By Luke Johnson | March 7, 2017
Take a moment to see how everyone is doing and to pray for each other.
READ Exodus 16:1-3
Think back. . . What has Israel experienced so far in Exodus? What things did they watch God do?
(Plagues, Egyptians handing their wealth over, God standing between them and Pharaoh, crossing the Red Sea, crushing the Egyptians by closing the sea on them...)
It has been just a few weeks since all of those crazy things. How are they doing now?
(How are their ‘trust levels’ doing?)
Put yourself in YHWH’s shoes: You just freed your people from the clutches of a superpower nation, manipulated nature to allow them to cross a sea safely, and killed all of Egypt’s military to keep your people safe. And then they get hungry and start whining, wishing to go back. How would you react?
READ Exodus 16:4-21
Did anything stick out to you? Anything weird, gross, cool, encouraging, surprising?
How did YHWH react to Israel’s grumbling? (v. 4, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you”)
No judgement, no punishment. The people grumble, and God sends food. And not only did he send food, he showed up in person! (v. 10) Does his appearance remind you of anything? (Exod 14:24)
How were the people supposed to work with the food?
And what happens if they neglected to follow the rules? (v. 20)
Why give them rules about the food? What do you think the rules were supposed to achieve?
In 16:4, God told Moses he would “test them to see whether they will follow my instructions.” In a couple more chapters, Israel will make it to Mount Sinai where God will give them a set of laws (Ten Commandments and more). This food test is sort of a trial run. “Before we get to Sinai, let’s see how you handle some simple instructions...”
NERD NOTE: The word used for “instructions” here is “torah”. The word “torah” in the Old Testament is pretty flexible, usually referring to the laws God gave them at Sinai. Eventually the Israelites started referring to the first 5 books of the Bible as “the Torah” because these first 5 books contain all the stories that told them who they were, and who God is. Israelites looked to the Torah as the way to truth and life. And so, centuries later, Jesus attracted a lot of attention by identifying himself as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). He was declaring, “I myself am the walking, talking, breathing Torah. You can know God properly ONLY through me.”
READ Exodus 16:22-35
The Israelites were supposed to gather food each day for 6 days. But what were they supposed to do for the 7th day? (v. 23)
How did it work out? (v. 27)
Do you notice a pattern forming?
Rule #1: Gather just enough for 1 day. Don’t keep any for tomorrow. (v. 4)
Response: We kept some, and it turned maggotty! (v. 20)
Rule #2: On the 6th day, gather twice as much so you have some for the Sabbath, because quail and manna won’t be delivered on the Sabbath. (v. 23)
Response: “Hey! Where’s the food?! What gives?!” (v. 27)
How would you rate the Israelites’ ability to follow God’s instructions?
PROS PRETTY GOOD GIVE’EM A BREAK! THEY’RE TRYING! SAD.
EMBARRASSING TRAIN-WRECK DONALD TRUMP’S HAIR
How does God respond to their failure?
Look at verse 35. How long did God provide the manna? (40 years!)
Think about it. God provided manna morning after morning after morning for 40 years. Can you imagine receiving a gift from God himself every day from today until you’re in your 50s?
Some young Israelite: “I don’t think God cares about me.”
Some old Israelite: “Oh yeah? Look outside your tent tomorrow and look for the magic food.”
The same old Israelite: Drops mic and walks away.
Have you ever wandered through stretches of life that were extremely difficult for you?
Have you ever experienced stretches of time when you feel like you can’t connect with God properly?
Think about your own experiences: When do you usually feel closest to God?
(And on the flipside, what kinds of things have caused you to feel far from God?)
Israel complained and rebelled constantly, and yet God stuck with them, even providing daily bread. He saved Israel from slavery in Egypt, but then kept saving them daily in the desert. During the season of Lent we’re in a similar spot. God knows us. He knows we can be distracted and self-centered -- we can even become too proud of how committed we are to him. But the point of Israel’s manna story is: God NEVER stops being faithful to us, even when we fail to be faithful to him. When Jesus died on the cross, it is Jesus scooping up every person’s rebellion, complaints, and shortcomings and saying, “I’ll obey for you.”