September 15, 2019, Exodus 16:1-8, 13-15

I.

The theme for these several months of lessons (September – November) is “Responding to God’s Grace.”

First, in Genesis 19, we focused on how Lot and his family responded to an offer of escape from life in a place of destruction; then in 1 Samuel 1 we listened to an anguished prayer and saw the tears of one who was bold enough to offer all their pain, hopelessness, and hope to God.  Did we see grace in those accounts? Did we notice how hard it is at times for grace to be seen and even accepted? Let alone, acted upon?  

This week we come to a passage in Exodus 16 and encounter ….  Well, let’s read it and notice the emotions and questions there.

II.

Exodus 16:1-8, 13-15 (New Revised Standard Version)

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.  The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.  On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt,  and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.

III.

Do you know folks who seem to always find something to complain about?  No matter what is going on, they can offer a complaint about it. I am not suggesting things are always great or that we should never protest or complain.  But what happens after the complaint is offered? And what happens when remedy is offered or pointed out?

IV.

As the Israelites saw their situation in the wilderness, they found a reason to be discouraged and to complain to Moses and Aaron.  They were hungry. They looked back on the days in Egypt and it seems their memory did not take them back to what it was to be slaves but they remembered not being hungry, “… ate our fill of bread.”  It does not matter if that memory was not fully accurate, if some days they did not have the bread they wanted. For the moment only the memory of having bread to eat in Egypt and now, in the wilderness, not having the bread they craved.

V.

“I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day.”

They are promised “bread from heaven.”  They are promised enough for each day.

And it happens.

And what do they say – “What is it?”

“Manna” is the Hebrew word.  We even still might speak of “manna from heaven.”

But to speak of “manna from heaven” without the recognition that “manna” is a way of saying “What is it?” is to miss something important.

We complain, we pray, we even “see” the response, the answer, right in front of us and still we ask, “What is it?”

Was it only the Israelites who might ask “What is it?” while looking at, even holding in their hands,  the bread for the evening meal.

How easy is it to miss the bread, the grace, in front of us?  Are we so expecting the “answer” to come in the form we want, expect, demand, that when it is offered in any other way we don’t see it?  We keep complaining at times even when we might be holding the bread in our hands?

VI.

Pause for a moment.

Take a deep breath.

Look back over times in your life when you might have been looking for an “answer” to some issue and it was only later, maybe much later, that you realized you completely missed the “answer” when it came.  Hindsight can be a great instructor at times.

What can you and I learn from those experiences that equips us to more readily recognize grace when it crosses our paths.

What do you see?

We’ll talk later,

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}


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