As long as it works we’ll keep doing things the same way. This is in large part why we are so resistant to change. As the old proverb says, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It is precisely because of this that in God’s dealing with us He has to sometimes take away a blessing to move us on to another place He wants us to be.
There are numerous biblical examples of this. After the children of Israel spent 40 years of rising each morning to gather manna, the morning after they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, the blessing ceased. The manna stopped the day after they ate the food from the land, the produce of Canaan (Joshua 5:12). The land would not be theirs by gathering manna but by going out to conquer.
Elijah had the perfect hiding place away from the searching eyes of the murderous Jezebel. It was a place where the ravens fed him and a little brook flowed with fresh, sweet water in the time of famine. But one day the brook dried up and the ravens didn’t arrive. It was time for Elijah to move on to Zarephath where a little bit of oil and meal would rescue a lowly widow, her son and Elijah. (I Kings 17:7-16). The route to the fire falling in that great victory at Mount Carmel was not to be found by the quiet brook of safe seclusion but in the village deep in enemy territory.
Still later the disciples who had spent three incredible years with the Incarnate Son of God awoke on a Saturday morning to meet a day when their Lord lay in a tomb. Even the great news of the Resurrection would not take things back the way they used to be. It was about seven weeks later that they understood the loss of the blessing of His physical presence was now replaced with the blessing of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. Jesus said, “It is good for you that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counselor (Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). It was with the Holy Spirit’s leading that Christianity broke free from being an obscure sect of Judaism to a movement meant to conquer the world. As wonderful as Jesus’ presence had been, the salvation of the human race was not to be found in the Son staying but in the Spirit’s coming.
If you were to ask the Israelites who stubbornly went forth anyway to gather the manna on the morning it wasn’t there, they would probably tell you how nice it had been to find it every day. My, how good that manna was! And I wonder if old Elijah didn’t stare for some lingering moments at the barren rocks of his private little brook while remembering the cool, sweet water. If the water returned it would not be for him. Perhaps part of the reason the disciples were intent to write the Gospels was because they realized how choice that time with Jesus had been. They had felt His touch, heard His words and basked in His presence. They had thought they might reign on earth with Him but now . . . the Lord took them down the unexpected path.
Perhaps that is why God removes some blessings. It is as if God was saying to the Israelites, and to Elijah, and to the disciples: “You’ll never win the battle if you refuse to go out and fight it. That blessing is gone. There’s a battle to be fought and a greater blessing to be gained.”
How does this apply to the work of God? Too often we are stuck as an organization or as individuals pushing on in a way that doesn’t work anymore. When it is clear that God is no longer in the object of yesterday’s blessing, when our manna has disappeared, when the brook has dried up, when the Presence is no longer among us, it is time to move on to the greater blessing that comes after a blessing is removed. There are battles to be fought, victories to win, but not by mourning a past we simply cannot have again. It is time for God’s people to take the Jerichos that lie ahead, meet the prophets of Baal for a battle of the true God against the false gods of the age, to leave its narrow boundaries of the ancient Jerusalem to push outward to Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.