Give us this day...
Week 5, Day 3
Exodus 16. 1-18
The entire passage for this week is below.
Let’s consider the Exodus/wilderness/manna story from what might be a new perspective.
The Book of Exodus was written during (or maybe just after) the period of Israel’s exile in Babylon (597—538 BC); a time of intense crisis for Israel. The nation had been conquered, the temple in Jerusalem destroyed, their God defeated in battle. Most nations receiving this Babylonian treatment simply disappeared. It was Babylon’s intention that Israel’s would do the same; that their culture, history, religion and faith would be forgotten.
The fact that Israel didn’t disappear into the dustbin of history was due, in no small part, to the book of Exodus—and this is the angle on Exodus we are considering today.
The author of Exodus possessed the vision to see (I’d say inspired to see) the grave danger facing the Jews in Babylon. They knew something had to be done. The “something” they did was the book of Exodus.
Exodus draws on stories that are much older than the 6th century BC, of course. The period described in the book is sometime in the 13th century BC, some 600 years earlier. But here’s the genius and inspiration of Exodus: the stories were told not to relay the history of Israel’s liberation from Egypt and survival through 40 years of wilderness travel. Rather, the Exodus stories—and the manna from heaven story is an especially good example, were told to strengthen the Jewish captives in Babylon; to give them hope that their liberation—their own exodus, was assured.
Exodus was written to encourage them to keep trusting that, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, God was with them and would see them through. Freedom is the goal, abundance is the means and God’s constant presence is the promise. By these provisions, symbolized by 40 years of manna, their spirits were fed during their 70 years in the Babylonian wilderness.
Today the stories of Exodus are told to us. The provisions and promises of Exodus are ours. So every Sunday we pray for our daily bread. Every Sunday—no matter how hungry we have become, we receive an ample serving of the bread of life and the cup of salvation. Every Sunday we take time to breathe in the Spirit’s presence. Every Sunday is a resurrection, preparing us to hope and work though a new week.
Prayer: Generous God, your freedom is a gift, your grace is abundant and your presence is constant, Satisfy our anxious hunger with this daily bread from heaven, we pray. Amen.
1 The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and 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. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.’ 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, ‘In the evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your complaining against the Lord. For what are we, that you complain against us?’ 8 And Moses said, ‘When the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the Lord has heard the complaining that you utter against him—what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the Lord.’
9 Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.” ’ 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11 The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.” ’
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: “Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.” ’