Heading for home after escaping from Egypt, two Israelite boys, Dan and Asher, learn that they must trust God to provide everything they need. God makes the water in a lake clean for them to drink and sends them bread from heaven to eat.
“Ouch! I stubbed my toe again!”
Asher looked at his brother Dan, as he hopped around clutching one of his feet, and he raised an eyebrow. “Well if you didn't drag your feet it wouldn't happen, would it?” he told him.
“I can't help dragging my feet,” Dan moaned, “we've been walking forever.”
“Don't exaggerate;” said Asher, “it's only been three days!”
“Well it seems like forever and we've nearly run out of water!”
Asher couldn't argue with that, it was true. It was only three days ago that God had rescued his people, the Israelites, from the land of Egypt. God had split the Red Sea in two so that they could run across the sea bed and then he'd sent the waters crashing back down on the Egyptian army, washing them all away. Since then the Israelites, more than two million of them, had walked and walked and walked, following their leader Moses as he led them on the long journey back to Israel. Every step took them further and further away from Egypt but deeper and deeper into the desert. In all the time they had been walking they had not found a drop to drink and now the food and water that they had brought with them from Egypt was running out.
“I'm so thirsty,” complained Dan, “my mouth is dry and my lips are all cracked.”
Asher was just about to tell his brother to stop grumbling when suddenly someone up ahead began to shout – “Water! Water!” The two brothers looked at each other and then they began to run. They ran so fast they got in front of everyone else and there in the distance they could see an oasis, a lake in the desert. They ran right up to the edge of the lake and Dan started to take of his sandals.
“Not so fast,” Asher warned him, “we should wait for the grown-ups to check that it's safe.”
“They're miles behind,” said Dan, “I'm not waiting for them” and he dived into the lake and took a great mouthful of water. In an instant he was on his feet spitting it back out. “Ugh! It's disgusting; it tastes bitter, it's worse than sea water! What are we going to drink now?”
And when everyone else caught up they all started to ask the same question. Asher looked at Moses and saw him let out a big sigh. As he watched, Moses closed his eyes and his lips began to move; he was praying. Suddenly Moses opened his eyes, picked up a piece of wood that was lying in front of him and threw it into the lake.
“What a strange thing to do,” Asher thought, “There must be a reason, God must have told him to do it.” So he bent down, scooped up a handful of water and tasted it; it wasn't bitter any more, it was sweet and refreshing. When the people realised that God had made the lake clean they all began to drink and fill up their water bottles. Asher looked up to heaven and thanked God for helping them, but everybody else seemed to be too busy thinking about themselves to think about God. Soon the lake was empty and there was nothing for it but to carry on walking.
After several days and lots more stubbed toes they came to another oasis, much bigger than the last one.
“Look Dan,” said Asher pointing, “count the lakes, there are twelve of them! God is really looking after us. There's nothing to grumble about here.”
But Asher was wrong; Dan could always find something to grumble about.
“I'm hungry. There's nothing to eat. We should have stayed in Egypt; we had had plenty to eat there.”
“Brother!” said Asher, “Have you forgotten already? We were slaves in Egypt.”
“But we weren't hungry!” Dan replied, and he wasn't the only one thinking that way.
“Why have you brought us into the desert to starve,” the people asked Moses.
“Listen, all of you!” Moses cried out, “God has heard your grumbling and in the morning he is going to rain down bread from heaven! Then you will know for sure that it was he who rescued us from Egypt.”
“Bread from heaven?” said Asher, “Amazing!”
“Bread?” Dan wailed, “Boring!”
But the next morning Dan was up as early as everyone else, waiting for the bread from heaven.
All around the camp the ground was damp, covered with a layer of morning dew. As the sun rose and the dew dried up tiny white flakes that looked like a winter frost began to appear on the desert floor.
“What is it?” asked Dan
“I think it must be the bread from heaven,” said Asher. Then he picked up a flake and ate it. “Mmm! It's delicious, it's like a sort of wafer and it tastes of honey.”
Soon everyone was tasting the flakes and they all gathered as much as they needed. Then, as the sun rose high in the sky, the flakes that were left just melted away.
“God says you must eat it all today,” Moses told the people, “Don't keep any of it until tomorrow.”
But Dan ignored Moses and put some of the flakes he'd gathered in his pocket. The next morning Dan pulled out one of the flakes and popped it into his mouth.
“Where did you get that?” asked Asher.
“I kept it from yesterday,” said Dan with his mouth full. “Funny though, it tastes different, it's not sweet any more and it's sort of chewy and, well, wriggly.”
Dan pulled the bread from his mouth and looked at it. “Ugh! It's full of maggots!”
“Serves you right,” Asher laughed, “You should have listened to God.”
That morning there were fresh flakes covering the ground around the camp and the same again on the third day and the fourth day and the fifth day. On the sixth day Moses told the people to collect enough for two days because God had said that the seventh day was to be a day for resting. But Dan didn't want to eat any more maggots, so he ate all of his flakes on the sixth day and the next morning he went out to collect more, but there were none, the ground was bare.
“Why are you looking for food today?” came a voice from behind him. Dan jumped and turned around. It was Moses. “How long will it be before you listen to God and follow his instructions?” Moses asked. “If God says we should rest on the seventh day of the week then we should rest. God made us; he knows what's best for us. Now, are you going to start trusting God like your brother?”
“I'll try,” Dan mumbled.
“Good,” said Moses, “because we have a very long journey ahead of us. Now, would you like to share some of the flakes that I collected yesterday? They don't have any maggots in them!”
“Oh, yes please!” Dan replied with a grin. Moses patted the young man on his back and the two of them walked side by side back into the camp.