Exodus 16:1-18 ~ 20110403 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/03 Exodus 16:1-18 Hunger Satisfied
We've been walking with Israel as God led his reluctant people out of Egypt. He told his people to stop fearing anyone but God, to be still and to watch as God saved them, because salvation belongs to the Lord. God humbled Egypt and crushed their pride at the bottom of the Red Sea. His people saw his great power, they feared the Lord, they believed in him, and they sang his praises. And then they grumbled. They were three days into the wilderness and when they found water it was bitter. But God revealed himself as their healer, their physician, and he made the bitter become sweet. Then he led them to Elim, an oasis in the desert, with twelve springs of water and seventy palms. God is abundantly able to provide for his people. Now, we catch up with them one month after the first passover and their exodus from Egypt.
When the Egyptian army pursued and trapped them by the Red Sea, the people complained that Moses led them out to die in the wilderness because of a grave shortage in Egypt. They complained that it would have been better to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. Then, on the other side of the sea, they complained because they had no water. The people grumbled against Moses and said 'what shall we drink'.
This time it is lack of food. Now they are hungry. As Paul said 'their god is their belly …with minds set on earthly things' (Phil.3:19). And grumbling stomachs distort history. They wish that the LORD had killed them in Egypt rather than bringing them out in the desert to starve. In this complaint, they acknowledge the hand of the LORD against their enemies. God revealed his power against the Egyptians, ultimately killing their firstborn and drowning their army in the sea. Now they are saying 'We wish God would have killed us along with them'. They reminisce about the good old days back in Egypt 'when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full' Forgotten are their bitter lives of hard service, ruthlessly made to labor as slaves. Forgotten are their groanings and cries for rescue from slavery. Now that they are hungry and don't know where their next meal is coming from, they only remember the wonderful meals they had as slaves. They would prefer to die as slaves with full bellies than to serve God and live in dependence on him.
We who look on as readers of the narrative want to shout out 'you fools! Don't you remember God's ten mighty acts of judgment against the cruel Egyptians and the hard hearted Pharaoh? Don't you remember how God saved you from the Egyptians at the sea? God has taken you this far; he surely will not leave you to die for lack of food. Remember how God made bitter water sweet? Remember God's past provision and trust him! Stop grumbling and believe in him. Stop complaining and humbly make your requests to him.' From our perspective it is so clear.
But then we could think about the trials and inconveniences we face and wonder if the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us (Heb.12:1) want to shout out some of the same things to us.
God's Gracious Response
How do you think God would respond to this kind of gross unbelief in his people, this lack of faith in his promises, this wish for death and longing for a return to slavery and the pleasures of Egypt? I'm thinking hundred pound hailstones would be in order, but that's not what God does.
Not a word of rebuke! No anger. No judgment. No condemnation. God meets their grumbling with his already planned provision. This is unmerited grace! The Israelites are not getting what they deserve. In response to thankless grumbling God showers them with his good provision. He literally pours out bread from heaven. He promises a daily portion of bread in the desert. This will be a test of the hearts of his people. Will they walk in his Torah, in his law, in his instruction or not? Will they listen to his voice? God is providing abundantly for physical and spiritual needs. Seven days worth of provision given in six days, double the amount given on the sixth day so that they can rest and worship and be refreshed on the seventh day, so that they can feed not only their physical needs but their souls in communion with God. The purpose is relationship with the living God.
The Knowledge of the LORD
Knowledge of the LORD is the goal. God acts for the good of unbelieving thankless rebellious sinners so that they will know who he is. God will reveal to them his hand of salvation. 'You shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt'. He will reveal his fearful awesomeness, 'you shall see the glory of the LORD'. God reveals himself as provider 'when he gives you meat to eat and bread to the full'. You will recognize that your grumbling is against the LORD. In a God-centered universe, when we grumble, we grumble against God. Moses and Aaron are quick to point this out. What are we? This is not about us! Your grumbling is against the LORD. This is all about the LORD. 'You shall know that I am the LORD your God.' God gives abundant gifts to undeserving sinners to show off his nature and character. He is 'the God of all grace' (1Pet.5:10). He is patient, he is faithful, he is compassionate, he is slow to anger and abounding in loving-kindness.
God provided meat for them to eat that very night, so that they would not even have to go to bed hungry and wait for the morning. Amazing grace! That next morning the people saw a curious new thing in the wilderness. They had to ask 'What is it?' Moses points to it as 'the bread that the LORD has given you to eat'. God supernaturally provided for his people. An omer was approximately half a gallon. Everyone was responsible to get out and do their share. If you don't work, you don't eat. All they had to do was gather each morning what they needed for the day. God made sure each had enough and there was equality. In spite of their grumbling, God provided for the needs of his people. We can wonder what this might have looked like had God's people simply trusted God's promises and humbly prayed for God's provision. But we don't have to wonder.
Jesus' Perfect Obedience in the Wilderness
We can compare and contrast Israel's grumbling unbelief when they faced hunger in the wilderness, and Jesus' hunger in the wilderness, and his response to temptation with perfect obedience to his Father.
Both Jesus and the Israelites were led by God into the wilderness. The Israelites were less than 30 days in the wilderness, and they had only recently run out of food. Jesus was forty days without food and he was hungry. The Israelites had the pillar of fire and cloud to guide them, they had Moses and Aaron to lead them, they had the whole community to encourage one another; Jesus was alone with the tempter. The Israelites had no power over their circumstances – they could only grumble. Jesus, the Son of God, had all power over his circumstances, and could easily have turned the very rocks into bread to satisfy his hunger. But he responded with the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 8:3, stating his total trust in and dependence on his Father. Bread is not what sustains anyone, God sustains life. Jesus, as the perfect man, demonstrated a God-centered perspective on hunger. This life is not all about me and my needs being met. Life is to be lived to the glory of God, in total surrender to God's will, total trust in God to provide, dependently listening to God's voice. God is the center. I exist to bring him praise. Jesus' temptation concluded with a refusal to worship or serve anyone but God. Jesus showed us what simple trust and perfect obedience should look like.
Jesus the Bread from Heaven
Jesus takes us back to this manna in the desert as a pointer to himself. He had himself fed thousands in the wilderness, giving substantial evidence that he is the promised one; God come in the flesh. Many began to follow him simply to get a free lunch.
Jesus attempted to get their eyes off their own temporary hunger and put their trust in him for eternal life. But they continued to insist on a mere momentary appeasement of their appetites when he was offering so much more.
They are so consumed by their own felt needs that they can't hear what Jesus is saying to them. So Jesus says something that would shock them.
Jesus claims to have come down from heaven to be the true bread that gives life. We see the theme of grumbling in the face of God's abundant provision surface once again.
This shocked and offended his hearers. They were troubled at the implication that this new rabbi might be teaching his followers some form of cannibalism.
Jesus points back to the manna that God rained down from heaven as provision for physical sustenance and claims that he is the greater fulfillment of that picture. Jesus is the one the Father sent from heaven to meet the spiritual need of humanity. With startling language Jesus turns our thoughts from our sensual appetites to the deepest need of our souls. We have dishonored and offended a holy God. We have failed to give him the honor that is his due. We have sinned and the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). Jesus, our sin-bearing substitute, bore our sins in his body on the tree (1Pet.2:24). He was made to be sin for our sake (2Cor.5:21). We must come to him, to see in him the satisfaction of our true need, to take him as our own, to embrace him as our sustenance, our only hope. 'Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you' (Mt.26:26; Lk.22:19). 'Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins' (Mt.26:27-28). Just as an Israelite could have refused to gather God's provision of life giving food in the wilderness, and willfully chosen to starve, so we can refuse to take God's only provision that will sustain our souls for eternity. The question we must each answer is 'Will we come to Jesus for eternal life? Will we trust in him and feed on him? Will we abide in him and draw our spiritual sustenance from him alone?' We, like the Israelites, don't deserve God's grace to meet our need, but
God gives abundant grace to undeserving sinners to put on display the greatness of his character.