Reader: “It is the food . . .”
Response: “the Lord has given you to eat.”
Scripture: Exodus 16:9-21
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Announce this to the entire community of Israel: ‘Present yourselves before the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’” And as Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the Lord in the cloud.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was.
And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat. These are the Lord’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.”
So the people of Israel did as they were told. Some gathered a lot, some only a little. But when they measured it out, everyone had just enough. Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough. Each family had just what it needed.
Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it until morning.” But some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. But by then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. Moses was very angry with them.
After this the people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need. And as the sun became hot, the flakes they had not picked up melted and disappeared.
Reader: The Word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
This passage from Exodus is the iconic picture of humanity! I’m going to back up a bit to bring this portion into context. The Israelites were freed from 430 years of slavery to the Egyptians a month ago. They had just left an oasis and were continuing on towards the Promised Land, the land God had given them. These people, a million plus strong, were complaining about Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. In the people’s words “we sat around in Egypt with pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted!” They were slaves! They didn’t sit around at a barbecue! Complaining often blinds us to reality and tends to feed more complaining, which was true for these people. Moses was quick to remind them their gripe was against God, not against him and his brother. Moses wanted no part of the crabbing! The Lord then told Moses his plan which was to give the Israelites food one day at a time, just the amount they needed for that day. Then the day before the Sabbath, they should take a double portion because God would provide no manna on the Sabbath. God was resting that day and they should too. So far so good. Then we come to the passage you just read. Aaron passed God’s words and plan along to the people. They had been complaining about meat and bread and God provided both, even with the same words of their complaint! (All the bread you want . . .) And the point? “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” And that phrase is the point. The awesome glory of God in the cloud was a visual, physical reminder to the people of God’s continued presence with them. Notice God provided exactly what they needed and the amount they needed. They had to trust him for each day’s need. If they got greedy, the food spoiled. If they got lazy, they went hungry. And of course some tried both ways as the passage continues on after the portion you read. This account of the desert wanderings has a very clear point. We are to learn to turn to the Lord each day for sustenance. The purpose is to learn to rely on him for the immediate present. Don’t worry about next week. Go to him daily for relationship and for nourishment. He will always provide. And quit complaining imagining things are better in another situation. Have you ever noticed that complaining is always self-focused? P.S. That entire generation to a person, 500-600,000 people died in the desert, never arriving in what God had promised them. In our pastor’s words from last Sunday’s sermon, “the Israelites turned what should have been an eleven day journey into the Promised Land into a thirty-eight year death march.” And all because they could not trust the Lord one day at a time.
Music: “To God Be the Glory” Sissel by Andrae Crouch
If you let it keep running after this video, there are additional videos of her singing this piece at different years in her life. A gorgeous voice. Not to be missed.
Almighty God, forgive my doubt, my anger, my complaining, my pride, my greed, my selfishness, my sinful thoughts, my impatience, my laziness . . . Lord, you get the idea. I am a sinner through and through. Lord Jesus, help me learn to live with a grateful heart, a patient heart, a trusting heart, a clean heart, a tender heart, a truthful heart, a heart more like yours as you live in and through me. By your grace and nourishment I will endeavor to continue the journey through the desert of this world until I cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, the Land you have prepared for all your children. In the name of the one who is the Bread of Life, even Jesus my Savior. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp