Sermon on Exodus 16:2-15
Text: In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 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.”
4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 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.”
9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”
10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
11 The LORD said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”
13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.”
Most of us are familiar with the phrase “the glory of the Lord,” since we hear it every year at Christmas. “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:9) Since this is the case, we tend to think of this as a bright light shining on people. This is absolutely correct, because that is what is said in this verse. However, the phrase, “the glory of the Lord” has more to it than just a bright light. Especially in the Old Testament the phrase “the glory of the Lord” has to do with a special display of the Lord of the Covenant. It always has to do with the Lord’s special intervention into Israel’s history in order to carry out his saving purposes. We have the first instance of this phrase in our text. As we study his Word, may we BEHOLD THE GLORY OF THE LORD 1. In His Daily Care and 2. In His Continuing Care For His Promise Of Salvation.
The people of Israel had just begun their journey to the Promised Land. Having been rescued from the hands of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea, they had come to a place called Marah. There God had provided water for them in a miraculous way. From there they traveled until they reached the oasis at Elim. Things had been going well for the people. Now, however, the provisions that they had taken with them from Egypt were gone. They were traveling in a desert. The desolate area of rocks and limestone cliffs were certainly incapable of sustaining the needs of two million people. Their situation was desperate.
God saw their needs and came to the people. “While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.” From that display, God made a promise to them, “At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.” (Verse 12) God fulfilled that promise. “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. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.’” (Verses 13-15) God provided quail and manna for the people in the desert.
It is worth noting that there are some who try to explain away this miracle. Some say that there is a migration of quail in that region. When they land, they are easy to capture by hand. As far as the manna goes, there is a tree in the region that drops small pellets of a honey like substance that can be used for food. However, these attempts to explain the miracle that God performed fall flat. First of all, the quail can at a specific time to a specific place and in sufficient numbers to sustain the two million plus people. Secondly, Moses described the manna as bread. Later, we are told that it could be boiled, baked, or eaten raw. That does not line up with the little drops from the tamarisk tree. Instead of trying to explain it away, we see the power of God, which showed itself in the glory of the LORD.
When the Israelites were in desperate need, how did they approach the situation? Did they patiently wait for the Lord to provide for them? Did they come to him and ask for his help? No. Rather, they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “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.” (Verse 3) We can scarcely believe our ears! The people were saying that they were better off in Egypt in slavery. It would be better if they had died in Egypt than to starve out here in the desert. ‘At least there,’ they said, ‘we had some food.’ Rather than trusting that God would take care of them here, they grumbled and complained.
Does this sound familiar? We find ourselves in a tough situation. What do we often do at those times? Do we humbly wait for the Lord to take care of us? Isn’t it true that, all too often, we grumble and complain? We think that we can give advice to God as to what should be done and how it should be done and when it should be done. God would have every right to just leave us to our devices at those moments. However, in his love, he continues to provide for us. It may not be exactly the way that we might think it should be, but he will take care of us. Moreover, he is even willing to provide for us when we forget to ask for it. In a further showing of his love, he even provides for people who do not believe in him or even deny his existence. Jesus reminds us of his Father’s love when he said, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45) Instead of complaining and grumbling about our lots in life, may we see that the love of God has provided all that we need for this life. James reminds us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) God has promised that he will care for you and you can count on his promises.
However, there is more to this story than the feeding of the Israelites. This was not a one time occurrence. Throughout the forty years of the journey to the Promised Land, God provided manna in the morning and quail in the evening. The reason that this is significant is more than a reminder for us that God, who has provided for us today, will also provide for us tomorrow. Remember that the glory of the LORD was in the cloud when the promise of the food was made. The glory of the LORD, as we noted in the opening of our sermon, wasn’t just the brightness of the Lord. When the glory of the LORD showed itself, it intervened in Israel’s history in order to carry out his saving purposes. The reason that God continued to sustain this people was that God had promised their forefathers that, one day, he would give the land of Canaan to their descendants. By means of this food, the people were able to survive until they reached the border of the land. The reason the land was important was that God had promised that the Messiah would come from this nation in the land that was promised to them. If God had left them starve in the desert, the line of the Savior would have been snuffed out. By sustaining them, the promised Messiah would come from them and rescue the world. The glory of the LORD showed itself as he not only rescued the people of Israel from starvation, but, more importantly, he made sure that the Savior would come for all people.
We thank God that he was faithful to his promises to the Israelites. Through that promised Messiah, we, too have been rescued. As we noted earlier, we rightly deserve to be cast away from our God forever because of our sins. Every time that we complained about what God was or wasn’t giving us, every time that we worried was enough for us to spend our eternity apart from God’s love. However, the glory of the LORD has shown itself as Jesus came to the earth to be our Savior. In fulfillment of all of those promises, Jesus did everything necessary for our salvation. By his perfect life, his suffering and death, and his resurrection, he has paid for all of our sins. We have been saved through the work of Jesus.
Jesus’ love for us was not a one time thing. He continues to show his love for us through our lives. Jesus called himself “the Bread of life.” Just as the manna that the Lord sent sustained the people of Israel throughout their journey to the Promised Land, so Jesus, the Bread of life, sustains us as we journey to that land he has promised us, namely heaven. He sustains us when our consciences seem to overwhelm us with sins that we have committed. He reminds us that he has paid for those sins, as well. He feeds us through the Sacrament of Holy Communion as we receive his body and blood with the bread and wine. When the devil seems to be doing his level best to trap us into a sin, Jesus is there to help us say “No.” When it seems as though all the world is attacking us for our faith, Jesus is there to strengthen us in the battle. Jesus is also there to sustain us as we go through the rough paths on the way to heaven. When the storms of life seem as though they will overwhelm us, Jesus lends his hand to steady us. We, also, note that he is the Bread of Life. He isn’t a fluffy dessert. He is what you need to live. We echo the words of the people after Jesus told them that he was the Bread of life by saying, “Always give us this bread.” (John 6:34) The glory of the Lord shows itself through his continuing concern for our salvation.
Going back to those shepherds on Bethlehem’s hillsides, we saw that the glory of the Lord shone upon them and they were terrified. We thank God that his glory has shone upon us. Yet, we do not need to be terrified. Rather, we rejoice as that glory washes over us. First of all, we have the continued assurance that he will take care of all of our daily needs. More importantly, we know that he will continue to sustain us throughout our earthly journey to the promised land of heaven. May we see God’s love in every moment of our lives. Behold the glory of the Lord. Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2024 All rights reserved.