Summary: The manna in the wildnerness, like our daily bread, reminds us of God’s goodness and grace to us.
Exodus 16: 2-16 Pentecost 11 – B
Rev. Charles F. Degner August 24, 2003
Are you familiar with this picture? [An old man bowed in prayer over a piece of bread and a bowl of soup.] You will find it hanging in many Christian homes as a reminder to be thankful for our daily bread. There is a story behind this picture. I cannot verify how accurate the story is, but this is how it was told to me. In a town in northern Minnesota, an old, homeless man knocked on the door of the home of a struggling artist and begged for food to eat. The man was about to sit down to a simple lunch of soup and bread. He invited the old man into share what he had. As he was getting something from the refrigerator, he turned back and saw the old man bow his head in prayer and thanksgiving. This picture of simple contentment and thanksgiving was frozen in his mind, and he painted what he saw.
Can you imagine being homeless, having no money in your pocket, no roasts in the freezer, no canned goods in the pantry, and no way to earn enough money to provide your most basic need, which is food? Can you imagine living off the charity of others, not worrying about what you will eat tomorrow, but trusting that somehow there will be food to eat?
Well, we’ve just described the situation for about two million people in our text who were traveling through the desert to their new home. What do you do when you can’t go to the store, you can’t stop long enough to plant a garden, and there are lots of hungry mouths to feed? I wish I could say the people prayed to God, but they grumbled to Moses instead. Yet God in his goodness and love provided for them for the next forty years. Every evening, quail came into the camp to give them meat. Every morning, there was something lying on the ground that could be boiled or baked or fried and used for food. “What is it?” the children of Israel asked. In Hebrew, the question is “man hu,” where the daily bread of Israel got its name. Manna. We can learned something from the manna God put on the table for the families of Israel, and from the manna that God puts on our tables every day.
Manna – What is it?
I. It is the food on our tables
We can sympathize with the families of Israel in our text. They had plundered the Egyptians when they left Egypt and carried the wealth of Egypt with them. The problem is that there is only so much you can carry. When we pack into the Boundary Waters, it’s not easy to carry the food you need for even four days with all the stuff you need to prepare it as well. How long did that food last? It was forty-five days since they left Egypt, and they were out of food. Even the gold they plundered from Egypt didn’t do they any good. There were no stores in the wilderness. What would it have been like to be a mother or father with children to feed, and no way to feed them?
We can sympathize with the families of Israel in their desperate situation, but we cannot excuse them for their behavior. "In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, "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." They made it sound pretty nice in Egypt, didn’t they? Did they forget the beatings and the hard labor in the brickyards? Did they forget how many children were thrown into the Nile River and drowned by Pharaoh’s soldiers? But instead of simply praying to God to meet their need, they grumbled.