Seagulls or Quail?

The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

  • Exodus 16:11-15

“John the Baptist saw a dove and believed.  James Whittaker saw a seagull and believed.  James Whittaker was a member of the hand-picked crew that flew the B-17 Flying Fortress captained by Eddie Rickenbacker. …

“Somewhere over the Pacific, out of radio range, the plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the ocean.  The nine men spent the next months floating in three rafts.  They battled the heat, the storms, and the water.  Sharks, some ten feet long, would ram their nine-foot boats.  After only eight days their rations were eaten or destroyed by saltwater.  It would take a miracle to survive.

“One morning after their daily devotions, Rickenbacker leaned his head back against the raft and pulled his hat over his eyes.  A bird landed on his head.  He peered out from under his hat.  Every eye was on him.  He instinctively knew it was a sea gull.

“Rickenbacker caught it, and the crew ate it.  The bird’s intestines were used for bait to catch fish … and the crew survived to tell the story.  A story about a stranded crew with no hope or help in sight.  A story about prayers offered and prayers answered.  A story of salvation.

“You may have heard the Rickenbacker story before.  You may have read it in one of my books.  Coreen Schweenk did.  After reading this story …, Mrs. Schweenk felt compelled to write to me.  The real miracle, she informed me, was not a bird on the head of Eddie Rickenbacker but a change in the heart of James Whittaker.  The greatest event of that day was not the rescue of a crew but the rescue of a soul.

“James Whittaker was an unbeliever.  The plane crash didn’t change his unbelief.  The days facing death didn’t cause him to reconsider his destiny.  In fact, Mrs. Whittaker said her husband grew irritated with John Bartak, a crew member who continually read his Bible privately and aloud.

“But his protests didn’t stop Bartak from reading.  Nor did Whittaker’s resistance stop the Word from penetrating his soul.  Unknown to Whittaker, the soil of his heart was being plowed.  For it was one morning after a Bible reading that the sea gull landed on Captain Rickenbacker’s head.  And at that moment Jim became a believer.

“I chuckled when I read the letter. … Amazing the lengths to which God will go to get our attention.”

  • Max Lucado, The Greatest Moments

In the Scripture, God provides quail for the Israelites to eat, and then the manna comes the next morning.  In Matthew 3:16, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove when Jesus is baptized.  Quail are one species of the dove and pigeon family.  A dove was used by Noah to find dry land.  On the second attempt, the dove returned with an olive leaf.

But a seagull?  Really?

Some may be thinking that this is a different Eddie Rickenbacker, maybe his son.  Wasn’t Rickenbacker the World War I flying ace?  What is he doing flying a B-17 in the Pacific during World War II?

To provide some historical perspective, it was the same Rickenbacker.  Rickenbacker, a World War I hero and flying ace, supported the war effort of World War II as a civilian.  He was touring the Pacific to inspect living conditions and operations.  He was also delivering a top-secret letter of rebuke to General MacArthur who had been sending nasty messages about the administration to Gen. Marshall.  The actual contents of the letter were never revealed.  Roosevelt wanted his nasty messages to stop.  Rickenbacker had drifted off course and crashed into a relatively unused part of the Central Pacific Ocean.  Only one crew member died, when he drank sea water and got sick as a result.  Seven of the eight survived for 24 days.

The last chapter of J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God, is titled “The Adequacy of God.”  When looking at God’s attributes, why devote a chapter to ‘adequacy?’  God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing, but adequate?  Really, adequacy is one of God’s greatest attributes.  Regardless of the needs of God’s people, God meets those needs.  Thus, God is adequate.  Our problem is that we want more.

In the case of Rickenbacker, he got one seagull that was equally divided among the men and some body parts saved for fish bait.  There were other things provided by God, like little fingerlings that they scooped with their hands from the sea.  There was enough sporadic rain water for most of the men to survive.  They were dehydrated, but they lived to tell the tale.

My wife and I have told of how God kept us financially afloat after I left South Carolina and moved to the NASA project in Mississippi.  We could not sell our home in South Carolina for two and a half years.  We were to the point of being unable to make payments, since we had to make rent payments in Mississippi as well.  We told the real estate agent that we give up.  We were going to turn in the keys.  She protested and made a payment for us, and a pastor of a church bought the house the next month.  We paid the agent back for her generous provision and we were able to get rid of a financial nightmare.  We marveled over how God had waited for that last moment.  God is just in time and He is adequate.

Will God grant you quail or a seagull?  Will your house sell quickly, or will it take longer?  In what ways does God provide in your life?

You never know when God will reveal Himself to you.  You just have to be looking.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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