Melons or Manna?

  • Pete Johnson

We’re well into our fourth week of a different life. The impact of the Coronavirus has affected all of us in different ways. The challenge is not necessarily getting through it; one way or another this too will pass, but how are our attitudes and actions as we go through it?

Way back yonder, when I was in Junior High School, in the swamps of Bayou George, I had a friend, Jim. His family was very well off, financially that is. Growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. Neither of them possessed a High School diploma, we didn’t live in an affluent neighborhood.

On occasion I would be allowed to stay the weekend with Jim and his family, and what a weekend it would be! There would be snacks after we came home from school, their T.V. had more than three channels! We would have pizza and Coke for supper, then desert! All this, and it wasn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas!

But the fun didn’t stop there! We awoke at our leisure on Saturday morning, we had sweetened cereal (Peanut Butter Cpt. Crunch), with milk and got to eat it in front of that TV again. Then we would go to the mall, just to hang out, what a novel idea!  To sweeten the moment, Jim’s Dad would give us money, to eat in the food court and the rest to spend on whatever. That evening was once again something to remember, snacks, subs from Subway, ice cream, and TV.

My visits to the “promised land” were short-lived. Soon my overnighters at Jim’s were cut off. Now before you start thinking into this too much it wasn’t Jim’s parents who cut it off. Operation “out of Bayou George”, was shut down by my mom! So why was that you ask?  Well, coming back from participating with Jim in his “extravagant lifestyle” and into the “reality” of mine, seemed awfully harsh and quite unfair. Here in Bayou George I was forced to live without some of the necessities of life such as Coca-Cola, snacks, delivered pizza, whole milk, and Peanut Butter Cpt. Crunch!

Soon, things became too much for me. As I sat at the dinner table with a plate of black-eyed peas, sliced tomatoes, a buttermilk biscuit, and a glass of sweet iced tea, I began to long for those weekends at Jim’s. When I had to get up at the ridiculous hour of 8 am on Saturdays to do chores, eat oatmeal with Carnation Instant Milk, eggs and biscuits for breakfast, and having to go back to a TV with only three channels… my attitude began to mutate into that of a carping adolescent, my manners began to transform into a thankless brat. I began to mumble and complain about what I thought was the right way to do things. I even attempted to influence my siblings with my “knowledge” about it all. Disdain had set in toward my parents, “why have you brought me back into this wilderness… to die?”, I lamented.

For a time, I resented that my parents either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide for me in a way I thought they should have. Life back at Jim’s was better than this; and my attitude toward my loving, hard-working parents exhibited that. However, my parents held to a particular southern tradition that brought my way of thinking around to theirs!

Something quite similar happened to the children of Israel. God had provided a mighty deliverance out of the bondage of Egypt. This was a deliverance that they had waited on for over 400 years.

They had seen firsthand the power of God at work in their deliverance and provision, yet soon after they crossed through the Red Sea, they begin to bellyache, grumble and spread their contempt.

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:2–3).

Things had become quite different from their days in Egypt. In Egypt they had houses, they had their own neighborhood in the land of Goshen, they had plenty of food and things they enjoyed, even though they were slaves.

The more time they spent away from Egypt, the more they seemed to grumble and complain about what they didn’t have anymore, and the way things “should be” instead of thanking God for what he had provided for them.

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.  But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at (Numbers 11:4–6).


But before we criticize; how are we doing with our bellyaching and complaining? Are we desiring the Melons over the Manna? Are we complaining about how things used to be, what we used to be able to do, and where we used to be able to go, and what we should be doing? 
Is our attitude regarding this circumstance portraying Christ to a lost and dying world, to our children? Or, is our attitudes becoming a tool for the devil?

We need to be careful, because if we don’t stop to look at what the Lord has provided and be thankful for it when we get through all of this we may find that we have been so ungrateful, so discontent, that we don’t even have what we used to have before all of this started. What we will do then?   

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

(Count your Blessings, Johnson Oatman, Jr. 1897)

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).