Delivery Man sermon series – #5: Bread and Whine

This is the fifth sermon in a series on the life Moses. I hope you have a blessed day!

SCRIPTURE – Exodus 16:2-15 –  In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumblingagainst him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against theLord.”

Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.

11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

SERMON
Delivery Man Sermon Series
#5 – Bread and Whine
Exodus 16:2-15
July 26, 2015

This morning, we resume our sermon series on the life of Moses. When we last left him, Moses was leading the Israelites through the Red Sea, away from their time of slavery in Egypt and into an unknown future with God. Our scripture today is one of the first stories that takes place as the Israelites begin their march to the Promised Land. Let’s listen…(READ SCRIPTURE).

Ah, road trips! When we lived in the Chicago area, several times a year we’d pack up the car with suitcases, toys, snacks, and pillows and make the six-hour drive through the Windy City and down the entire length of the state of Indiana to see our family in Jeffersonville. And inevitably, about a half-hour into the trip, it would start: “Are we there yet? I’m hungry. I have to go to the bathroom.” I’m sure Leigh and the girls got tired of hearing me complain like that. And I’m equally sure that Moses got tired of hearing the Israelites doing the same thing on their journey together. The group is only about a month removed from their miraculous trip through the Red Sea, but they are already starting to grumble against God.

You know the job of cheerleaders, right? I’m convinced the Israelites had gripe leaders, people whose job it was to stir up unrest and convince people that they are unhappy. “Two-four-six-eight – slavery in Egypt was really great!” What else would explain the fact that the Israelites actually wax nostalgic about the great food they ate while in slavery? Something tells me the prison cafeteria wasn’t serving filet mignon, but the Israelites are convinced that God has forgotten them…just a month after God delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh.

Are you familiar with the term “hangry”? It’s a combination of hungry and angry. When I’ve gone too long without food, my mood turns from hungry to hangry. Well, the Israelites are hangry. Hangry at Moses, hangry at God, hangry at their situation. Their complaining is not the deep, soul-searching laments that we find in the psalms. There is such a thing as complaining because of your faith in God. “God, I love you, why don’t you do something?” But the Israelites’ complaining shows a lack of faith in God.

As a pastor, I’ve dealt with my share of grumbling, so I know a bit how Moses feels. So imagine my glee when I read the line in which God says, “I’ve heard your grumbling, and I’m going to rain…” Yes God! What are you going to rain on these hangry grumblers? Fireballs? Big boulders? Telemarketing calls? No! God says, “I’m going to rain bread from heaven for you.” Say what? And then I find myself grumbling, “You’re going to actually give the grumblers what they want?”

To understand why God responds this way to the Israelites, it’s very important to understand the nature of their relationship at this juncture in the story. We made the point a few weeks ago that when the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, it marked the beginning of a new chapter in their existence. God actually reset their calendar back to Day 1 so that the Israelites would have a fresh start. Because they’ve been in slavery for 400 years, they’ve lost their connection to God. They have no knowledge of who God is, and I believe God is also relearning who they are. So as they make their way into the wilderness, God and the Israelites are getting to know each other all over again.

I remember very well my first date with my wife Leigh. September 24, 1993. We went to Tubby’s and had baked spaghetti, and then jumped on my sister’s trampoline. Yes, I was that kind of smooth romantic in my younger days. For some reason she agreed to a second date, and the more time we spent together, the more we learned about each other. That’s how relationships grow in strength and closeness.

In our passage today, God and the Israelites are basically on a date. They are getting to know each other, feeling each other out, figuring out what they like and don’t like. More importantly, God is learning about the Israelites’ ability to be faithful. Will they be the people God created them to be? Will they be steadfast in their faithfulness and strong in their obedience? Will they be grateful and honorable and loyal? Well, the short answer is “No.”  But God doesn’t know that yet.

So God tests the Israelites by responding to their plea for food, but giving very specific instructions that go along with it. God provides a daily ration of bread for the Israelites in the form of manna. We’re not exactly sure what manna is. The name itself actually comes from the Hebrew phrase “man hu,” which literally translates into “What is it?” The prevailing theory is that the manna is actually bug juice. A insect native to this region of the world feeds on local tree bark, and secrets a yellowish-white flake or ball of juice that is rich in carbs and sugars. The flake hardens but also decays quickly, lasting only about a day. So manna could very well be hardened bug secretions. Coming soon to the next church potluck!

Every day the Israelites were to go out and get their daily share of manna, except on the day before the Sabbath, when they were supposed to get two days’ worth so they could rest the next day. If they gathered too much, it would go rotten. If they tried to gather on the Sabbath, it wouldn’t be there. In this way, God tests the Israelites’ ability to follow instructions, to be faithful in their obedience to God. They didn’t do so well.

Do we do any better? I would like to think that grumbling against God stopped when the Israelites finally reached the Promised Land, but I know better. Today, we continue the rich tradition of complaining to God, which proves two things: our own stubbornness and God’s infinite patience with us. Even after God gave us the true bread from Heaven in the form of Jesus Christ, we still find things to grumble about.

Why? Why do we grumble? If we’re honest, it’s because we don’t get our way. We grumble when our comfort is disrupted. We grumble when our entitlement is threatened. We grumble when things do go according to our plan. “God, you were supposed to heal me. God, this job was supposed to be better. God I want you to act now!” Are we there yet? I’m hungry! We’ve heard the Israelites’ complaints come out of our own mouths.

One commentator calls this grumbling “selective forgetting.” The Israelites selectively forgot that God had delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh and only chose to listen to their grumbling stomachs. How often do we forget what God has done for us in the past and instead only focus on our present circumstances? We pray for the miracle we want, forgetting that God doesn’t always provide what we want, but God does always provide what we need. And yet, when we don’t get what we pray for, we think God isn’t listening or, worse yet, God isn’t there. Meanwhile, we’re missing all the other things God has done and is doing for us – things like bug juice, or a compassionate friend, or moment of rest in a busy day, or a piece of bread and a cup of juice – grape juice!

God does indeed provide for us, but maybe not in the way we expect. For the Israelites, God only provided what they needed for each day, nothing more. That accomplished two things. First, it required the Israelites to be dependent on God’s provision. Each day they were reminded that they needed God to survive. And second, it put everyone on the same level. No one would have more than anyone else. The local bigwig couldn’t invite people over to show off his manna collection. Each day, everyone was equal.

Wow, has that changed! What does it say about us that we seek to build up a lifetime of manna while others go hungry every day? Because we selectively forget God’s provision, because we don’t believe God will be as good to us tomorrow as God is to us today, we eat and spend and mortgage way more than a day’s ration. We don’t just gather enough for today; we gather enough for the next hundred years, and leave others to fend for themselves. And then we grumble when the security we have built for ourselves is threatened.

The risk we have in building up a stockpile of manna is that we will come to rely on what we have accumulated rather than on the God who has provided it for us. We’ll come to think that we’ve earned all that manna we’ve collected and we’re not under any obligation to share it with someone whose plate is empty and whose stomach is grumbling. For many of us, we’ve never known a day without bread, and so there’s no urgency in our dependence on God. It’s good to know God is there when we need to send up a prayer, but otherwise we’ve got things covered.

Each day, we need to rely on God. Each day, we need to talk to God. Each day, we need to ask God what God wants us to do to share our abundance. It could be as simple as buying bread for a homeless person or as challenging as committing our time and resources to changing the systems that make people homeless in the first place. But make no mistake about it: each day, we are called to do something to provide manna for someone.

The Israelites’ grumbling won’t stop with this story. It will continue on for 40 years, until the reach the Promised Land. What about our grumbling? Will it continue on, or will it stop today? We can replace our grumbling with gratitude, being thankful for all that God has provided, selectively remembering that we have what we have because of God’s goodness. Every good thing you have today comes from God. And everything good thing you have tomorrow will come from God, too. Our challenge is to remember each day to thank God for our daily bread, and then to go into the world and share it.

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