Rev. Jeff Chapman ~ Faith Presbyterian Church
1The 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. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 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.”
4 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. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”…
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 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. 15 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. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.’” 17 The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over until morning.”
20 But they did not listen to Moses; some left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and became foul. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, as much as each needed; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. 22 On the sixth day they gathered twice as much food, two omers apiece. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23 he said to them, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord; bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.’” 24 So they put it aside until morning, as Moses commanded them; and it did not become foul, and there were no worms in it. 25 Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is a sabbath, there will be none.”
27 On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, and they found none. 28 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions? 29 See! The Lord has given you the sabbath, therefore on the sixth day he gives you food for two days; each of you stay where you are; do not leave your place on the seventh day.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
The company of the Israelites journeyed out from the oasis called Elim and into the desert of Sin exactly one month to the day after God had miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The memories were fresh and must have been the subject of much talk around the campfire each night. The plagues. The Passover. The parting of the Red Sea. The pillars of cloud and fire. God had demonstrated his faithfulness to them time and time again in miraculous ways. Certainly by now they trusted that the God who had saved them would now provide for them. After we consider all that our God has done to save us through the death and resurrection of his Son, surely we will also trust our God to now provide for us.
Verse 2 reads, “The whole congregation of the Israelites [not just a few, but every single one of them!] complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness…‘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.’”
Food supplies run low. The people begin to worry. They conclude that the same Lord who had acted in stunningly miraculous ways to deliver them was now not able to feed them. It’s remarkable, really.
This is a story that takes dead aim at the most crucial question humans, then and now, will ever face. It is the question of trust. Specifically, do we trust God or do we trust in material things and circumstances? More specifically, do you trust God or do you trust you trust in material things and circumstances? This morning I want to show you four truth claims from this story which I will turn into four questions. My prayer is that you will openly consider these claims and then honestly ask yourself these questions. If you do, I believe you will discover who or what it is that you trust for your security in life.
Truth Claim #1 – Complaining always reveals a faithless and ungrateful heart.
Food supplies become scarce and the Israelites choose to complain. I say choose because they had other options. Instead of complaining they could have prayed and told the Lord of their need for bread. They didn’t. They chose complaining over praying.
Now, to be fair, the Israelites did have a real need. People need food to survive, especially people walking through a desert. But when they responded to this real need by complaining, they revealed their hearts to be faithless and ungrateful. They did not trust God. They trusted in bread, but not God. It’s true, they didn’t complain directly to God but to Moses and Aaron. But don’t be fooled. All complaining is complaining against God. The person who trusts God completely and is grateful to God for all that he has, is the person that never complains.
Anybody here ever complain? Anybody sitting next to somebody who ever complains? Listen to me, when you complain and grumble you reveal within yourself a faithless and ungrateful heart. The Lord has saved you and given you abundant and eternal life through the death and resurrection of his only Son. Regardless of what you face now, can you not trust that God will ultimately sustain the life he saved and out of love provide for you everything you need?
The worst part about our complaining is that it’s usually what some people these days are calling “first world complaining”. You see, some people in the “third world” complain because they don’t have any food to eat, or clean water to drink, or medicine to keep their kids from dying from curable diseases. People in the “first world” like us, however, often have different sorts of complaints, complaints which when repeated over and over in our context begin to sound legitimate but when repeated in another context immediately come across for what they truly are.
Video Illustration – Watch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3FkIWp0S-w
The other afternoon I caught myself complaining about all the red lights I was hitting on my way home, a legitimate and common American complaint until you realize that the majority of people in the world have never had to wait at a red light because they’ve never driven a car! They walk everywhere they go. And I’m sitting in my air conditioned car listening to my iPod playing through my car stereo and complaining because I have to wait an extra 60 seconds so that people I don’t even know can cross the intersection ahead of me. My complaint about the red lights revealed, at least in that moment, a faithless and ungrateful heart, and I suspect I’m not the only one in this room with this problem.
Here’s the first question I want to leave you with today, a question I truly hope you will take to heart. Will you make a commitment, you or your family, to stop complaining about material inconvenience?
Truth Claim #2 – God wants us to be content with having only enough for the day.
In spite of their complaining, God, in his boundless grace, still provided the Israelites with what they needed. God sent quails in the evening. Not just a few quails but enough quails to cover the entire camp. Then God promises to rain down bread from heaven every morning, bread the people eventually called manna. Sure enough, that very next morning the ground is covered with the stuff. We’re told it tastes like wafers made with honey. Back then that was a way of saying that it was extraordinarily delicious.  God not only provided food, he provided good food in great abundance.
The food came with instructions, however. Each Israelite was only to take enough manna for the day and was not to try to store any extra for the next day. It was a test, a test to see if the people would finally trust God. You see, God never wants his people to depend on material things but to instead depend on him. We are not to trust in the gifts we possess but in the Giver of those gifts. For this reason, God wants us to be content if we simply have enough for today and to trust that when tomorrow comes He will then provide enough for tomorrow. Jesus did not teach us to pray, “Give us this day enough bread to last for the year.” No, he taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Proverbs 30:8-9 is a beautiful prayer that gets to the heart of this truth.
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that I need,
or I shall be full, and deny you,
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or I shall be poor, and steal,
and profane the name of my God.
God knows that if you have too much then you will likely disown God and begin to imagine that you don’t need God in your comfortable life. If you don’t believe this is true just look around our culture to see how many materially comfortable people there are who think little if anything about God. Of course, there will come a day when even the richest man on earth will find that every material thing he has ever received from the Lord and will be taken away by the Lord and then if that man does not have the Lord he will, in the end, have nothing. Of course, the prayer also acknowledges that to have too little is no good either, as extreme need can lead a person to steal or worse just to stay alive. In our context, however, the first part of the prayer is the prayer most of us need to pray. Our danger here in America is not in having too little but in having too much.
Now understand, I do not believe God wants to discourage prudent planning and saving for tomorrow. There are plenty of instances in scripture where God makes clear that only the lazy fool completely disregards the needs of tomorrow. Earlier in Proverbs we’re told to avoid laziness and be like the ant who works hard all summer gathering its food for the winter. That being said, even the ant doesn’t gather enough for 10 winters!
Let me ask you something. Whatever your present circumstances, do you believe that God will provide today what you need for today? Of course, I am aware that some people in our world who trust God will provide today will still starve to death by the end of today. Tragically, that happens in our world. It won’t happen to any of us, but still there are many of us who trust God and yet will still face all sorts of hardship on any given day. Ultimately, all who trust God will someday come to a day when they will die. All that is true. Even so, do we have enough faith to believe that the person who trusts God, though they may even starve to death, will still find that God will ultimately provide and bring them to a place where they will never hunger again? Didn’t Jesus promise this sort of thing all the time? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst; they will be filled. Blessed are those who mourn; they will be comforted. Blessed are the poor; theirs is the kingdom of God. In this life or in the next, God will provide for every need of every person who places their faith in him. That’s the claim.
God wants you to be content with having only enough for the day and to leave tomorrow in his hands. But this is not easy for some of us. It’s especially hard for those of us who don’t have to depend on God day to day for anything. Because of that, we’ve never really learned how faithful God is in keeping this promise. So I ask you, are you aware of even one area of your life where you have to depend on God to provide for you daily? If not, how do you know you trust God if you’ve never really had to trust God?
Here’s the second question I want to leave you with today: Will you create one area of your life where you force yourself to depend upon God daily?
Truth Claim #3 – If we take and keep too much for ourselves the extra we take and keep will rot.
The lesson Israel learned was one we all could stand to learn. Israel did not trust God’s provision for the day. They were told to take only enough bread for the day but they took too much and by morning the extra bread was full of maggots.
The late columnist Erma Bombeck once put it brilliantly in column she entitled “What’s Saved is Lost.”
I don’t save anything. My pockets are empty at the end of a week. So is my gas tank. So is my file of ideas. I trot out the best I’ve got, and come the next week, I bargain, whimper, make promises, cower and throw myself on the mercy of the Almighty for just three more columns in exchange for cleaning my oven…
Throughout the years, I’ve seen a fair number of my family who have died leaving candles that have never been lit, appliances that never got out of the box…
I have learned that silver tarnishes when it isn’t used, perfume turns to alcohol, candles melt in the attic over the summer, and ideas that are saved for a dry week often become dated.
I always had a dream that when I am asked to give an accounting of my life to a higher court, it will be like this: “So, empty your pockets. What have you got left of your life? Any dreams that were unfilled? Any unused talent that we gave you when you were born that you still have left? Any unsaid compliments or bits of love that you haven’t spread around?”
And, I will answer, “I’ve nothing left to return. I spent everything you gave me. I’m as naked as the day I was born.”
Since I’m not sure I could put it any better than she already has, let me simply leave you with a third question today: What is one thing you could give away this week that is rotting in the “storage” of your life?
Truth Claim #4 – If you never cease trying to produce you will never learn to depend upon God.
God had one final test for the Israelites in all this manna business. On the sixth day of every week they were to work extra hard and gather enough manna for two days so that on the seventh day they could rest. This idea of Sabbath was woven into the very fabric of creation and God wanted to make sure that his people honored the Sabbath. It was for their own good. You see, this was a test but it was also a gift, a gift which would serve to remind them weekly that their provision was not dependent on their efforts. God, not us, is the source of our provision, material and otherwise.
Well, the Israelites failed the test and, in doing so, neglected the gift. Sadly, most of us do the same thing. Now granted, this is a difficult test for some people in our world who are literally living hand to mouth. For some people, giving up a whole extra day of work every week is a huge step of faith. For most of us, however, it’s less a question of need and more a question of pride. We could easily rest one day a week and we might not have all that we want but we would certainly still have all that we need. Still, we don’t rest.
For some of us – let’s be honest – our identities are so tied into what we produce that it kills us to rest. We believe that our value is always in what we can accomplish, a belief which is completely contradictory to the message of the Gospel which proclaims that we are not saved by our works but by God’s grace. We are not loved because of who we are or because of what we have done; we are loved because of who God is and because of what God has done. This is the truth but it is truth we very easily forget. And so God commands us to set aside a whole day every week to stop and remember it.
Listen to me. This is not some outdated, throwaway suggestion God made to one group of people a long time ago in a land far away. The command for Sabbath is one of the 10 Commandments. Sabbath is part of the created order. On the seventh day God rested and commanded all of creation from that point forward to also rest with him every seventh day. Sabbath is a gift disguised as a test. If we take the test we receive the gift.
Now I know that many of us in this room regularly ignore the Sabbath. And so here’s the last question I will leave you with this morning. Will you take a Sabbath day every week for the next month and see how it becomes a gift to you?
Here’s what I want you to do. I gave you four truth claims made clear in this story. Each of these truth claims leads us to consider the issue of trust. To what extent do we trust God and to what extent do we trust in our material things and circumstances? Out of each truth claim I left you with a question, a question that presents a challenge. So let me make this simple. Choose one. Look over these four questions and ask yourself which one hits closest to home this morning? Is there one of these questions you feel is personal, almost as if God is asking it directly to you today? Where is God speaking to you? Chose that question and then take that challenge.
Maybe it’s Question #1 – Will you make a commitment, you or your family, to stop complaining about material inconvenience? Maybe this is the challenge God wants you to take. What would begin to change in your life if you started each day asking God to help you not to complain? Pray, certainly, but don’t complain. Find at least one other person to take this challenge with you so you can encourage one another and hold one another accountable.
Maybe it’s Question #2 – Will you create one area of your life where you force yourself to depend upon God daily? This one requires some creativity. I’m afraid to give you examples for fear of limiting your thinking. So ask God to show you one way you can take away some safety net in your life so that you are forced to trust him to daily provide.
Maybe it’s Question #3 – What is one thing you could give away this week that is rotting in the “storage” of your life? What is something of value that you’ve got stashed away for some rainy day that will likely never come? Go get that thing and give it away to somebody who needs it today. Who knows, you might just enjoy the experience so much you find yourself looking around for more “stored up manna” you might give away before it rots.
Maybe it’s Question#4 – Will you take a Sabbath day every week for the next month and see how it becomes a gift to you? How about starting today? You started it off right, by coming to honor God in worship. Now see if you can go the rest of the day without trying to produce or accomplish anything and instead simply rest and enjoy what God has already produced and accomplished. It likely won’t be easy but in the end you will find that it will have been a gift.
Every one of us struggles with trust. Every one of us! And so every one of us could stand to take one of these challenges. As you noticed they are small steps. Nothing too big. Give one thing. Set aside one day. You see, I believe that as we take even a small step towards trusting God in this way, God will meet us and help us take even more steps in the same direction. God’s Word, as you’ve heard it read and proclaimed here today, has not been read and proclaimed simply for your information but for your transformation. If you leave an encounter with God’s Word unchanged may as well ask what was the purpose of hearing God speak in the first place.
In a moment we will share the Lord’s Supper together and so I cannot pass up this perfect opportunity to make this connection. Some of you may remember that after this account of the manna in the wilderness, God commanded the Israelites to take a portion of the manna and to put it in a jar which was to be kept with them in the Ark of the Covenant for generations to come. You see, God wanted their children and their grandchildren to see a bit of this bread from heaven and remember this time in the desert so that they would not forget that God alone was the one who was the ultimate source of all their provision.
Isn’t it interesting that years later when God came to earth in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, to demonstrate once and for all that God will truly provide all that we ever need, that when Jesus came he went around telling people that he was like bread from heaven. In John 6:35 Jesus proclaims, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty…for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
Do you understand today that in Christ we find the true and better manna from heaven, sent down by a Father who loves his children and wants to provide for their every need? In Christ we find one who not only satisfies the hunger of our bodies but also the thirst of our souls.
Isn’t it interesting that before Christ the Bread of Life ascended back to heaven he commanded his followers at the Last Supper to take a little bit of bread with them wherever they would go so that they, and their children and grandchildren after them, would see the bread regularly and each time remember the time long ago on the cross and not forget, not ever forget, that God alone is the one and ultimate source of all our needs.
This table is set for you today. Christ, the Bread of Life come down from heaven, is your host. He is your soul’s sufficiency. All who trust him alone as Lord and as Savior are invited this day to come and rest in the promise that they will receive from him all that we need for the day.
The Next Step
A resource for Life Groups and/or personal application
Re-read the passage from Exodus 16.
Take some time to reflect on the Truth Claims listed on the previous page which come out of this text. (If you are a part of a Life Group, do this before your meeting this week so you can come prepared to share.) Which of these claims seems to be speaking most directly to your life at this point? What do you think God is saying to you?
Which one of these questions feels most like a question God is putting before you today? Spend some time reflecting on whether or not you want to take up this particular challenge posed by the question and, if so, specifically how you will go about doing so. (Life Groups: Go around the circle and give each person significant time to do this.)
Question #1—Will you make a commitment, you or your family, to stop complaining about material inconvenience?
Question #2—Will you create one area of your life where you force yourself to depend upon God daily?
Question #3—What is one thing you give away this week that is rotting in the “storage” of your life?
Question #4—Will you take a Sabbath day every week for the next month and see how it becomes a gift to you?
Spend some time praying for God’s help in taking these steps towards a deeper reliance on Christ as your soul’s sufficiency. (Life Groups: Pray for one another in this.)
 These are not insignificant details. The writer here is giving us particular times and places so that we will understand that what we are reading here is a historical account of events which actually happened. That’s important because what we just read sounds quite miraculous and there are lots of people who are skeptical that the miraculous is possible. The claim here, as it all throughout scripture, is that it is. It’s a claim each of us has to work out for ourselves. I’ll only say that if you believe in a Creator who designed and brought the universe into existence, sustains its existence moment by moment, and is responsible for the very laws that govern the universe, it is then not a very difficult leap to believe that this Creator is quite capable of the miraculous.
 They chose the worst kind of complaining, “good old days” complaining. Admit it, don’t you hate it when people complain that things were so much better in the good old days. This is the worst kind of complaining because, for one, the good old days were rarely as good at the time as we remember them to be. Furthermore, they’re gone. Was slavery really that great back in Egypt? Even if it was, those days are over. Reminiscing about the past is rarely a good substitute for dealing with the present.
 Honey was very rare in those days and so anything that tasted like honey was a delicacy.
 Matthew 6:11. See also Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6:25-34.
 Proverbs 30:8-9, NRSV.
 Proverbs 6:6-11. See also Paul’s excellent teaching on this in I Timothy 6:3-10.
 See Matthew 5:1-12. Emphasis mine. See also Romans 8:31-39. It struck me recently that in this passage Paul is implying that we will face all these things – hardship, distress, persecution, famine, even death – but that none of them in the end will be able to separate us from the love of our Father shown to us in Christ Jesus.
 Jesus makes this point in striking fashion in Matthew 7:24-27 with the parable of the one man who built his house on the sand and the other man who built his house on the rock.
 John 6:35,38 (NRSV).