Israel has been walking for over quite some time. They are tired, hungry for something else, and FULL of complaints. Again, the Lord answers their cries.
I’m trying to figure out how long they have actually been walking in the wilderness. The problem with this is the same one I ran into when trying to figure out the route taken. There is no ONE agreed upon route and therefore no agreed upon timeline. The maps provided by these different views put the reference points that the Holy Spirit gives ALL OVER THE MAP! One of the three main proposed routes doesn’t even have the people crossing the Red Sea. We can throw that one out right away! The other two propose a northern crossing near the headwaters or a southern crossing at the mouth into the ocean.
So back to the timeline question. In verse one we are given a time for Israel’s wandering but I’m uncertain how to interpret it. We are told that “on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt” the people began to grumble about food. So here is my question and three possible answers:
God told Moses to start numbering the months of the year for Israel with the month that they left Egypt. They left after midnight on the night between the 14th and 15th, therefore making them leave Egypt on the 15th of the first month of their year.
- They had been traveling one full month. This is the 15th day of the second month of their year. (This is the one I’m leaning towards.)
- They had been traveling a month and a half. They had completed one month of travel and were on their 15th day of travel in their second month.
- They had been traveling two and a half months. They had completed two months of travel and were on their 15th day into the next full month.
No matter which timeline is correct, the people are not that far removed from God’s amazing miracles that they can’t recall His power and protection. And that includes His turning bitter water into sweet water maybe days ago!
So here we are. The people have adopted a “What have you done for me lately” attitude. The miracles of God aren’t sustaining their faith and devotion. They were looking for what was “missing” instead of what they had. They were looking back instead of looking forward.
Maybe they had decided that God needed to hear their grumbling before He would act. After all they cried for relief in Egypt. They cried out in fear at the Red Sea. They complained of being thirsty at Mara. Now they are going to complain about the menu in the Desert of Sin.
Let’s get one thing clear before jumping into our story. The people of Israel were NOT starving to death. They just didn’t have the food they were accustomed to. They were eating what was available wherever they traveled. Their numbers probably meant that they didn’t get to gorge themselves or even eat their fill at every meal, yet they had enough food to keep them going on a daily basis. They even had flocks and herds with them. They could have feasted on meat ANY TIME THEY CHOSE by using their own animals. But it wasn’t what they wanted. Let’s peek in on our disgruntled group as they, once again, “share their desires” with God.
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Moses, Aaron and the whole company had been following wherever the Lord led them. They knew of their approximate destination but had no clue as to the route they would be taking. They certainly would not have put the MIDDLE of the Red Sea on their itinerary if they had drawn up the map of their journey. But they went wherever the pillar of smoke and fire led them. They also went as fast or slow as it led them.
As slaves in Egypt, the people had no experience in traveling. They had no knowledge of the routes of travel from one place to another. And they had no idea the best route to take to get them from their point A to their final destination.
What they did know was that they were tired of walking. Moses heard “How long until we get there” and “Are we there yet” more times than he could count and it wasn’t just from the children. This group seemed to have no end of complaints. Granted, some of them were legitimate, yet others seemed to be made just to entice those around the complainer to join in their litany of woes.
Today’s topic was the diversity of foods available on this journey. “Who started this anyway” flashes through Moses’ mind as he hears the people grumbling behind him.
“I miss bread. Even the unleavened bread was better than no bread at all.”
“I miss meat. Remember when we would get home from a hard days labor and gather around the meat pots? Now THAT was living!”
“And you had bread to mop up the juices with! I can almost taste it just thinking about it.”
“I’ve almost forgotten the taste all together. It’s been so long since we had anything beyond these fruits and nuts and goat’s milk. A body can’t live like this!”
This conversation was quickly catching as the people walked along. Moses was well aware of the people’s complaint but as long as the pillar moved on so did he and the multitude. Moses took this opportunity to talk with the Lord about the people’s concerns. He knew the Lord was hearing their grumbling and he wanted to know how to address it.
As the day progressed so did the people’s complaints. Now it was no longer “I wish I had…” and “do you remember when…” but it was barbed stabs at Moses for “dragging them away” from their SO much better life in Egypt. Moses was doing his best to keep from snapping at the people for their attitude as he continued to follow the Lord’s pillar.
At midday the pillar of the smoke came to a halt. It was time for the midday meal. Moses was soul weary after listening to all the grumbling coming from those in his wake but he said nothing. Instead he waited on the Lord to speak.
Moses instructed the people that it was time for the midday meal. “Scout around and find what the Lord has provided for our meal this day.”
No sooner had those instructions left Moses’ mouth than the people started shouting. “We want meat! We want bread!”
Before Moses even had a chance to respond to these shouted demands a cry was heard from the crowd. “If only the Lord would have just killed us in Egypt where we had meat pots and bread and could eat as much of it as we wanted. Instead YOU brought us out here into this wilderness to DIE of hunger! YOU are trying to starve us to death!”
Moses’ mouth clamps shut and he turns and walks away from the people but their shouts follow him. Finally he turns back around and faces the people. “ENOUGH! I will speak with the Lord. For now prepare your midday meal. I will bring you His answer when I return.”
The volume of the crowd dies down a little but not their tone of discontent as Moses leaves the group. Moses doesn’t have to wait for the Lord to answer him this time. He is ready with an answer for Moses before he even gets out of sight of the multitude.
“Moses, ‘I am about to rain bread from heaven for you’” (verse 4a).
“Rain bread? Alright Lord. You are able to do above and beyond our wildest expectations. I’m sure ‘raining bread’ will pose no problem for You.”
“Well said my son. ‘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 las or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily’” (verses 4b-5).
Moses walks back towards the multitude of people. Aaron had stationed himself midway between the people and Moses’ prayer location. As soon as Aaron sees Moses returning he asks, “What did the Lord say?”
“The Lord said that He is going to ‘rain bread’ down for the people.”
Aaron’s face takes on a puzzled expression. “Rain bread?”
“Yes. That is what He said. We will just have to wait and see exactly what that looks like.”
The two brothers make their way back to the group who are now eating from the bounty the Lord provided in this place. The Lord has an answer for the people’s bread dilemma. Now Moses is going to allow the Lord to show the people EXACTLY Who is responsible for them being here. It is NOT him and his power. It is the Lord’s doing. If it were Moses’ work they would have died in Egypt instead. And in this answer Moses is calling on the Lord to address the other half of their grumbling.
Moses and Aaron stand on an elevated spot so they can address all the people. “At evening you shall know that is 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?” (verses 6b-7, emphasis added, me).
Moses locks eyes with as many people as he can, ensuring they take to heart what he has just said. Those he makes contact with lower their heads in response. Moses then resumes speaking to the crowd. “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord heard your grumbling that you grumble against Him – what are we” Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord” (verse 8).
Moses turned to Aaron and quietly tells him what he wants him to say to the people. Aaron has been called upon to be the prophet for Moses’ words. Moses is calling for the Lord to move on behalf of him as a testimony to the people.
Aaron steps forward and speaks the words Moses gave him. “Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your grumbling” (verse 9b).
As soon as Aaron finished speaking the Lord answered Moses’ request by providing a visual response for the people to witness. The Lord’s glory appeared in a cloud and He spoke 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’” (verse 12).
Moses immediately shared this message with the people. There was a mixed response from the people at his words. Some were ashamed of their grumbling. Some were excited about what had been promised. And some were of the “I’ll believe it when I see it” variety.
ALL of the people would take part in this gift from the Lord. No matter what their personal stance was. The Lord would provide enough for ALL the people to eat until they were FULL.
The pillar stayed where it was for the rest of that day. The people made camp while waiting on the promise from the Lord. That evening the sky was filled with quail so thick it was a black cloud moving towards the camp. As the birds flew over the camp they dropped from the sky and covered the ground all around. The people quickly rushed to scoop up the bodies and prepare them for their evening meal.
Not one bird was left to rot on the ground. No bird ever tasted so juicy or satisfied so fully as this quail brought by the Lord. There was rejoicing heard in the camp that night over the meal. Everyone went to their tents full and wondering about the second half of the promise that was slated for the morning.
As soon as the first rays of the sun touched the morning sky people began to stir. Either out of excitement or habit or maybe both, Israel began to rise. The first head to pop from a tent sent an audible gasp at what was before her eyes. The filed surrounding the camp is COVERED in a fine flake-like substance. Her neighbor heard her gasp and put her head out too in order to make sure her neighbor was alright. Their eyes lock for a moment and then the first woman points to their left into the field just beyond the camp. The second woman follows the finger of her friend and beholds too what is covering the ground. “What is this?” calls the second woman.
This scene is being repeated all over the camp with the same question rising to other lips. Moses had heard the first whispers of the morning and had come out from his tent to behold the provision of the Lord. “This is the bread that the Lord had promised you. He says that you are to ‘Gather of it, each of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of persons that each of you has in his tent’ (verse 16).”
The people got right to work gathering this material into baskets and skirt folds. Some of the people gathered as much as possible, scooping it into their baskets as fast as they can. Others gathered slowly and took less, intending to insure there was enough for the others in the camp who might rise later. When they came to Moses with what they had the Lord worked it so that everyone wound up with the same amount; an omer for each member of their household.
Moses told every person to use all that they had gathered THAT DAY. “Let NO ONE leave ANY of it over till morning” (verse 19), but many of the people didn’t listen to him.
They were used to the need to ration what they had so there would be food for the next day. Never had they been told to eat ALL they had in one day. Those that saved some for the next day woke to a putrid smell. When they followed their noses they were led straight to their store of yesterday’s “bread” where they found worms moving within it. The pots were immediately taken far outside the camp and dumped. They made sure not to contaminate the new provision with their spoiled old stores.
Moses was angry with the people for not following the Lord’s instructions. “You were told not to save any over for the morning. Why didn’t you listen? The Lord has promised to send you fresh stores every morning. Do NOT test His patience by doubting His word.”
The people repented of their previous behavior and gathered only what they could use each day that morning. They had to rise early to gather though because if they lay around until the sun was fully in the sky the provision of the Lord would be melted by the heat. They did this every morning now as part of their daily routine.
On the sixth day of gathering Moses stopped everyone in their tracks. “Today you are to gather twice as much as usual. ‘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 until morning”’ (verse 23). Do not worry. It will still be fresh in the morning as this is the command of the Lord.”
The people didn’t even argue with Moses by this time. Most of them simply did as they were instructed. This was the sweetest flour they had ever worked with. This “manna” as it became known as made the best bread ever baked and thickened soups like nothing else. No longer were the Israelites walking with half-filled bellies. They were always satisfied, full, and fueled for whatever task the Lord set before them.
On the morning of the Sabbath Moses told the people, “Eat what you put aside for today. Today is a Sabbath to the Lord. There won’t be any in the fields for you today. The Lord will provide you with His manna every morning for six days. Take only what you need for that day on all days except the sixth. On the sixth, take enough for the seventh day as there will be none. This seventh day will continually be a Sabbath to the Lord.”
Most of the people listened to Moses and did as they were instructed, but some went into the fields hoping to gather again this day. Moses saw their actions and KNEW the Lord would have something to say about this. The Lord had just given them their instructions and demonstrated His provision by sending the manna, spoiling what was kept when told to keep none, and preserving the stores when told to save some over. What more proof did the people need of the Lord’s truth in His commands?
The Lord gave Moses a message to deliver to the people. He was angry, just as Moses knew He would be. But He was also longsuffering and gave the people another chance. “Those of you in the field come back to your places NOW. The Lord is NOT pleased with your behavior. You were told there would be no manna for you to gather today. You were also told that this day belonged to the Lord. So hear now what He says regarding your behavior. ‘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 lace on the seventh day’ (verses 28b-29).”
Those who had gone into the field quickly and quietly returned to their tents. Everyone sat outside their tents and spoke quietly with one another throughout the day. Moses was very pleased to hear several conversations recalling the miracles the Lord had done so far for the children of Israel. While Moses rested in his place the Lord gave him instructions again.
“Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
“I miss the quiet times under the tree with you. I know the task I have called you to do is difficult but your reliance on Me brings joy to my heart. I want to set up a remembrance for the children of Israel for times to come. I want you to put aside an omer of My provision for the people so that they may see the bread with which I fed them in the wilderness, when I brought them out of Egypt.”
“That is a wonderful idea Lord! I will see to it immediately.”
“You can’t gather any of it until morning. There isn’t any right now.”
“Sorry. I guess I got excited and got ahead of myself. I will prepare Aaron for morning so he will be ready when he is called upon to perform this task. Then we will tell the people of Your instructions as they gather for the day.”
Moses shares the Lord’s plan to save a remnant of the manna for future generations as a testimony of their time in the wilderness. Aaron is excited for this opportunity tomorrow.
When morning arrives Moses and Aaron approach the field where the manna lies on the ground. Moses gets the attention of those gathering in the field. “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Let an omen of it be kept throughout your generations so that they may see the bread which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt’ (verse 32). Aaron, ‘take a jar and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord to be kept throughout your generations’ (verse 33).”
Aaron did as Moses and the Lord commanded. He gathered a jar full of the manna from Heaven, put a stopper in it and sealed it with wax. The people all paused in their gathering to witness Aaron’s careful ministration for future generations. Then the people returned to gathering their stores for the day.
This was the new way of the people. This six days gathering of manna became as integral to the people as breathing. It was their daily portion. They no longer had to search out food each day. What the Lord provided was enough.
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Father God, You are such a GOOD provider! I can’t imagine going out in the morning to find manna covering my field. You gave the people everything they needed. You answered every one of their cries even when those cries were for wants instead of needs. Did You answer this need like You did to keep them motivated? I don’t know if they were ever full before, even in Egypt, but they were filled by what You provided.
Why did this group grumble so often? You did everything they requested from freeing them from slavery to providing bread for their dinner every day. Yet they were never satisfied. PLEASE don’t let me be that way! I want to praise You for EVERY little thing You do. I want to remember every answered prayer and use them to build my faith for each one that is coming in my future. Let me hold onto Your hand every day and be grateful just to be with You.