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 grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.’
Exodus 16:8 (NIV)
Read: Exodus 16:1-18
Consider: We’ve previously thought about the Israelites grumbling against Moses and Aaron. In two cases it was a shortage of water for themselves and their flocks that was the issue. In both situations God provided for their needs. In today’s reading from Exodus 16 the Israelites are again grumbling and this time it is a shortage of food that causes them to confront Moses and Aaron.
The Israelites’ gripe was very similar to what they said when confronted with a shortage of water. In Exodus 16: we read: The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat round 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.’ Can you imagine how Moses and Aaron felt?
We must keep in mind that after the Israelites had escaped from Egypt they had constantly been reminded of God’s faithfulness in providing for their needs. After leaving Egypt they would witness the crossing of the Red Sea, God miraculously providing water and food and being saved from death by snakebites by looking to Moses’ bronze serpent, We would naturally expect that with each of these miracles the Israelites’ confidence and trust in God would have increased. However, when faced with each difficulty the Israelites’ reaction was to grumble.
Did you notice that today’s reading contains details of three miracles? The first two are recorded in Exodus 16:13-14 as follows: That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. The third miracle relates to the collection of the manna and we are told: The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed (Exodus 16:17-18).
It would be very easy for each of us to think that under similar circumstances we would not react as the Israelites did. However, knowing human nature, it is clear that when faced with setbacks and difficulties our natural tendency is to grumble. There is always someone else to blame for our difficulties.
If you ever wonder why the Bible contains details of the Israelites’ failures (as well as their successes), it is because God wants to remind us of his faithfulness and that we can depend on him. Paul addresses this issue in his letter to the church in Corinth, where he speaks of warnings from Israel’s history (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-13). Learning from the past is vital if we are to grow as Christians. This is how Paul encourages us to reflect on history: These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come (1 Corinthians 10:11).
Pray: Father, forgive us when we easily forget who you are and what you have done for us. May we think on your faithfulness during our lives and may we also learn from the history of others just how faithful you are. Amen