Exodus 16: 2-4, 9-15 (NRSVA)
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.
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 Lordappeared 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.
I think very often I can take the meaning of the cross and its significance for granted. When asked, “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” — it’s easy especially for those of us brought up in a Christian family to have all the right answers but lack the reality of the experience of the meaning behind the purpose of the story. Like David we need a Nathan to place us in the story and understand and see ourselves as we really are. Would you dare open the suitcase and go back to Calvary and answer the old spiritual song ‘Were You there when they crucified my Lord?’ Check out Alec Shuttleworth’s version.
In our reading today we come across the community of Israel having been delivered out of slavery and on their way to a new identity, complaining because life isn’t as smooth as they’d like it. If you read between the lines you can see this community is full of people with short memories. A little hardship in the desert doesn’t compare with the brutality of slavery in Egypt. Yet despite their grumbling God continues to show his grace and mercy towards them.
Ungrateful hearts lead to ungrateful attitudes — yet God repays their ingratitude with more grace. Looking to the previous readings this week, perhaps if David had been more grateful for what he had he would never have gone in search of that which was not his. Our hearts determine our response to life. This story today makes me reflect on the good things that have happened in my life and how we often take the kindness and provision of God for granted.
I don’t like to see an ungrateful attitude in others,
Yet I can often be ungrateful myself
What is worse —
I often don’t see my ingratitude
I can see the faults of others
Complain about them
Even point them out
But overlook my own selfcentred attitudes
Today I saw myself in the story of Israel’s ungrateful hearts.
Lord I’m sorry for my hypocritical mindset
I long for it to change
Thank you for these stories in the Bible
They help me reflect on my life story and the life stories of others to learn from them.
Help me to take time each day to reflect upon my actions and attitudes
To my friends and family
I ask that this present grateful heart
Might always remain grateful
From now on.