mothers sing their children to sleep and elders gather to pray.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched a single family return from the endless desert plane. Stumbling through the darkness, the eldest child dropped a basket of freshly gathered bread, scattering it in every direction. Bread might not have been the word for it but it was manna none the less. She had discovered it herself earlier that morning as she walked with her father, Shalev. Out for morning prayers, she trailed silently behind her father, sleep still plaguing her eyes. With each step, the familiar earth began to lose it’s firmness. She stopped, eyes widening, and called to her father. Turning at the concern in his daughters voice, Shalev looked down and exclaimed, “Manna! Manna! The Lord is faithful to provide!”
As the rest of the nation rose to the sunrise, so did cries of praise. The Lord had heard their grumbling stomachs and answered their prayers. Manna from heaven.
She watched now in the fading light as the children gathered the last of the fallen bread. She felt uneasy watching them and wanted to intervene but something stopped her. Her father had found her hours earlier stuffing manna into her cloak. He asked her to return what she had gathered. Confused, she exclaimed it was for later. Looking in to her deep brown eyes he saw her fear and recognized his own. Would the Lord provide yet another day as he had done this day. Would the miracle continue? Even here, in the wilderness?
The words of the elders echoed in his head, “Take only for the day at hand. Do not store up for the next or shame will come upon your household. This is the command of the Lord.”
He knelt beside her and stroked her cheek. “My child, we must trust the Lord will provide daily bread.” He held out his hands to receive that which she had gathered. She hesitated for only a moment but presented it. Together they returned it to the earth.
She watched as the family disappeared behind burlap doors. Searching her heart for peace. She looked beside her and noticed her families woven baskets. The pattern of reeds braided together with skill was distinctly her mothers. Browned by the sun, she noted bread crumbs at the bottom of the basket. She knelt down and turned it to it’s side, brushing the crumbs out and into the sand. She placed it back in the stack. Hearing her mothers call she returned to the tent.
The night felt like a heavy hand on the camp. Once tall, rolling fires were now small piles of dancing coals. Lullabies became hushed whispers. A Holy People lay to rest that night with desperate and expectant faith. Hopeful the Lord would provide manna for the next day.