Kevin DeYoung / May 22, 2016 / Exodus 16:1-36
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Let’s pray. O Lord, help us, for we are weak, easily distracted and upset, prone to wander, and tempted by the way of the world. Give us humble hearts and listening ears. Be kind enough to rebuke us, merciful enough to forgive us, and strong enough to change us. Most of all, grant to us the eyes and lips to see and savor Christ—in whose name we pray. Amen.
There was a book that Jerry Bridges put out about 10 years ago called Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate. It’s a very good book with a great title. There are certain sins in the church that we tend not to tolerate, and rightly so: adultery, stealing, violence, and lying. And then there are sins that we can easily overlook: envy, pride, anger, impatience, and worry—and we could certainly add grumbling to that list. It’s one of those “respectable” sins. It seems that it’s a sin that ordinary, good Christians still do. Maybe it’s not our most pleasant habit, but it’s a rather respectable sin. As I said last week, grumbling is a sin that we universally dislike in others, and almost invariably approve when in ourselves.
Let me be clear: when I say grumbling, I don’t mean groaning, lamentation, disappointment, or even criticism or disagreement. Especially in the Psalms, the Bible is full of examples of godly people who say, “I’m scared. I’m hurt. I’m upset. I wish this were different. Lord, would you do something? I don’t like this.” There are many examples of a biblical, godly way to offer a groan or lamentation, or to express your hurt or disappointment.
Grumbling, however, is not a humble cry for help, but saying to God, “I know how to run the universe a bit better than you do.” Instead of saying, “This really hurts, but I’m ready to receive whatever I must receive from God’s hand”, grumbling says, “This stinks, and I’m ready to rebel against God’s heart.” That’s the difference.
I thought about starting the message by saying, “Go ahead, whiners. Take out your Bibles—if you’ve got them. If you don’t, stop complaining.” We all do this. Are there any children here this morning? There are a few. Have you ever grumbled to your Mom and Dad? Maybe you’ve seen some of your friends or your brothers and sisters do it. They don’t like the food on the table or the bedtime. You don’t like that you have to clean your room, do your homework, take a nap on Sunday, and share. You don’t like that you can’t go to that movie, can’t go out on a date, or can’t start dating until you are 30-something. You don’t like the rules, so you grumble.
There are some parents here. We grumble too. Sometimes us parents grumble about our kids, because we feel like they don’t listen. They whine, they’re ungrateful, they don’t do things that they are supposed to, and they don’t follow through on their commitments. You know what really bothers us as parents? Sometimes, our kids act so childishly. Children acting childish—it’s just unbelievable.
Maybe you don’t like your boss or your friends, or you complain about your church. When we’re hungry, thirsty, and tired; when we don’t get what we want; when we feel unappreciated, overlooked, and uncared for, our recourse is to grumble, complain, and whine. It was a besetting sin for the nation of Israel, and I daresay it might be one of our besetting sins. I once had a friend say to me, “Kevin, you’re compliant, but complaining.” I did not take that as a compliment, but perhaps it was true. It may be true for you. It was certainly true for the Israelites—the complaining part at least.
They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD.” Exodus 16:1-8
Grumbling Distorts the Past
What’s the big deal about grumbling? First, grumbling distorts the past. I’m sure the Israelites would have liked to linger a bit longer at the palm trees of Elim, drinking from the springs there (as they had for a few weeks), but they didn’t. They set out into the second wilderness: the Wilderness of Sin. It actually has nothing to do with our English word ‘sin’. You may have thought, “Lord, why lead them into the Wilderness of Sin? This is not going to go well.” It’s just a coincidence that it’s called the Wilderness of Sin (in Hebrew), because it’s in the region of Sinai.
They headed out into the wilderness exactly one month after they left Egypt. Numbers 33 says, “They set out…on the fifteenth day of the first month.” This is now the fifteenth day of the second month—one month into their journey. After one more wilderness, one month in, Egypt suddenly looks really good. In verse 3, they say, “Remember Egypt? We sat down by great big meat pots. Those were the days. Every night, we were strumming our banjos, sitting around and singing campfire songs, and we would just have a big cauldron of meat. Oh, remember Egypt?!”
They may have had meat to eat in Egypt, but they were singing a very different tune around those meat pots. Remember Exodus 2:23: “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.” That’s what they were doing back in Exodus 2—groaning and crying out. “We’re miserable. We’re slaves.” Grumbling relies on a distortion of the past. “Oh, Egypt,” they say in verse 3. “We wish we would have died there.”
You don’t know whether to laugh or to cry when you read this. Here they are, after all the miracles they have seen. Remember, they were three days into the wilderness, and they couldn’t have water. Then Moses throws a stick in the water, and that turns sweet. Then they find Elim. They’ve been camping out at a resort for several weeks. Then they head into the wilderness, and now they’re hungry. Now, all of a sudden—“I wish I was dead. God doesn’t care. He doesn’t love us. No one is watching out for us. I wish that we could be slaves. I wish we had died in Egypt.” Just like that! Phil Ryken, in his commentary, makes an astute observation: “They’re really the anti-Patrick Henry.” Remember Patrick Henry? “Give me liberty or give me death!” Here they are, saying, “Give us slavery or give us death!”
Sometimes, all we want to do is go back. What we remember is not exactly where we came from. I’m reading a book right now called The Fractured Republic. It’s about politics and culture in America. The author argues that one of the reasons for our malaise is that both the left and the right (he says) “are blinded by nostalgia.” He’s thinking in terms of politics—arguing that people on the left think, “If only we could get back to those great days in the ‘60s. If only we could have the Great Society. If only we could have these poverty programs. That would be it”, and people on the right think, “If only we could get back to the Reagan Revolution. If only we could turn back the clock to 1981.” In both cases, he says, people are blinded by nostalgia.
It’s not that we don’t have anything to learn from the past, but we tend to remember a golden age that didn’t really exist. The good old days weren’t always so good. Listen, if you tend to complain about everything now, chances are that you complained about everything back then—whenever then was. Back when you were in college—back when you were single—back when you had no kids—back when all your kids were in the house—those were the days. Yes, there are blessings and a sense of loss. Yes, things change, but the good old days weren’t always so good.
Sometimes, when my wife and I are absolutely exhausted at the end of another long day, we say, “Let’s remember this someday when we’re empty-nesters and we’re sad that they’re all gone.” There are hard days here too. Grumbling distorts the past.
Grumbling Exaggerates the Present
Second, grumbling exaggerates the present. Verse 3: “…you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill [us].” Remember, this is not the first time they’ve accused their deliverer of being a murderer. Back in Exodus 5:21, when the whole “bricks without straw” thing went down, they said, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
You think it’s hard leading your business or family? Whatever God has given you to lead, it’s not as difficult as the Israelites. Moses came to deliver them, and the first thing they said was, “You just want to kill us!” Now he has delivered them, by God’s grace, and they still think, “You brought us here to starve us. What sort of trick is that? You’re setting us all up to kill us.” They exaggerate the present. They think they are about to die.
But notice something in Exodus 17:3. They have one more grumble session in Exodus 17. “But the people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” Their livestock are still with them. They have all of their immense flocks and herds. Back in Exodus 16, they’re not exactly on the brink of starvation. They can milk their animals. They could make cheese. They probably didn’t know how to make ice cream, but that would have been nice too. If they were really starving, they had a lot of meat they could have eaten if they killed their own animals. So we’re not talking about needs so much as wants.
As a child, I remembered not to use the phrase “I’m starving” with my mom. I was bound to get a talk about the famine in Ethiopia or the children around the world. She’d say, “Would you like to see some pictures of real starving children? That’s an exaggeration.” It was annoying as a kid, but (of course) my mom was right. I wasn’t actually starving. I doubt that many of us have actually been starving.
Exaggeration can be a serious sin by which we slander others and deceive ourselves. Some of us have a penchant for this. You need to be careful as you tell stories that make you look very good or make someone else look very bad. We do this without even realizing it, especially if we were in conflict. We don’t set out to lie, but we instinctively know how to include the parts that make us look good or heroic and make them look very backwards or benighted. You have to think to yourself, as you are passing on some information, “Is that really what happened, or am I giving my interpretation and putting it in their mouth?”
We have to be careful when we use words like ‘always’ and ‘never’. That’s marriage counseling 101. When you get into those fights, and say “You never—!” Pause. Stop. That’s a bad idea, unless it’s, “You never do anything to make me love you less.” Then it’s good. But as soon as you launch into the ‘always’ and ‘never’s—the universalizing statements—it’s an exaggeration. It leads to grumbling.
Grumbling Dishonors God
Here’s the third thing: grumbling ultimately dishonors God. Verse 2: “The whole congregation of the people…grumbled against Moses…” There is probably a contrast drawn here to Exodus 15:24, which says, “And the people grumbled…” That may have been a subset of the people. It’s made very clear in Exodus 16 that the whole congregation is grumbling. As Calvin says,
Moses says not that some of the people only murmured, but that they were all gathered into mobs as in a conspiracy, or, at any rate, as they were arranged by hundreds and thousands, that they murmured with one consent. John Calvin
They’re a grumbling people. They grumbled when Moses came to save them, at the banks of the Red Sea, when they didn’t have water to drink, and now that they are hungry. This is a nation of whiners.
But their grumbling, though directed against Moses and Aaron, was ultimately against God. You see that in verses 7-8. Moses and Aaron, incidentally, are really wise. You would do well to do this when people you encounter don’t like the things that you believe from the Bible, or when your kids are upset with the God-given rules you’ve laid down. Follow their example: they do not personalize the grumbling. They say, “Who are we that you grumble against us? We’re just following the fiery cloud like everyone else! We’re telling you what God tells us to say.” It’s kind of like saying, “Look, I’m living under the same Bible that you are. I’m just telling you what it says. Don’t shoot the messenger. It’s the divine message-giver whom you’re really upset with.”
A complaining spirit indicates that something is not right with your relationship with God. Though you might direct it toward your spouse, your kids, your parents, or someone in authority, you’re saying to God, “You’re not taking care of me. You’re not looking out for me. You’re not listening to me. I don’t believe that you are really working all things for my good. You’re not interested in what’s best for me. I don’t know what you’re doing, God. Maybe You’re playing golf with the angels or something, but you’re not very concerned about me.” Grumbling dishonors God. It expresses, either explicitly or implicitly, that you don’t trust God.
Again, this is different from a groan, a humble lamentation, or a cry: “I hurt. I’m in pain.” That’s not what we’re talking about.” We’re talking about rebellion against God. Not that the situation is hard, but that God is hard.
The problem with complainers is that they don’t really trust that God is big enough to help and good enough to care. That’s what you think when you complain. “This God?! I may say that I believe him, sing songs about him, and read a Bible about him, but I don’t really believe that he’s big enough to do anything about it or good enough to care about me. So, I complain.” It dishonors God.
That’s the problem. What’s the solution? To trust.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”
In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.
On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, he said to them, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.”
On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations.” As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. (An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.) Exodus 16:9-36
Trust God to Provide
We saw three problems with grumbling. Now we have three lessons for grumblers. Number one: you can trust God to provide. Look at verse 12. By the time we get there, it seems as if the Israelites have taken a step in the wrong direction. Exodus is about the God who makes himself known. They asked, “Who is this God?” Moses asked, “Who should I say has sent me?” Pharaoh said, “I don’t know this God.” Then they came to the point of saying, “Who, O Lord, is like you?” They started to see, but now they’ve grown a little hard of hearing. Verse 12: “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.” “You need to learn again and again who this YHWH is. I thought you understood, but apparently you don’t. So you’re going to get quail in the evening, and then you’re going to get manna every morning for 40 more years.”
Look at verse 15. They asked, “What is it?” In the ESV, you may see a little footnote at the bottom which gives an alternate reading: “It is manna.” In Hebrew, they say ‘man hu’ which, “What is it?” (which is why it’s translated that way here). But there is a play on words here. Eventually, they call it ‘manna’, because that’s what they said when they saw it. It’s like us saying ‘Whatchamacallit’ in English—and all of a sudden, you decide, “Well now we know what to call it: whatchamacallit.”
And they get to collect an omer, which is a little more than 2 liters. Picture your 2 liters of Diet Coke. That’s what they fill each day. Each person had an omer of this honey-like, coriander-seed-like, miraculous provision. And they got twice as much for the Sabbath. Psalm 78 says that the Lord sent them the bread of the angels, and rained down meat on them like dust, flying birds like the sand of the sea shore. This is a miraculous provision.
Like we saw with many of the plagues, there are scholars who try to explain how this is all the product of natural circumstances. They say, “You know what this delicious, honey-like substance that fed them all those years was? It was really plant lice. Or insect excrement. Or lichen growing on rocks.”
Calvin gives eight evidences of the miraculous here:
- The manna did not appear until Moses said it would.
- It was not interrupted by the weather or the seasons for 40 years.
- There was enough to feed millions of people every day.
- There was twice as much on the sixth day.
- It spoiled if you tried to keep it.
- The other nations did not have it.
- Once the Israelites got to the edge of Canaan, it stopped.
- The portion in a special vessel before the Lord did not rot.
No, this is not just plant lice—whatever that is. This is a miracle.
Think of how patient God is. Later in the book of Exodus, God reveals another aspect of his name, saying that he is slow to anger. We see it here. He waited 400 years before he sent the plagues on the Egyptians. Here, with his own people, he’s slow to anger. After all that he’s done with the plagues and the Red Sea, you’d think he would say, “I’m turning this chariot around. We are going back home.”
They grumble, and he responds with grace. “You’re thirsty. I’m going to give you water.” He’s not happy about it, but “I’m going to give you water.” “You’re hungry? I’m going to give you birds that fall like dust for one night. They’re going to cover the ground just like the plagues covered the ground.” It’s the same Hebrew language. “Just like locusts or hail would rain down on the earth, I’m going to rain down manna from Heaven. You don’t think I’d treat you any differently than I treated the Egyptians? I rained down plagues on them. I’ll rain down bread for you. Sweet bread, like honey. I’m giving you donuts every morning for 40 years. What’s your problem?”
It takes trust, especially for an agricultural people. Farmers, especially in an agrarian society, are thinking, “We’ve got to store up. We don’t know what the next day is going to bring. We don’t know when the weather is going to change.” You don’t just live day to day. You want to store something up for those lean seasons. That’s the better part of wisdom—but not here, when the Lord is proving, testing, and shaping them. They need to trust. It might be easy for us to live day to day with food if we know that all we have to do is drive over to Meijer. Sometimes I feel like we go there six times a week. But they need to trust without food left in their sacks. They have to trust that there will be more manna from Heaven tomorrow morning when they get up. Will you obey both the commands that make perfect sense to you and the commands that don’t?
Do you think that Jesus had manna on his mind when preaching the Sermon on the Mount? “When you pray, here’s what I want you to pray: give us this day our daily bread—not our weekly bread, our monthly allotment, enough for the next year, but for today.” Or how about when he said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, saying ‘What shall we eat?’” He’s got manna on his mind, just like in the wilderness. You wake up, and ask, “Lord, can you give us enough to eat today?” There it is. By noon, it’s burnt away. Just when you’re anxious about tomorrow, he’ll say, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. You’ll get more bread then.”
We don’t really believe that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and his mercies are new every morning if we demand a blueprint of his grace ahead of time. “God, I want to see the next week of graces for me. I want to see tomorrow’s mercies today. The manna today was cool. The last 20 years—I get it. What about tomorrow?” God says, “You don’t get it. Walk by faith, not by sight. What is worry and anxiety except living out the future before it gets here?” Going ahead to tomorrow, three weeks from now, four months from now, and ten years from now, and wondering what your kids are going to be like, what your marriage is going to be like, if you will get married, what is going to happen, how this illness is going to work out, and what the diagnosis might say is trying to borrow mercies that God hasn’t meant to give you yet. He’s given you bread and mercy for today. When you get to tomorrow (or a year from now), whatever trials or surprises are there, he’ll give you some more manna for that day. Can you trust him to provide? You can. That’s the first lesson.
Trust God to Rest
Not only can you trust God to provide, but you can trust him enough to rest. You might think, “This is strange. Why do we get this bit her about the Sabbath? What does it have to do with grumbling?” In a lot of our houses, we’d say, “I’ll tell you what it has to do with it. Whenever I try to keep the Sabbath and have my family keep it, it leads to a lot of grumbling.” Yes, there are some things that have changed. We’ll get to that when we get to the fourth commandment in Exodus 20, and how the Jewish Sabbath became the Christian Lord’s Day. Yes, there is some continuity and discontinuity. We see here that the same people who were trying to gather and keep extra manna were probably the same people who snuck out of their homes on the seventh day to see if there was any extra manna then, thinking, “Alright, God. This is a good plan. But I need to be a little smarter than you. I’m not sure if I can take you at your word and really rest.”
We’ll get to more of this when we get to the 10 commandments, but I’ll just say that it would be surprising, even if there are some changes in the New Testament—one of them being that the Lord’s Day is now on Sunday instead of Saturday—if this Sabbath principle were eliminated in the New Testament. It’s rooted in creation, and here we see it present even before the giving of the Law. There is always the danger of falling into legalism when we talk about Sabbath or the Lord’s Day, but I have to believe that undue scrupulosity is not the danger for very many people in this room, myself included. Neglecting God’s gift is the greater danger.
The first thing we have to remember about the Sabbath is what Jesus said: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God did not set aside one day in seven to say, “Here’s a day that’s going to be really hard, with a lot of rules. Let’s see if you can nail it.” He set aside one day in seven to say, “Here’s my gift for you. Do you trust me enough to rest?”
Two years ago, I started rediscovering exercising. It’s something I did when I was younger. Then you just don’t do it, and then you see 40 approaching and think, “This would be a good thing to do.” So I started swimming, biking, and running. Don’t worry. I’m going to be your pastor. I’m not turning professional. So I’ve read about 12-15 books, because that’s what I do, on running, swimming, and biking. I figure, “Hey, there are books. I should read them.”
What I’ve come across in all of these books is the importance of rest. They figure, probably rightly, that people who are going to read books like that think, “What am I going to read? I’m going to read about something that hurts.” They figure that they are probably motivated, push themselves, and want to improve. The biggest thing holding them back is not necessarily motivation. It may not even be time. You know the biggest thing holding back people who want to get fit and exercise? It’s injury. You need to rest. All of these books talk about the science of exercise—how your body grows, strengthens, and develops when you’re resting, not when you’re working out. When you work out, your muscles are put under strain, and there are little teeny tears in them, and your heart and lungs are stressed. It’s when you rest that your body says, “Well, that was kind of hard. We should build some more muscles there, burn some extra fat next time, send some more blood flowing, or make the lungs expand so they can get more oxygen.” It’s only when you rest that you grow.
One magazine article I read had six training laws from professional athletes. Rules #1, #2, and #3 were: You are going way too hard. And Rule #6 was: You need to sleep more. That was from the professionals. One day in seven, we are meant to experience God’s gift of rest.
Just as it is with your physical body, so it is with your spiritual body. The growth, strengthening, nourishing, maturing, and ability for your body, mind, and heart to face greater and bigger challenges is all strengthened when you rest—not by pushing yourself to the max every single day.
Here’s my questions for you and me as we think about the Sabbath.
- Am I using Saturday to prepare for Sunday? God gave them two omers on day six so that they would be ready to rest on day seven. This day will never be a day of rest if we don’t think about it on the day before.
- Am I using Sunday to get ahead or to get a break? Is today a day about have-to’s or get-to’s? You know, “I can catch up on all this stuff. I’ve got to get the paper done. Now I can get ahead on the bills.” Or is it a day to breathe? Is there anything about Monday that feels like you rested on Sunday? I know there are some things that you can’t avoid. You’ve got kids to get ready. Going to church is a lot of work. I understand that. It’s not going to be a vacation, but is there anything about Monday that feels like you actually rested on Sunday?
- Can others see that the Lord’s Day is a day with unique priorities and special blessings for you and your family? We don’t live in a world that understands this anymore. We have to wrestle with all the things that you do. Can our kids go to a Sunday afternoon soccer practice? What about now? One of our kids has a baseball game right now that he’s just not going to. We wrestle with all of those things too. Is there anything about how you treat this day that would make other people around you scratch their heads and say, “Well, that day looks to be something different for them.” And not just different, but are there some special blessings that you and your family receive? Because that’s what God wants to do. Do you trust him enough to rest?
That’s why God made you to sleep. Some of you get by with little sleep and some of you need more. I get it. But when you don’t sleep, it’s an expression of unbelief. You’ve got seasons. You’re up because the kids are crying. I understand. But if you make that your way of life… You know why God gives us sleep? He could have designed us so that we didn’t need sleep. Why would he do this? So that every day he could remind you, when you wake up in the morning, “Hello. It was okay without you. I managed everything fine. There’s nothing to see on Facebook right now.” That’s why you sleep. That’s why he gives us one day in seven to say, “I don’t have to keep up or put out. I don’t have to scramble.” This day is a symbol of resting in Christ from our labors, and finding that eternal rest that is yet to come. Do you trust him enough to stop and rest?
Trust God Forever
Finally, the third lesson. You can trust God now and forever. That’s what we see in verses 31 and following, in this ceremonial business with the manna and the jar. Either Moses—or perhaps even a later, inspired compiler—is put some of this together. They may have put a few verses in here and there in the Pentateuch that Moses didn’t write, because he died at the very end of it. But we’re getting things a little out of order here, because this is the section about manna. Now Moses is telling us what will eventually happen with the manna. They’re going to put it in a special jar, and it is going to go before the Lord, before the testimony. The testimony probably refers to the 10 Commandments. They’re going to put it there and keep it forever. Then it tells us that God provided them with manna for 40 years.
Do you remember Hebrews 9:4? Here’s your Bible trivia for the morning. The three things that were placed in the Ark of the Covenant were Aaron’s staff that budded, the tablets of the 10 Commandments, and the jar of manna. There three things in the museum of Hebrew history, so this must be a pretty special piece of their history. You can understand why. If you were miraculously fed with donuts on the ground every morning for 40 years, you’d keep one of those suckers, too. They were meant to remember now and forever, throughout their generations, that this is the God they served, who provided for them in the wilderness.
The only problem is that the Ark is lost. Sorry, Indiana Jones. We don’t know where the Ark is, but we know where Jesus is. In John 6, the Jews wanted a sign. After the feeding of the 5,000, when their stomachs were full with bread, they said,
Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:31-35
We don’t know where the Ark is. We can’t go see the jar of manna. But we know where Jesus is. We can come to him, and he can draw near to us. “Give us a sign, Jesus! Moses gave us manna. What do you have?” “Well, first of all, it wasn’t Moses. It was my Father. Second, I’ll give you something better than manna: bread that lasts forever—that you can keep for all eternity, and it doesn’t stink—that doesn’t burn off when the noonday sun comes out. I’ll give you bread for all time.” And they said to him, “Oh, we want this bread. This is better than manna. Give us this bread!” Jesus said, “Okay. It’s me. I’m the bread of the angels. I’m the manna from Heaven. I’m the feast that you partake of. When you do, you ought never go hungry and never be thirsty again.” Do you believe that Jesus can provide? Do you believe that when you wake up tomorrow morning, there will be new mercies from Jesus? Do you believe that for the next 40 years, in whatever wilderness you wander, there will be manna from Heaven each morning in the form of Jesus Christ—the one who forgives our sins, sends his Spirit, heals our diseases, and promises us eternal life now and forever? Do you trust that God will provide, and that he already has provided in Christ?
Let’s pray. Guide us, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrims in this barren land. Lead us. O Father, give us the faith to follow, believe, trust, and obey. In Jesus’ name, Amen.