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A Table in the Desert

When David arrived at Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Ammonite Rabbah, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim brought beds and blankets, bowls and jugs filled with wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey, and curds and cheese from the flocks and herds. They presented all this to David and his army to eat, “because,” they said, “the army must be starved and exhausted and thirsty out in this wilderness.” 2 Samuel 17.27-29.

Mahanaim is about 30 miles to the north-east of Jerusalem as the crow flies. It lies across the Jordan and besides the River Jabbok which flows from the east down into the Jordan. What is King David doing there? He is on the run from his son Absalom who has turned the people against him and usurped his throne. Now Absalom is preparing to do battle with David and the troops who have fled with him and remain loyal to him. But David and his men are hardly in a fit state for battle after their flight through the wilderness; they are “starved and exhausted and thirsty”.

Yet now, unexpectedly and out of nowhere, come Shobi, Makir and Barzillai bringing every possible provision for David and his men. And so, as Absalom’s forces amass against him, David and his men are able to eat their fill of good things. Centuries earlier, the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land had asked “Can God spread a table in the desert?” (Psalm 78.19). Now David knows the answer. Indeed, is not this the time he is remembering when later, in the twenty-third Psalm, he pens the words: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”? (Psalm 23.5)

The fact is that God always does provide for his own; and often, as in this instance, the provision arrives from a completely unexpected source and at a time when it seems impossible that any help should come at all. I can testify to the truth of that in my own life, over and over again. Wherever I am in this world, I need to remember that the name of that place — however bad it may seem — is always Yahweh-Yir’eh — “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22.14) … because I always have that great promise of Philippians 4.19 to hold onto: “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have never failed me. I pray today for anyone reading this who is in need that they too may know your wonderful and timely provision. Amen.

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