Exodus 16:1-5, 11-15
November 24, 2022
Focus: God is always and forever faithful.
Function: That the hearers give thanks to God for all of His good gifts.
Thanks be to God
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” The Apostle Paul wrote those words to the Christians living in the city of Thessalonica. Give thanks in all circumstances. That we have to set aside a specific day to give thanks may be an indicator that our sinful nature often gets the better of us.
So it was for God’s Old Testament people, His holy nation of Israel. Having been enslaved for quite some time, the people cry out to God for deliverance, that He would save them. And He does! God sends a series of ten miracles upon the land of Egypt, mighty acts of power by which He displays His authority over all of creation. None of Egypt’s gods could measure up. None could defend their own people against God’s outstretched arm.
The people of God saw all the water in the land turn into blood. They saw frogs multiplied in Egypt so numerous that they covered the land, the beds, and the cookware. A plague of gnats. Then they saw God draw a distinction. The fourth plague and onward didn’t happen in the land of Goshen where God’s people lived. Egypt all around them suffered, but God’s hand shielded His own people. Flies, the death of the livestock, boils that covered the flesh, hailstones larger than history has ever seen, locusts that devoured anything edible in the land, and then a darkness so thick that not only could you not see your own hand, but you could even feel the darkness. For three days. While the light shined on in Goshen for God’s people. The last miracle was the judgment of God against all the firstborn sons in every house in the land of Egypt. Such a night of mourning the Egyptians haven’t had since.
And for Israel? Just slaughter a lamb, and paint its blood on your doorframe. What a weird instruction! What’s that going to do? By God’s Word, provide salvation. By His promise, mark your home as one to be passed over, so that no judgment would befall your family that night.
And the Israelites listened. They’d just seen and witnessed the first nine miracles of God. And while this last one didn’t make a lot of sense, they took Him at His Word and they did it. They slaughtered their lambs and they prepared to leave Egypt.
But, they didn’t give thanks. Instead, they responded to God’s gift of salvation by grumbling against Him, complaining that His salvation wasn’t good enough! Our text this morning isn’t even the first time. They complained against Moses at the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s army had given them chase and pinned them down. They grumbled saying it would’ve been better to have died in Egypt.
And the Lord responded with patience and deliverance. But now, even having seen the mighty hand of God again, to part the Red Sea so that it could be crossed on dry ground, and then to close it again upon the world’s greatest army, drowning them all in an act of great judgment, even now they don’t give thanks, they just complain more. They turn to Moses and they grumble. “Would that we had died by the hand of Yahweh 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.”
And yet the Lord was patient with them again. He offers them food, to feed them with bread and meat to the full, matching their complaint. It comes with a test, to see if they will trust Him, trust His Word. He will put the bread on the ground new each morning. Don’t horde it. Don’t hold back. Take what you need. Eat your fill. Keep none till morning. Only on the sixth day should they break that pattern, taking twice as much, as the seventh day would be a day of rest.
Would they give thanks this time? Would they listen to God’s instructions? No, again. Instead, they respond to God’s gift of food with distrust. They don’t believe His Word that He’ll put the bread on the ground new each morning. Many horde it for themselves, keeping it overnight, making plans to provide for themselves the next day. But it rotted. Overnight worms grew in it and it stank. And when the sixth day came, many didn’t gather twice as much, they didn’t prepare for the Sabbath rest as God commanded, but instead, many went out that morning to gather, only to find none.
The Lord displayed His patience to them yet again. In Numbers 11, God would provide the gift of meat again, of quail beyond imagination. From the edge of the camp, spreading outward all the way around it, quail as far as the eye could see, a day’s journey. And they were piled up 2 cubits high, roughly 36 inches.
But when the Lord set them free to eat, did they give thanks to Him for this gift? No, they showed their greed and their hording natures that even the person who gathered the least gathered ten homers, which is 2200 liters or about 581 gallons. We go through a lot of milk jugs in my house, so gallons is a measurement I can understand. 581 gallons’ worth of quail. That’s a lot of trips back and forth from the pile to the supply they were building up in their own tents. It’s hard to even fathom what their homes looked like at that point, with so much quail. They couldn’t possibly have eaten it all. But they tried. And “while the meat was yet between their teeth,” God struck them down. He sent a plague upon them, and “there they buried the people who had the craving.”
There’s a phrase I’ve not used in a sermon to describe sin before: the craving. But you can see it, right? Give thanks to God for His gift? No, we want more! Give thanks to God for His salvation? No, we want something different! Whatever the Lord offered, the sinful nature rebutted. Whatever God gave, the sinner rejected. The craving. The desires of our wicked hearts are nothing but evil continuously (Genesis 6:5).
It would be all too easy to examine this craving within ourselves. And we do, as Christians, often. We are among the wealthiest people in the world. But, rather than give thanks, we invented a new holiday, one on which we would go out and spend lots of money on junk we don’t need the day after giving God thanks for the all the stuff we already have. Rather than thanking God for the food that He blesses us with each day, we complain about the prices of groceries while we stuff ourselves. And rather than rejoice in the free gift of salvation, we grumble about having to get ready, having to get to church, how long the service will last, if it’ll cut into our time for family or fun.
Like Israel, we must repent. The craving is not good. It doesn’t build us up, it doesn’t build one another up, it doesn’t build up His Church and His kingdom. The craving of our sinful hearts only leads us to want more continuously, to say that what God has done for us is not enough.
How many of us have committed the same sin more than once? How many of us have committed the same sin more times than we can count? How many of us avoid daily prayer and Scripture because we’re just too busy or bored to receive His good gifts?
And yet God remains patient also with us. God remains faithful to us even though we fail to be faithful to Him. God didn’t look down upon us from His throne, in the throws of our sin, and pull the plug. He didn’t say He had had it up to *here* and then cast us out forever. He forgave us. And then He forgave us again. And again. And seventy-seven times. And seventy times seven times. Through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. All of them. Even the ones we’ve lost count of. Gone. Done. His. Dead. Buried.
If it were up to us, if we had to straighten out our acts and live perfect lives before we perished, not one of us would make it. The great Apostle Paul declared himself chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and the only one of Jesus’ disciples to not die of martyrdom declared “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us,” (1 John 1:8). But, we know how to respond to that: “But if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9).
Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God for His patience, that He puts up with this miserable sinner. Thanks be to God for His love, that He can look upon me and see His own dear child. Thanks be to God for His forgiveness, that He has given His own life in exchange for mine, shedding His blood to free me from my craving. Thanks be to God that He continues to provide us with our daily bread, with all that we need to sustain this body and life.
This reading of Scripture will always have a special place for my family, as it’s where our oldest daughter’s name comes from. Talia Faith. Tal is the Hebrew word for “dew” and the “ia” ending is the divine name of Yahweh; so her name means, “dew of Yahweh.” And faith comes from the old Latin word for “trust.” Her name is linked to this text, that Yahweh used the dew each morning for forty years to provide food for His people. Teaching them to trust in Him for their daily bread. Manna. What is it? A bread that tastes like wafers made with honey. Good stuff. Solid food. We pray that her name will be a constant reminder throughout her life to trust that God will always provide for her in the wilderness of this broken world till Christ returns or calls her home. Thanks be to God for all His gifts to us!
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!