Exodus 16:2-15 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost—Series B)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
August 5, 2012
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Old Testament reading from Exodus 16:
And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3 and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him–what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'” 10 And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11 And the LORD said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'” 13 In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14 And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.
Over the years I have learned to tolerate quite a bit from people. But I have to confess that there are two types of people I really can’t stand. The first is liars. You can yell at me. You can say mean words to me. You can criticize me. But, please, don’t lie to me. I can’t stand liars. Second in line after the liars are the whiners. Whining and complaining and grumbling absolutely gets on my nerves! When my beloved children start whining . . . oh that is so not good. I can’t stand it and consequently I very quickly reach my limit when I say to them, “Stop your whining! Suck it up, and deal!” Honestly, I don’t know how God did it. I don’t know how God put up with the whining and complaining from the children of Israel. They wouldn’t have faired so well if they were dealing with me!
I mean, can you really imagine whining at God? Can you fathom the audacity of the people of Israel in grumbling against God? Hadn’t He just sent ten horrible plagues against Egypt in order to save the Israelites from their slavery and bondage? It was the Lord God Himself who led the people of Israel out of Egypt in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And when they got to the Red Sea and were pursued by Pharaoh and His chariots, what did God do? “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22 ESV) In the verses right before our Old Testament reading today the Lord made the bitter waters of Marah sweet and drinkable so the people would have water in the desert! (Exodus 15:22-25)
But now they complain. Now they whine. “You, God, brought us out here in the wilderness to kill us off with hunger! Oh how great it was to be slaves in Egypt! Yes, it was miserable. It was lousy, but we had food! We had pots of meat and bread to the full. Sure, we were enslaved, but we were fat and happy slaves! It would have been better to die there.” What a bunch of fanciful ingrates! One month after leaving Egypt, leaving the hardships of bondage over which they had cried out the Lord and the Lord heard their cries and freed them, the people of Israel had lost it. Slaves were not often given meat, let alone pots full of meat! The people were fantasizing. And they were a big bunch of whiners. They weren’t at all satisfied with what God had done for them in saving them from slavery. In fact, in Numbers 21, the children of Israel would whine and complain about the manna, the bread from heaven, and the quail that the Lord graciously provided. “And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” (Num 21:5 ESV) They wanted more; they wanted better than what they had and they felt that God just wasn’t delivering the goods. Oh, how I just can’t stand whiners!
You see, I know whiners really well. I’m one of them.
I often want more. I often want better that what God has given me. A lot of the time I feel like God just isn’t delivering what I deserve. I think you can relate to that too. Sometimes we just feel shortchanged by God. After all, we are faithful Christians. Why don’t I have a lot more of the good stuff out there in the world? Why doesn’t God give me a few more earthly perks and reward my faithfulness? Instead, we Christians find ourselves losing jobs, getting illnesses, facing tragedies, and going hungry and without. Is it like the droid C-3PO said in Star Wars, “We droids seem to be made to suffer”? Is that what being a Christian is all about? Doesn’t God know that we have needs that need to be taken care of? Has He brought us out into the wilderness to die?
Maybe it would have been better if God had left us as “slaves” back in good old “Egypt.” It wasn’t so bad. There were a lot of pleasures. We could do what we wanted without a list of “Thou shallts” and “Thou shallt nots.” We were actually pretty independent. We could do things our way, whatever way would make us feel happy and content. We could live for things, and money, and popularity, for power and prestige. In fact, we were the center of our own universes.
But then there were our taskmasters. Satan was an oppressive slave driver, forcing us further and further away from God with his temptations to lust and greed, hatred and envy. The world always drew us deeper into our slavery, enticing us with all the fleeting and perishable goods that we so desired. Our sinful flesh constantly tempted us to lust after those things that could never satisfy and that are soon gone. Was it really better back in the “Egypt” of our slavery to the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh? Was it really better with the reality of a death sentence hanging over our heads because what we thought was freedom was really bondage to sin and death itself?
No, it wasn’t at all better, but far, far worse. But as with Israel, so also with us. God heard our cries. Yes, He even heard our whining , our complaining, and our grumbling against Him. But it never changed His mind. It never changed His love for you and me. He sent us, not manna and quail, not bread and meat, but the True Bread from heaven, the Son of God in flesh. Jesus Christ is God’s gift of bread from heaven who gives life to the world—new life, a redeemed life, a life rescued from Satan, the world, and the sinful flesh.
Jesus has led us in a greater Exodus, not out of Egypt, but from our bondage, our slavery to sin, death, and the devil. Jesus gave up His flesh and blood into death on the cross so that our sins are now forgiven. Our lust for the pleasures of the world, our greed, our hatred and envy, and yes, even our whining and complaining against the Lord are all washed away in the sacred flood of Jesus’ precious blood. We are saved from our sins! We are saved from death through the gift of eternal life which Christ won for us with His death and resurrection from the dead.
Now, if God so loved us that He would send His Son Jesus, the True Bread from heaven, to give forgiveness and eternal life to the world, how will He not, along with Jesus’ forgiveness and salvation, give us all things? Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33 ESV) “All these things” includes everything that we need to support this body and life.
God our heavenly Father has not only provided salvation for our souls, but He also provides for the needs of life in this body. The Lord created our bodies and He will one day raise our bodies from the dead. God cares and loves and provides for the “whole you”—body and soul—just like He did for the children of Israel. Even when we complain and whine, God still gives us His best. Even when we aren’t satisfied, God continues to give us that which is necessary. In part, that’s why our Lord Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It’s a way to help us realize the gracious love of God to each of us personally. God certainly gives daily bread, everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, to everyone even without people praying! But our Lord taught us to pray these words so that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving and not with whining. Christ wants us to trust more firmly that our entire life, which He redeemed from sin and death on the cross, depends on God. His desire for our lives is to receive all our physical blessings with thanks and praise, looking to God in faith and trust that He will always provide, not necessarily what we want, but always what we need.
God has given us His Son Jesus, the True Bread from heaven. He fills us with His forgiveness. He completely satisfies our deepest needs for eternal life and salvation. He also graciously provides everything we need for the care of our physical bodies as well—food, drink, clothing, shoes, house and home. May we always receive the Lord’s gifts of both body and soul with joyous thanksgiving. (And leave our “whine” to go with some cheese.) Amen.