Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reflections on Exodus 16

    Exodus 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. On the fifteenth day of the second month after the Israelites had escaped from Egypt, they left Elim and started through the western edge of the Sinai Desert in the direction of Mount Sinai.
  2. There in the desert they started complaining to Moses and Aaron,
  3. "We wish the LORD had killed us in Egypt. When we lived there, we could at least sit down and eat all the bread and meat we wanted. But you have brought us out here into this desert, where we are going to starve."
  4. The LORD said to Moses, "I will send bread down from heaven like rain. Each day the people can go out and gather only enough for that day. That's how I will see if they obey me.
  5. But on the sixth day of each week they must gather and cook twice as much."
  6. Moses and Aaron told the people, "This evening you will know that the LORD was the one who rescued you from Egypt.
  7. And in the morning you will see his glorious power, because he has heard your complaints against him. Why should you grumble to us? Who are we?"
  8. Then Moses continued, "You will know it is the LORD when he gives you meat each evening and more than enough bread each morning. He is really the one you are complaining about, not us--we are nobodies--but the LORD has heard your complaints."
  9. Moses turned to Aaron and said, "Bring the people together, because the LORD has heard their complaints."
  10. Aaron was speaking to them, when everyone looked out toward the desert and saw the bright glory of the LORD in a cloud.
  11. The LORD said to Moses,
  12. "I have heard my people complain. Now tell them that each evening they will have meat and each morning they will have more than enough bread. Then they will know that I am the LORD their God."
  13. That evening a lot of quails came and landed everywhere in the camp, and the next morning dew covered the ground.
  14. After the dew had gone, the desert was covered with thin flakes that looked like frost.
  15. The people had never seen anything like this, and they started asking each other, "What is it?" Moses answered, "This is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.
  16. And he orders you to gather about two quarts for each person in your family--that should be more than enough."
  17. They did as they were told. Some gathered more and some gathered less,
  18. according to their needs, and none was left over.
  19. Moses told them not to keep any overnight.
  20. Some of them disobeyed, but the next morning what they kept was stinking and full of worms, and Moses was angry.
  21. Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and in the heat of the day the rest melted.
  22. However, on the sixth day of the week, everyone gathered enough to have four quarts, instead of two. When the leaders reported this to Moses,
  23. he told them that the LORD had said, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath, a sacred day of rest in honor of me. So gather all you want to bake or boil, and make sure you save enough for tomorrow."
  24. The people obeyed, and the next morning the food smelled fine and had no worms.
  25. "You may eat the food," Moses said. "Today is the Sabbath in honor of the LORD, and there won't be any of this food on the ground today.
  26. You will find it there for the first six days of the week, but not on the Sabbath."
  27. A few of the Israelites did go out to look for some, but there was none.
  28. Then the LORD said, "Moses, how long will you people keep disobeying my laws and teachings?
  29. Remember that I was the one who gave you the Sabbath. That's why on the sixth day I provide enough bread for two days. Everyone is to stay home and rest on the Sabbath."
  30. And so they rested on the Sabbath.
  31. The Israelites called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and delicious as wafers made with honey.
  32. Moses told the people that the LORD had said, "Store up two quarts of this manna, because I want future generations to see the food I gave you during the time you were in the desert after I rescued you from Egypt."
  33. Then Moses told Aaron, "Put some manna in a jar and store it in the place of worship for future generations to see."
  34. Aaron followed the LORD's instructions and put the manna in front of the sacred chest for safekeeping.
  35. The Israelites ate manna for forty years, before they came to the border of Canaan that was a settled land.
  36. (SEE 16:35)

    The pattern of grumbling was quickly becoming established by the Israelites. Just three days into their journey away from Egypt, having witnessed God's mighty works on their behalf, they grumbled because of the lack of water. The God who made the waters of the Red Sea divide so they could cross would have no problem providing water for them to drink, but that was not the thought in their minds. Instead of thinking about what God had done for them and would likely do for them again, they thought about what they didn't have and for which they could see no provision. Their years in slavery had deeply engrained the victim mentality. Instead of thinking of themselves as a privileged people of God for whom God was doing things He had done for no other people, they were thinking of themselves as victims of God's whims. "He drug them from their homes and took them into this god-forsaken desert in which they now found themselves", seems to be their thinking. Never mind the hard and oppressed lives they lived in Egypt and that now they were free from all that and headed to a land that God was giving them to be their own. A land "flowing with milk and honey."

    After a month at Elim where they had water and vegetation, they resumed their journey toward Sinai. A short time later they came to the Wilderness of Sin, by which time their food supplies were running short. Having seen God's provision for them already, did they look to Him as their provider, asking for Him to provide once again? No. Instead, they went to Moses and Aaron and grumbled. It was not just the few that are found in most any crowd who are prone to be complainers who grumbled. It was the "entire Israelite community." And it was not just a mild complaint. They said, "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and ate all the bread we wanted. Instead, you brought us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of hunger!" (16:3)

    Graciously God made provision for them to have food the remainder of their journey to Canaan. In His provision, however, He built in a test of their willingness to follow His instructions. God would provide bread for them every morning and meat every evening, but they could gather only what they needed for each day. None could be kept into the next day. The test would be to see if they would trust God to provide for them daily rather than placing their confidence in what they could see by trying to stockpile the food. More than a test of their obedience, it was also a provision that would develop the habit of dependence on God. They were given explicit instructions about gathering a quart of bread and of meat for each individual. Enough for one day. And they were not to try to keep any into the next day. Also, on the sixth day of each week they were to gather enough food for two days. On the seventh day, the Sabbath, no food would be provided. They would eat from what was gathered on the sixth day. There should be no doubt of the source of the food. It came to them exactly as God instructed through Moses, and it stopped on the seventh day and started again on the first day of each week just as He said.  Daily dependence on God for what we need is not only a principle the Israelites were to learn, but a principle by which God wants all of His people to live. We see it reflected in the model prayer Jesus taught His disciples, "Give us each day our daily bread." (Luke 11:3)

    Not all the Israelites passed the test in following God's instructions. Some tried to keep food into the next day. But they found that the next day the food had "bred worms and smelled." (16:20) A picture of what happens with our efforts of disobedience. Thus, they had no choice but to abide by God's instructions. No choice but to depend on Him daily for their food. God was not pleased with this disobedience, saying to them, "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'How long will you refuse to keep My commands and instructions?'" (16:28) Obedience is the mark of being God's people. We cannot call ourselves His people and expect the blessings of such a status without obedience. 

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