Easy to forget . . . especially when times are tough. And in that forgetfulness, while walking in the wilderness, maybe a propensity to question whether the God who once was able to deliver, is still able to continue to provide.
That’s why the songwriter wrote the song; so that “the glorious deeds of the LORD and His might, and the wonders that He has done” wouldn’t be forgotten (Ps. 78:4b). So that neither the psalmist’s generation, nor the generations to follow, would find themselves in a place of unbelief and mistrust as they questioned in their hearts, “Can God set the table?”
He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers. Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can He also give bread or provide meat for His people?
(Psalm 78:15-20 ESV)
A time in the desert was part of God’s plan of deliverance. To get from the slavery of Egypt to the milk and honey of the promised land would require a bit of a journey, and sometimes through some less than ideal conditions. Thirst, at times, should be expected. Hunger, not a surprise. But with a column of cloud before them by day, and the pillar of fire by night, they should have known from whence their help comes from.
From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
(Psalm 12:1b-3 ESV)
The wilderness not only tested them physically, but it tested their heart, as well. And most of those who walked out of Egypt failed the test. Thus, they are presented as a warning. As a “stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God . . . because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power” (78:8, 22). And thus they spoke against God, saying, “Can God really set the table?”
Short answer? Yes, He can!
Our God is able to prepare a table in the wilderness. The God who delivers is the One who invites us to dine, every day and in all circumstance. He who promised a land will faithfully provide lunch until we get there, even when getting there gets hard.
In fact, some of the most precious meals are found in the most barren of deserts when we know that God, and God alone, has provided the nourishment. Times when we are spent. Times when we have nothing left in the tank. And yet, from somewhere we are renewed in the inner man. Our spirit’s thirst quenched by rivers of living water sourced deep within through His abiding Spirit (John 7:38-30). Our soul’s hunger satisfied as it chews on the Word of God. It’s there, in barren surroundings, where God will, again and again, set the table and invite us to sup.
We might be prone to forget when times are tough, but the songwriter calls us to remember. To not be so consumed with the struggle that we forget the Savior. But to know that our God is a faithful and compassionate God who has promised never to leave us nor forsake us.
And so the question for today is not, “Can God set the table?” but, “How will God set the table?”
Believing He will by His grace. Trusting He will for His glory.