Friday, March 25, 2011

Exodus 16:1-21

1Then they left Elim and journeyed into the Sin Desert, between Elim and Mount Sinai. They arrived there a month after leaving Egypt. 2There, too, the whole community of Israel spoke bitterly against Moses and Aaron.
 3”Oh, that we were back in Egypt,” they moaned. “It would have been better if the LORD had killed us there! At least there we had plenty to eat. But now you have brought us into this desert to starve us to death.”
 4Then the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. The people can go out each day and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether they will follow my instructions. 5Tell them to pick up twice as much as usual on the sixth day of each week.”
 6Then Moses and Aaron called a meeting of all the people of Israel and told them, “In the evening you will realize that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7In the morning you will see the glorious presence of the LORD. He has heard your complaints, which are against the LORD and not against us. 8The LORD will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us.”
 9Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say this to the entire community of Israel: `Come into the LORD’s presence, and hear his reply to your complaints.’ “10And as Aaron spoke to the people, they looked out toward the desert. Within the guiding cloud, they could see the awesome glory of the LORD.
 11And the LORD said to Moses, 12”I have heard the people’s complaints. Now tell them, `In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’ “
 13That evening vast numbers of quail arrived and covered the camp. The next morning the desert all around the camp was wet with dew. 14When the dew disappeared later in the morning, thin flakes, white like frost, covered the ground. 15The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked.
 And Moses told them, “It is the food the LORD has given you. 16The LORD says that each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person.”
 17So the people of Israel went out and gathered this food—some getting more, and some getting less. 18By gathering two quarts for each person, 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.
 19Then Moses told them, “Do not keep any of it overnight.” 20But, of course, some of them didn’t listen and kept some of it until morning. By then it was full of maggots and had a terrible smell. And Moses was very angry with them.
 21The people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need. And as the sun became hot, the food they had not picked up melted and disappeared.

Points of Interest:
• ‘the Sin Desert’—this has no connection to our English word sin.

• ‘between Elim and Mount Sinai’—they are making their way back to Sinai, the mountain where Moses saw the burning bush. God had promised Moses that he would return there with all of the people to worship him. In hero’s journey terms, they’re still on the road back.

• ‘At least there we had plenty to eat’—perhaps, after a month, they’re reaching the end of the supplies they were able to bring with them out of Egypt. There being many thousands of them in a barren desert, it’s true that finding enough food is a matter of genuine concern. However, one would think that they would have some inkling by now that God might be able to provide for them. Somehow, they are unable to turn their amazement and gratitude over God’s past intervention into confidence during the current crisis. The faith they had after the parting of the sea has quickly dissipated. Because they have a hard time remembering God’s faithfulness and retaining their trust in him, they face each new obstacle on the edge of despair.

• ‘twice as much as usual on the sixth day’—the seventh day is the day of rest; so they are supposed to prepare twice as much food the day before.

• ‘What is it?’—from here on out, this bread is known as manna, which means, ‘What is it?’

• ‘Each family had just what it needed’—God demonstrates how well he knows them and how well he is able to take care of them. Everybody has exactly what they need.

• ‘But, of course, some of them didn’t listen’—apparently, they’re not quite convinced that the bread will keep coming; so they try to protect themselves from the coming famine.

Taking it home:
For you: Manna only lasted for a day; after that it turned kind of ugly. Sometimes, God gives us something that works for a certain season of our lives; but when we come to a new day, we need a new gift from God. Is there some life strategy you’ve used that used to be great, but doesn’t seem to be working anymore? Ask God to provide something new for this new phase of life.

For your six: When God gives the people the manna, they don’t even know what it is. It takes Moses to tell them that it is the bread they asked for. Sometimes, it takes someone else to point out something that God has done in our lives. If you see a way that God has met the needs or answered the prayers of any of your six, share what you’ve seen with them.

For our church: Moses is wise enough to know that the complaints of the people are against God, not himself; and he’s secure enough not to respond defensively. As we pursue our mission in this city, we’re sure to face criticism: some of that criticism will come because of some fault on our part; some of it will actually be complaints against God. Pray that God would give us the wisdom to know the difference between the two, and the security to respond with gentleness and confidence.