Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
“If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.” (Exodus 16:3)
If you were God, how would you respond to the Israelites?
Indeed, God rescued the Israelites from four-hundred-year slavery in Egypt. They cried out to God for countless many years, and God heard them. God appeared to Moses and said,
“I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the LORD. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the LORD!’”
Then God continued, “Go back to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and tell him to let the people of Israel leave his country.”
Initially, Moses refused to go back because Moses had failed in his attempt to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Why? His own people rejected Moses and accused Moses, a murderer. Indeed Moses killed an Egyptian slave driver to protect his own people, which was his attempt to rescue the Israelites. Then Moses fled to the Median wildness and lived in the Median wilderness for forty years as a fugitive. However, God insisted, and Moses humbly accepted God’s mission that he had failed forty years ago. Indeed, his forty-year life in the Median wilderness was caused by his failure forty years ago. Then Moses immediately left the Median wilderness and returned to Egypt. Moses was so mature to go back to Egypt to do the same mission that failed forty years ago. Indeed, Moses was the most humble to follow whatever God commanded him to do.
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
In contrast to Moses’ humility and maturity in God, the Israelites were just babies who could consume only milk but solid food. When they got a good thing, they rejoiced, but when they met a fearful or painful thing, they immediately complained. Then God intervened and took care of their fear and/or pain to get back on the road by holding God’s hand tightly.
As they saw the pillar of cloud, they followed the pillar, and they followed the pillar of fire at night. They believed they faithfully followed God, and they were faithful people to God. Indeed they didn’t deviate from the pillar of cloud and fire with which God led them. They looked truly faithful to God, as if they would follow God under all circumstances.
However, it was not true. They suddenly and repetitively revealed their true color as soon as they met something fearful or painful. Can you guess what the color was? Dark grey, if not completely black.
Yes, they complained. They did not wait even one day before complaining. They immediately poured out their complaints while pointing out what was happening to their lives. All put their focus on God and blamed God. Of course, nobody talked about the good days that God provided.
Moreover, they praised the enslaved lives in Egypt. They even beautified what had happened in Egypt.
Here are the complaints.
“Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (Exodus 14:11b-12)
When they saw the Pharoah’s army chasing them, they tried to run, but the Red Sea blocked them. They were literally trapped between the Pharoah’s army and the Red Sea. Of course, they did not die. God saved them by dividing the Red Sea.
Only three days later, again, they complained and turned against God. They found water after a three-day walk through the desert, but the water tasted bitter, which did not fit their taste.
“What are we going to drink?” they demanded. (Exodus 15:24b)
Again God made the water sweet for the Israelites. Then soon, they found their food ran out, which they brought out from Egypt as they left Egypt. The Israelites complained,
“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.” (Exodus 16:3b)
How did God respond? Without missing one beat, God Provided meat and bread in the middle of the wilderness
Why did God always respond favorably? There is only one reason. The Israelites are God’s beloved children. But to God’s eyes, they were still babies who needed all cares that God could provide.
On the other hand, Moses was different. Moses was an adult in faith. He was always calm and exhibited his firm trust in God. He prayed to God, although all panicked. Here is what Moses told the Israelites, watching the Pharoah’s army quickly closing in,
But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” (Exodus 14:13-14)
Yes, Moses saw the Red Sea with the Israelites, blocking their way to escape the Pharaoh’s army. Moses felt the same fear as the Israelites, but Moses stayed calm and prayed to God in faith.
For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. (Hebrews 5:13-14)
God, the LORD, heard their complaints about no food to eat in the middle of the wilderness.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they will gather food, and when they prepare it, there will be twice as much as usual.” (Exodus 16:4-5)
God answered Moses’ prayer for the Israelites and promised to rain down food from heaven for the Israelites, not just one day, but each day. Moses gave thanks to God and praised.
So Moses came to Aaron and talked about what God said. Then Moses and Aaron together called for a meeting and said to all the people of Israelites what God said to Moses.
Then Moses shared his faith:
“By evening you will realize it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt. In the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaints, which are against him, not against us. What have we done that you should complain about us?” (Exodus 16:6b-7)
The key point was to see the glory of God, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt despite all the fierce resistances of Pharaoh, who endured the nine plagues and finally released the Israelites at the tenth plague after losing his firstborn son. Then God led the Israelites through the Red Sea by dividing it and creating a path through the Red Sea while burying all the Pharaoh’s army under the Red Sea by returning the water to them.
Despite their complaint, God, full of mercy and love, promised to provide food in the middle of the wilderness where they could not find any food.
Many of us remember the same feeling of Israelites’ desperation by being trapped between the Pharoah’s army and the Red Sea. But as God did for the Israelites, God rescued us and manifested His glory to us and those around us. Surely, our God is not like a god punishing those who don’t obey and awarding those who obey. Our God is fundamentally different because he is love. Thus, we can always believe and trust in Him in all situations.
Additionally, as earthly parents desire, our God truly wants us to grow spiritually and deeply into a relationship with God, not a fearful relationship, but the loving one that we cannot find anywhere in the world. Therefore, we can declare our God is love.
Moses, who was an adult in faith, did not miss one beat and warned their childish behavior:
“The LORD will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us.” (Exodus 16:8b)
Yes, God promised the Israelites to give meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy them in the morning. The promise looked unreasonable, even in the eyes of the Israelites. How could God get such a vast amount of meat and bread in the middle of the wilderness? Many doubted. But God kept His promise.
Why did God keep providing despite the Israelites’ repetitive complaints and unbelief? Was there something that God wanted in return? No, God did not want anything from the Israelites except only one — God wanted the Israelites to understand who God was and His unfathomable and unchanging love while giving thanks to God to glorify God. From us, God also wants the exact same – truly appreciate God, Our Heavenly Father, and give thanks to Him. By doing so, we can glorify Him throughout the world.
God did not stop teaching the Israelites instead of punishing them for their complaints and unbelief.
Then God spoke to Moses, “Announce this to the entire community of Israel: ‘Present yourselves before the LORD, for He has heard your complaining.’” And as Moses and Aaron spoke to the whole community of Israel, they looked out toward the wilderness. There they could see the awesome glory of the LORD in the cloud.
All the Israelites saw God’s awesome glory in the cloud. As they saw the awesome glory, they realized that God was not like one of them who were mere mortals.
And that evening, vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning, the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was and called the food manna.
God loved the Israelites. God provided whether the Israelites complained or not. Thus, the Israelites were puzzled. They expected something ordinary would happen, but God gave them something extraordinary they had never seen before. Of course, if we think carefully, it makes sense, though. In the middle of the wilderness, there was no other way but the extraordinary way to rain down food for two million people. It was yet another miracle that God provided, and they experienced not just one day but for the next forty years. It was God’s love.
How about us? Hasn’t God provided us with something extraordinary as God did for the Israelites? Yes, God has been faithful to us no matter what we did. We often acted like the Israelites, but God provided.
Then does it mean that we continue acting like a child before God to get what we want? No.
Then what did God really want from the Israelites? Wasn’t their maturity in faith like Moses’? Yes, God wants the same from us. It is why God always provides and provides with His love. God also often shows His awesome glory for the same reason as He did to the Israelites. Yes, God dearly loves us, and should we dearly love God no matter what happens to us? Then surely we will receive manna in the middle of wilderness or paradise for the rest of our lives as we walk with God. This is God’s solemn promise given to us all, God’s beloved children.
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)