Every weekday around 6:30pm there is an unusual surge of customers at our local Asda. At that time a large rack of unsold bread is vastly reduced in price, often down to 10p a loaf. Most days the same people are there. The tall smiling man who looks like Professor Brian Cox, the sweet old lady who you’d better not get in the way of and often us. They are there to get delicious bread at bargain prices.
In exodus 16 the Lord provides daily Manna, at more like 6:30am and there a scramble to gather. Just like Asda, some get way more than they need, only to find it goes foul and wormy overnight (I must say Asda bread freezes well – other supermarkets available!!!). For the Israelites, greedy gathering was disobedience in the form of directly not doing what they were told and in not trusting God and feeling secure of their future.
There are two sins at play in this passage – greed and grumbling and both of them are symptoms of another one – a lack of faith.
A month before in Exodus 15 the Israelites had been thirsty and grumbled – The Lord graciously provides water. Now their growling stomachs again lead to grumbling lips – we’d rather be back in Egypt. Yeah, right!
Here’s some things to note about grumbling…
- Grumbling comes out of pain and problems never pleasure.
- Grumbling is a sin from perception – what we perceive things are and what we think they should be. And that usually involves a distortion of the facts. Apparently they sat by pots of meat v3 and could eat all they wanted – Really? The reality is that they had been forced to make bricks without straw in gross slavery.
- Grumbling is a problem of submission – they were grumbling against their leaders, Moses and Aaron. But they were led by God who was showing his presence for Moses and the people to follow in a cloud by day and fire by night. So they are actually grumbling against God.
- It’s a sin of the tongue when we feel out of control.
- Grumbling is a communicable disease – it spreads rapidly, meaning the whole community grumbled v2.
- It’s a failure of faith – the sin of grumbling shows the underlying lack of faith and not accepting adversity or seeing blessings in all circumstances.
In these early days of the people of God following the Lord, God responds more gently to them than he does later on in Numbers 11. There they have the Law and seen God’s faithfulness many times, but still failed to resist the temptation to grumble.
God shows his glory presence in the cloud v10 and provides Quail to eat and then Manna.
Manna was nutritious and could be prepared a number of ways like boiling and baking, but ultimately it was bland (in Numbs 11:4-9 they wanted it spicy!). God provided it abundantly, so much so that they needed to be restrained in collecting. It didn’t keep, except over the Sabbath, because God wanted them to learn to trust him daily to “give them their daily bread” – that’s why God doesn’t answer your prayers to win a million pounds – because you would never have to trust in Him again – you’d be self-sufficient!
So in today’s reading we are challenged to:
- Not to grumble – if you are a beginner in the faith god may deal with you gently, but for the more mature, mmmm (Numbers 11:1)
- To trust God daily for help and provision
- To obey Him in every detail