July 7/8, 2018
Steven Lee (North Campus) | | Exodus 16
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.”
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 16:1–36
I have a friend whose mother is suffering from dementia. This friend had to move her mother to be closer to her family in an assisted living facility. What precipitated this move was the death of her father, her mother’s husband. It was a difficult transition. Not because she no longer lived alone, or because she had to move cities, but because sometimes her mother would forget that her husband had died. So they would have to remind her often that he had died and was no longer here. Sadly, they had to watch her relive the grief of receiving this news each time they saw her.
Not only that, but this friend would often have to remind her mother who she was. “Remember me, I’m your daughter.” Each time the grown grandchildren would visit they would need to tell their grandmother who they were. This woman with a lifetime of experiences and memories was no longer able to regularly recall who she was. Few things are as scary as losing your memory. Who would we be without our memories of who we are and what we’ve experienced?
But there is something even sadder and scarier. Spiritual amnesia is even more damaging and dangerous for our souls, and we are all susceptible to it. It has nothing to do with our age and mental faculties. This spiritual amnesia forgets who we are in Christ, we forget who God is, what he’s done, and how he has been at work in our lives. How would you know if you’re suffering from spiritual amnesia? Much like with the Israelites we see in our passage in Exodus 16, the chief characteristics that rise up are grumbling, complaining, and a general lack of gratefulness to God. Spiritual amnesia makes us blind—like the disciples in Mark’s gospel—to God’s good provision and deliverance.
Spiritual amnesia is like complaining about mosquitoes as you behold an amazing sunset while sipping an ice-cold glass of fresh squeezed lemonade. It’s complaining about the air conditioning being too cold on a sweltering, humid, heat stroke-inducing day. It’s grumbling about the worship song selection when your sins have been washed white as snow. The question I want to ask this morning is this: If we don’t want to be those suffering from spiritual amnesia, what should we remember?
This morning our passage calls us to remember God’s past provision in order to know and trust the Provider himself. Trust God by looking back at what he has done. When we are tempted to grumble and complain, look back at what God has done in order to trust him in the days ahead. My aim for us this morning is that we would not be those who suffer from spiritual amnesia—forgetting who God is and what he’s done—but see through the provision to behold the Provider.
We can’t cover each one of the 36 verses in this long passage at length, but we’ll look at this chapter in three sections:
Many will remember, Exodus 16 comes on the heels of God’s glorious deliverance. Israel has been enslaved by Egypt for more than 400 years, making bricks to build Pharaoh’s empire. God, in his mercy, sends Moses to lead his people out of the land of Egypt with an amazing display of his power and glory, including plagues culminating in the death of all the firstborns of Egypt. As Israel is sent out of the land of Egypt, God leads them in dramatic fashion through a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. God again shows his power by causing Israel to cross the Red Sea on dry land and drowning the armies of Pharaoh.
God’s glorious deliverance results in devotion, praising God, worship and gratefulness, right? No, what we see in Exodus 15–16 is grumbling, whining, complaining, and murmuring: No water, Moses. No meat, Moses. Why do we have to walk so much, Moses? Who died and made you boss, Moses?
Israel so quickly loses faith in God who has delivered them from Pharaoh. In Exodus 16:3, Israel yearns for their life in Egypt:
“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.”
Israel grumbles and complains throughout Exodus 16:
This grumbling isn’t a low blood sugar issue. It isn’t that Israel is “hangry”—irritable and angry because of their hunger. This is a heart issue and a trust issue. Do I believe that God is going to take care of me? Do I believe that he’s not only powerful to deliver us from slavery, but kind and loving enough to sustain us in the desert? [Application] This is a question some of us are asking this morning. Eternal life is great, but can God and will God sustain me financially, in my singleness, as a parent, as I age, as I transition jobs, or as I face a health crisis?
Israel grumbles, but God is so gracious. He promises provision both in the evening, with meat to eat, and in the morning in the form of bread from heaven. God provides for his children. Even in the midst of a sinful, ungrateful response that lacks faith, God is gracious to provide provision of meat and bread.
He has heard their grumbling, and will satisfy their growling stomachs. But God wants their heart—he wants them to trust, obey, and to follow him by faith!
We see this in Exodus 16:6–7.
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.”
In the miracle of meat to feed a million people and bread from heaven day after day, they are to see the miracle and see God in it. They are to see through the provision to behold the Provider. You shall know it was Yahweh; you shall see the glory of the Lord. In Exodus 16:12, “Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God” is what is most important in this. God wants them to know that he is God and that they see—through the provision, through the trial, through the difficult season—the goodness and steady hand of the Provider.
This is Israel’s main issue. Just earlier they complained about what they will drink because the water was bitter at Marah. God made the water sweet to the taste and called Israel to listen and obey his commands. But shortly after, Israel misses the point and begins to grumble again.
Application: See Through the Provision to the Provider
This too is our issue. It’s so easy to pray diligently for a season because we desperately want something, but once God answers that prayer we so quickly move on, lose sight of him, and forget to trust him. Or perhaps when a trial comes, we so quickly cry out in desperation, forgetting that he hasn’t changed, only our circumstances have. Will we be those who see through the provision to behold the goodness and glory of the Great Provider? We can trust God because he is gracious in his response to his people. Remember past provision to trust the Great Provider himself.
Israel grumbles, but God is gracious to not only satisfy physical hunger, but to satisfy spiritual hunger. How does God do that?
God provides meat that evening for food, and in the morning, bread from heaven. He give them instructions that they are to obey: Gather for six days and rest on the seventh day. Gather it in the morning, cook it, and don’t keep any for the next day, unless it’s the sixth day. On the sixth day, they are to gather twice as much so that they can rest on the seventh day.
Again, Israel disobeys God’s command. Some keep the manna around for the next day which results in it becoming putrid and grows maggots. Some go out on the seventh day to gather, only to find none. Some try gathering a lot of extra, and yet when they measure it, everyone has one omer (about 2 liters).
Throughout this passage, we see that God gloriously provides for the people of Israel, despite their grumbling, and he is working miracles all along the way so that they would recognize that he is their God. Consider a few of the miracles God is doing:
Application: Remember God’s Provision for You
In a congregation this size, I imagine that many of us are asking questions such as these:
And the answer we get in 12,480 days of manna from heaven is “yes!” God can be trusted with tomorrow. He can be trusted in your life situation, circumstances, trials, and temptations.
Not only is God trustworthy, but he gives us rest from our striving and anxiety. God gives us Israel rest. He doesn’t just command it, but he enables it by making no manna available on the seventh day so no one can go and gather. They get to rest. Unlike their enslavement in Egypt, God gives them the grace of rest.
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.—Exodus 16:27–30
Application: You Can Rest in God!
We can rest knowing that God holds the future. He knows what you need before you ask. It is not as though God was totally caught off guard that Israel needed water and bread and meat in the wilderness. It’s not as though God thought, “Whoops, we forgot to pack those supplies.” He’s God! In our everyday lives, God will provide and care for those who are his. Can God be trusted? Every flake of manna cries out, “Yes, trust him!”
God is gracious in his response to the grumbling of Israel, and he gloriously provides physical and spiritual nourishment. Where this is all pointing?
“‘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.”—Exodus 16:32–34
God commands Moses and Aaron to keep an omer of manna as an enduring sign and symbol of God’s gracious provision in the wilderness. This omer—roughly two liters—would not rot, would not spoil, and would be kept before the Lord. This jar of manna would eventually be kept in the Ark of the Covenant or Ark of Testimony, and it would go into the Holy of Holies behind the curtain.
“Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.”—Hebrews 9:3–4
The lesson of manna is that God gives us himself, his presence with his people. The manna is to show Israel that Yahweh is their God. He is with them and for them. And this bread from heaven is a sign and shadow of the better bread from heaven that would come: Jesus Christ. God gives us himself through his Son Jesus.
Jesus is living bread from heaven that satisfies his people. It is God’s presence with his people. He is trustworthy as one who would rescue and redeem his people. Jesus is the bread of life. Jesus declares unequivocally, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Unlike manna in the wilderness that needed to be gathered each day and would only satisfy the Israelites’ hunger for one day, Jesus satisfies both the wrath of God and satisfies the hungry hearts of all those who will trust in him.
Will you come to Jesus with your empty stomach, longing heart, and empty hands to trust him and receive the Living Bread from heaven? The Jews in John 6 grumbled when they heard Jesus’ words. They couldn’t see it. They were blind. But if you can hear my voice, I’m pleading with you to not go away this morning spiritually hungry without the Living Bread that can sustain your life and soul. Those who come to Jesus and trust and believe in him will never go hungry and will not die.
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”—John 6:48–51
Can God be trusted? The answer is yes, and the enduring reminder is no longer bread from heaven for Israel, but Jesus Christ himself. Look to Jesus to see if God can be trusted. Jesus died so that we would be saved, killed so we might be reconciled, and was raised again to new life—and he rules and reigns from on high. God can be trusted because he cannot deny those who come to him for living bread.
Jesus makes crystal clear that he is the living bread from heaven. Jesus is the all-you-can-feast meal where you can come and satisfy the vacuous cavern inside you. Come and satisfy your spiritual hunger with Jesus himself that satisfies perfectly, never disappoints, never runs dry, never lacks vital nutrients, and is being offered to you as a gracious provision from God himself.
So how do we go about fighting spiritual amnesia? Remember Jesus and his work on the cross. Remember God and his testimonies throughout Scripture. I think we can also, much like Israel, have our omer of manna to remember those significant moments in our life or family history that we point back to that remind us of how kind God is. I want to share one of those stories for me.
Let me try to show you how this idea of setting forth an omer of manna has manifested itself in my life.
A few months ago, we had a youth baptism service at which 20 young people were baptized. Each of them shared his/her testimony. Many were what some would say are “unspectacular.” They were born into Christian homes, hearing the gospel, learning about Jesus at church, and have now come to believe and trust in Jesus. Perhaps that is your story. That is a miracle, and I want to tell you why.
Robert Jaffray was a missionary born into a very wealthy family in Canada. His father owned Canada’s Toronto Globe (which is known as the Globe and Mail today). His father wanted him to become the CEO and owner of the newspaper, but he instead wanted to become a missionary to China. His father was not supportive and threatened to not help with any of the expenses to travel to China, but only willing to help pay for the return trip.
Robert Jaffray, sent by the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), served in South China through preaching, evangelism, founding a Bible school and editing a Chinese Bible magazine. He served in Southeast Asia (China, Indonesia, and Vietnam) for 50 years, even with a heart condition and diabetes. When the Japanese raided the island he was on, he was captured and sent to an internment camp, and eventually died in captivity in 1945.
The reason this story of this man stands as an omer of manna is because he was the one that led my great-grandfather to Jesus. He was a successful shoe cobbler, but also an opium addict. Robert Jaffray led him to Jesus, and he became one of the first local converts and evangelists in that part of China. And so his sons, one of which was my paternal grandfather, also became Christians, served as an evangelist and pastor in China and eventually Hong Kong. Which led my father to enter the ministry and serve as a pastor in California for a number of years. So the fact that I was raised in a Christian home, grew up hearing about Jesus, and have a relatively unspectacular testimony, is a miracle. It’s God’s kindness to work in million ways we can’t see and often don’t know.
And all of this helps me remember God’s lavish grace at work in my life. That God—four generations back—moved a wealthy heir of a newspaper empire to spurn the easy life and to serve God among a foreign peoples.
What is your omer of manna in your life? When in your life has God proven, without a shadow of doubt, that he’s for you, that he loves you, that he’s going to care for you and that he’s trustworthy? Remember! Remember!
And yet, at the end of the day, look through the provision to see your Provider, God the Father at work through his Son, Jesus. He redeems you by his blood and will remember your sins and lawless deeds no more.