July 11, 2021
We apologize for the technical difficulties which interrupted our live-stream and recording this week. The first half of the service is still available on Youtube, but it cuts out mid-sermon:
Follow Along with a Bulletin:
We continue our summer series on Holy Meals this week with a story from the Old Testament about a very unique food God provided for the people. We pray the Spirit would open our hearts to the lessons of the Word:
- It is “the fifteenth day of the second month” (verse 1) after the Israelites have left Egypt; so they have been following Moses for about six weeks. In that time they’ve seen some miraculous and mysterious things, culminating in God parting the Red Sea (chapter 14). But now, they’re getting hungry; the initial thrill has worn off of this adventure and they’re looking around a wilderness without crops wondering where their next meal will come from. They’ve seen God work in big grand ways, but they’re not sure how the Lord will provide for their regular, daily needs. When you think about how God shows up in your life, which come to mind first: the big miraculous moments or the little daily blessings? Is it easier to believe God is present during a crisis or to trust God is with you in the minutia?
- “The whole congregation of the Israelites complained…” (verse 2). This will be something of a refrain throughout the people’s 40 year journey in Exodus and Numbers. For some people, there will always be something to complain about. When something bothers you, how do you judge whether a complaint is warranted? Who do you complain to and how? What do you think of Moses’ response: “your complaining is not against us but against the Lord” (verse 8)?
- “If only we had died in Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread…” say the Israelites (verse 3). In effect they seem to be saying: better to be a slave with a full stomach than a free person hungry in the desert. But was it really? Memory can be an unreliable thing. Did they really have as much as they wanted to eat, or were they fed only enough in order to stay strong and continue their labor? As slaves in Egypt they had suffered for generations, to the point that it had become familiar – which is its own kind of comfort; could that really be more desirable than the unknown challenges ahead of them now? Are there times when you’ve seen people settle for ‘the devil they know’ rather than risk the possibility of something better? What would you do?
- Just like when God speaks to Moses out of the bush: “I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt; I have heard their cry” (Exodus 3:7), God once again listens and responds to the people: “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining’” (verse 9). Quail come in the evening to provide meat, and in the morning “when the dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance” (verse 14) which the Israelites will call manna (the word literally in the Hebrew means ‘what is it?’ which is what the Israelites ask in verse 15). Is there a time in your life when God heard your prayers/complaints and answered? Did the answer come in a way you expected, or were you left asking: ‘what is it?’?
- The miracle of the manna is not just its appearance but that it feeds all the people. When the Israelites go out to collect it, “some gathered more, some less, but when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage” (verse 18). The Lord provides enough for everyone, each day. There will be some who try to gather more manna than they need and store it in jars, but it rots and becomes foul; the blessings of God are not to be hoarded but shared freely. The people have to trust that tomorrow God will provide enough again. We live in a culture that has a hard time saying ‘enough.’ We are surrounded by messages designed to make us want ‘more!’ and that tell us we ourselves will never be ‘enough.’ How do we learn to pray: “give us this day our daily bread” and be satisfied? How do we learn to live content with who we are and what we have, rather than looking around at someone else? How do we cultivate systems of equity so that everyone does get enough?
- This is not the only time the Israelites will complain and long for Egypt. Read Numbers 11:1-14. Even though the manna is described “the taste of it was like wafers of honey” (Exodus 16:31), they will grow tired of eating the same thing every day for years. What do you find yourself craving these days? What is the balance between these wants (which can be good, God gave us taste buds to enjoy our food!) and the sense of being satisfied with what you have?
Friends, each of you is beloved and blessed by God. Know that you are enough, and trust that God will continue to richly provide what you need.
Shalom, Pastor Maggie Rust