Musings on Scripture

– and what isn’t always said

Trinity 16A

Published / by Steven Secker / Leave a Comment

Exodus 16:2-15

2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The 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.’

4Then 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. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ 6So 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, 7and 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?’ 8Moses 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.’

©2013 Amy Hintze

9Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ 10As Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’

13In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When 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.

Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.

I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say “everybody does …” I’d be very rich. If I had a dollar for every time such a statement is true I probably wouldn’t be able to buy a cup of coffee. Sweeping statements are rarely true, and claiming that “the whole congregation … complained against Moses and Aaron” is just as likely to be well off the mark, but the important point is that many were complaining. It’s not long since this congregation of Israelites was delivered from the hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh and his army by crossing the Red (or was it ‘Reed’?) Sea. They had been quick, then, to praise God for their deliverance, and equally quick to drop their allegiance when day-to-day travelling along the tedious journey to the Promised Land created boredom and a sense of being deserted. We live in a time when instant gratification is demanded by those who cannot, or don’t want to, be patient. This congregation will arrive at the Promised Land in God’s time, but the people want to be there in their time. Sound familiar? It wasn’t Moses and Aaron who brought them out of Egypt, though they were the physical leaders on the journey. It was God who led them out of slavery in Egypt, but it was God’s servants who were bombarded with accusations of leading the people into the wilderness to die. God is an ever-faithful parent, loving His children and looking after them in their best interests. Just like loving caring parents today, sometimes the children didn’t like what the parent was doing, and didn’t like the experience. Hey, folks, God looks after those who do things for the good of others, but if we stray, not only does He have to fix up the damage we have inflicted, He then has to coax us into seeing where we went wrong, and invite us to fix ourselves. In other words, He educates us, rather then teaching us. The difference is that He leads us to the answer, and doesn’t give us the answer, so we have to think. I wish our “Education” Departments would take heed of this advice.

God agrees to provide for the daily needs of the people, as if He hadn’t already been doing that, but He sets a test for them. Remember the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16b-20) where an abundance of grain led the landowner to consider building a big storage space? Here, God tells Moses and Aaron that He will provide bread for the people, but they must collect only enough for that day, or, on the sixth day, for two days. Even in the abundance they must not collect more than they need. Are we listening?

According to verse 6, in the evening, that is before sun-down marks the beginning of the new day, the people will know that it was God who brought them out of Egypt. How would that be? We know what comes in verse 8, but it hasn’t been mentioned, and it isn’t until verse 12 that the Lord actually tells Moses that He will provide meat. Disqualified for a false start chaps!

Moses and Aaron are right, of course, in saying that it is not really them that the people are complaining about, but God, who is about to show that He has heard their complaining. Divine intervention will save the people, despite many of them going astray, losing focus, and leading others on a path away from their maker.

With a large group of people – the Egyptians were concerned about the number of Hebrews getting larger than their own – to feed, there would have been a multitude of quails landing in the camp each evening. Quails are small birds without a lot of meat on them. Each adult would probably want at least two to stave off hunger. Would this air-drop of meat supply for the travelling public bring about a return to worship? Hardly! In the morning God provided manna in the desert. The people didn’t know what it was, or where it had come from, until Moses told them it was the Bread of Heaven on which they should feed. Would they obey God’s instruction on how much to collect? This passage ends before we get the answer, but I guess most of us would have a good idea of whether they behaved themselves or not. If you really don’t know the answer, read verse 20.

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