Lectionary Text: Exodus 16:2-15
Literary Unit: Exodus 16
Sub Literary Units: 16:1-3, 4-8, 9-12, 13-21
Central Message: God provides even when the people of God complaint against him.
Verse 2 in this chapter begins with the whole congregation complaining about that lack of food. Often times the people of God feels as if they do not have enough resources in which to live and make a decent life for themselves and/or their families. “The whole congregation” indicates a general dissent, not that there were no exceptions. “Complained” here is the same word used in Exodus 15:25 and 16:16:7. The real point here is their impatience. Often times the problem is not a lack of resources or the feeling that we do not have enough, what we have is enough. We have to learn how to be more patient and exercise our faith while we wait.
The complaint in this text centered on food (for a similar complaint concerning water, read Exodus 15:22-16). The children of Israel would have one believe that their God was neglectful or uncaring about their lack of food. The opposite was really the truth. After God’s great deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptians and his providing sufficient food for them would be a small thing for their great God? God being who God is and what God does consistently, God response to his people’s complaint was a promise of bread from heaven (manna, v. 15). God himself would supply their food. Sometimes, we as the people of God must learn to trust God, if for no other reason, how about the reason of just remember what he has already done in our lives. The supplying of the manna and quail for food should have been a wonderful blessing from God to his people, but the complaints against God and his leaders (Moses and Aaron) tarnished this blessing because of their attitudes. The bottom line is even when God’s people grumble against God, God still provides for their needs.
The ability to follow instructions becomes critically important in this text. This text serves as a reminder to modern day Christians, that trusting, being patient and remembering what God has already done in our lives is only part of our task, we must also learn to follow instructions particularly when they come from God. The children of Israel could not. Verses 5-8 are an exercise in listening and following suite. A quota meant a daily amount (see v. 5). The verb translated “test” (with God as subject) does not mean “to tempt one to fail,” but “to prove what one really is” (see Exodus 15:25; 20:20). If the Israelites could follow God directions as given by Moses and Aaron, the people would experience God’s power in a new way (v. 12) hence “see the glory.” They would have a renewed sense of God’s presences and further evidence of God’s mercy. The gathering of “twice as much” on the sixth day would allow for the Sabbath rest (see v. 25).
Beginning with Verse 9, God instructed the people to come near, but the idea is relative; they were not to come to close (see 19:21). Because God is Spirit (John 4:21), God has varied the ways in which He shown himself. Whenever God has shown Himself, it is of grand theophanies (appearances of God) particular in the Book of Exodus. God first appeared to Moses in the way of a burning bush (Ch. 3). We do not know exactly what the people saw, but the sight certainly made them aware of God’s majestic and somewhat ominous presence (Ps 97:2-5).
Verse 12 is the fulfillment of his earlier promise to meet their physical needs. The problem too often with God’s people is not of a physical nature, but of a spiritual nature. God as God often does provided ample provisions for His people in meat and bread. The problem is when God supplies the heavenly food so that the Israelites would know beyond a doubt that God was with them and was providing for them, their lack of faith in what they knew to be trustworthy and true lacked faith in who God had shown himself to be (a great provider).
With verse 13, God provides meat through a natural event, the migration of quails. It was still God’s benevolent provision; the quails came at just the right time and in large numbers. Verses 14 & 15 give us a detail description of the bread (manna) that God also provided. There have been many attempts by biblical scholars to explain manna as a naturally occurring substance that still might be found in the desert. Some have identified it as insect or plant secretions. None of these explanations really come close to what God was providing to Israelites. The description of manna in these two verses is necessary precisely because it was not a naturally occurring substance but the work of God’s mystery. Even the Israelites wonder about the manna and it origins. What they knew without a shadow of a doubt was that it was a mystery of the God of Host, as were many of the other things He had done up to that point.
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, Earl D. Radmacher, General Editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1999, p. 115 & 116.
Hymn: Lord I Lift Your Name On High; Shine, Jesus, Shine; Shout to the Lord; Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Prayer: Gracious God, loving Savior, thank you for all you do for us this day. Thank you for sending your only begotten Son, Christ Jesus to die on a cross for the sins of the whole world. Thank you for what you do for us every hour of every day. We have life because you gave up your life. Now help us to be good servants in the vineyard and to share the love and grace that you share with us every day. This is my prayer in your wonderful loving Son’s name, Amen.