Do you know someone who is quick to complain about EVERYTHING? People like that can just suck the joy right out of you. Nothing is ever good enough. They’ve had better somewhere else. The food was not hot/cold/fast enough. The movie didn’t speak to me. The sermon was too long/short/dry/humorous. (Some people think you shouldn’t laugh in church. Thank goodness none of them worship in my church!)
Let’s face it. As a people, we can be very hard to please.
God suffered this negative nelly reaction when he rescued the ungrateful Israelites from slavery and hardship in Egypt. After parting the Red Sea so that they could escape to the Promised Land, God got an earful about how they would have rather died in Egypt, where at least their oppressors gave them the occasional sandwich. Their hunger in the desert made them “hangry,” and the complaining began as soon as they arrived. How quickly they forgot their miraculous deliverance!
At first, they took it out on Moses and Aaron. Moses quickly reminded them who it was that had delivered them, and who will continue to provide for them:
Exodus 16 (Common English Bible)
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I’m going to make bread rain down from the sky for you. The people will go out each day and gather just enough for that day. In this way, I’ll test them to see whether or not they follow my Instruction. 5 On the sixth day, when they measure out what they have collected, it will be twice as much as they collected on other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “This evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7 And in the morning you will see the Lord’s glorious presence, because your complaints against the Lord have been heard. Who are we? Why blame us?” 8 Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning because the Lord heard the complaints you made against him. Who are we? Your complaints aren’t against us but against the Lord.”
God had devised a plan to not only feed them, but to teach them to listen to his commands and trust that he would provide. By instructing them to gather only enough bread for one day at a time, they would be trained to realize that they could count on God to “give us this day our daily bread.”
We need that kind of instruction, too. We so often want to be self-reliant. God wants us to be God-reliant.
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole Israelite community, ‘Come near to the Lord, because he’s heard your complaints.’” 10 As Aaron spoke to the whole Israelite community, they turned to look toward the desert, and just then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud.
As if on cue, the glorious presence of the Lord appeared in the cloud. Maybe the people could see it more clearly because they were looking up instead of being cast down and focusing on all their troubles. Too much navel-gazing isn’t healthy for anyone.
11 The Lord spoke to Moses, 12 “I’ve heard the complaints of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat. And in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”
The scripture calls into question our own response to God. When things go wrong, do we remember the many times he has delivered us from trouble? Or do we focus on the new problem that has raised its ugly head?
Do you trust God to deliver you?
Manna comes in many ways. God even provided a double portion on the sixth day so that they could rest on the sabbath. By looking for his manna in unexpected places, we open ourselves to God’s initiative in our situation. Look around you. Look UP. The Bread of Life is present in every situation, no matter how deep your troubles are.
Then you will know that he is the Lord your God.