"Forty years (O God), You sustained them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell."
'Tis the season... to give & receive gifts. All of us are in the midst of it, right? As we prepare for Christmas (only 10 days away!), we've all got our lists, don't we? People we need to shop for. And in many cases, we love doing it - because these people are special to us, and it brings us joy to be able to bless them. The other list I've been trained to make is the post-December25th list (aka the "Thank You" list). My mother trained me early on of the importance of acknowledging the gifts I've been given.
The 9th chapter of Nehemiah is like one giant "THANK YOU" note to God! The priest Ezra is recounting the wondrous deeds of God... how He's richly blessed his people over countless generations. A lot of it can be classified under "the big stuff" (ie. created heaven & earth, gave us life, made covenant with Abraham, divided the Red Sea, manna in the wilderness, etc.). These are the miracles. The one-of-a-kind moments that become seared into the consciousness of a people.
But there are some other thank yous. Ones that aren't quite so flashy. Ezra notes that during the 40 years in the wilderness (post-Exodus), God set it up so their clothes didn't wear out and their feet didn't swell. To be honest, I don't know if I've ever given thanks for those two specific things.
Now, given the reality of their situation - wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years, both of those problems were distinct possibilities. Clothes do wear out - especially out in "the elements" of the wilderness. And it's not like the Hebrews could just pop over to The Gap (or Banana Republic!) and pick up a few more cargo shirts. Plus, swollen feet are a given when one is doing as much walking as htey were. Yet, neither was an issue for the Israelites.
Did they recognize these simple gifts at that time? I don't know. But I've recently started having some calf/achilles muscle problems during my weekly basketball activities. I never really appreciated what a joy it was to be able to play ball without aches & pains (and injuries). Now I sure do! Simple gifts. They're all around us. And if you're anything like me, you can do a bit more to recognize them... and express gratitude to The One Who Bestows Abundant Blessings! AMEN.