The passage opens with the whole congregation’s complaining against Moses and Aaron for the lack of food in the wilderness after deliverance from Egypt. But God knows that they actually voice complaints against God. Yahweh sends quail in the evening and “bread” in the morning. The people gather enough for each day’s portion. It reminds us of the words “Give us this day our daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer.
To this day the manna remains a mystery. “What is it?” the people ask. Moses answers, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.” By this the people are to acknowledge the Lord as God.
In this passage some form of the word complain appears seven times. It is one of a series where the whole “congregation” of Israel complained against human and divine leadership in the wilderness. (See Exodus 15:24; 17:1-7; Numbers 11:1; 14:1-4, 26-27; 16:11; 17:1-5.)
Why do the people complain after experiencing God’s won- derful works in the Exodus event? Why do they doubt God’s care and provision? We can list some root causes of this spiritual symptom we call complaining (grumbling, murmuring):
They forget God’s wonderful works on their behalf. They are not content with what is given them. They do not trust God, the true Shepherd.
God desired the well-being of the Israelites, and God desires our well-being. The next time we find ourselves com- plaining habitually, let us search for the root causes of the prob- lem. Then, we can take action(s) toward spiritual renewal and wholeness.
God, thank you for caring and providing for us just as you did for your complaining people in the desert. Amen.
The reading from Exodus 16 concerns Israel’s primary memory of food given in the wilderness, given where there are no visible sources of life, given in the face of restless protest, given wondrously and saving Israel from both hunger and despair. The verses from Psalm 105 recall the marvel of God’s grace during the wilderness years and the people’s joyful response. In the Philippians text Paul wrestles with the question of God’s will with respect to his own leadership. Paul not only explains the meaning of his incarceration but goes beyond that to explain the meaning of his life: “Living is Christ and dying is gain.” Matthew 20 reminds the reader that in the kingdom of heaven God’s mercy is often surprising, even offensive. People are valued not because of their economic productivity but because God loves and engages them.
• Read Exodus 16:2-15. What experiences have strengthened your trust in God?
• Read Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45. Spend a moment recounting God’s faithfulness to you in the past. Does recalling those times encourage your obedience to God today?
• Read Philippians 1:21-30. Paul acknowledges the importance of his physical presence to the Philippians. Whose physical presence makes a difference in your life?
• Read Matthew 20:1-16. What situations in your life make you question God’s fairness? When have you been envious because of God’s blessing of another?
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