The 12th Sunday After Pentecost August 11, 2013
27, 277, 366(1,5-7), 293
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we 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 will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?” Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD.” Then Moses spoke to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your complaints.’” Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children 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, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.
In Christ Jesus, dear fellow-redeemed:
Each time we delve into a study of the Bible and meditation on what is written there, we are embarking upon a treasure hunt. It is no ordinary treasure, it is the treasure of God’s Word and promises.
Normally, when one begins a treasure hunt the treasure does not yet belong to him. However, the treasure which we have in God’s Word has already been given to us. The hunt is to dig into that treasure, learn to see and appreciate its full value, and to thank God for all of His wonderful promises.
The unique thing about the treasure of God’s Word and part of what makes it so valuable is that God’s promises are all sure and 100% guaranteed. God promises that He will supply our every need. That promise is sure and He wants us to trust in Him to provide what we need. God taught the Children of Israel and He teaches us to DEPEND ON GOD ALONE FOR NEEDED BREAD Our needed bread falls into two categories: I. Daily bread for life and II. True Bread of Life.
Today we go back into Old Testament history and the Children of Israel in the early days following their escape from Egypt. The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt, beaten by their taskmasters, and forced into hard labor. God sent plagues on Egypt. Finally, after the 10th plague killed all the firstborn people and animals in Egypt, Pharaoh let Israel go.
The Israelites went as far as the Red Sea and appeared to be trapped because the Sea was in front of them and Pharaoh’s army was closing in behind them. God provided an escape by dividing the waters of the Red Sea and Israel passed over on dry land.
From the Red Sea, the Israelites traveled three days and found no water. When they did come to water it was too bitter to drink. They named the place Marah which means, “bitter.” The Lord told Moses to cut down a tree into the water. Moses did so, the water turned sweet, and the people drank their fill.
From Marah the Israelites traveled to Elim then into a wilderness where they ran out of food and we hear their complaint: “Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, ‘Oh that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger’” [v.2-3].
Just as they had done when facing the Red Sea, the Children of Israel complained that they would rather be back in Egypt. They said they would have rather died by the hand of the Lord in the 10th plague then to have been brought out. How soon they had forgotten what Egypt had been like. The people complained against Moses and Aaron their leaders, but their complaint was really against God. Moses said, “The LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD’” [v.8b].
Complaints in this life come in all shapes and sizes and are aimed in all different directions, but in all cases they are ultimately against God. Complaining is nothing more than being dissatisfied with what we have or what we are experiencing. Who is the one who gives and controls all things? It is your God and Father.
Complaints are against the one who “causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14) and the One who graciously “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Complaints and resistance against the government are against the one who has established it and who says, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2).
The list of complaints could go on: There are complaints against parents, but who has given parents and established their authority? There are complaints against a husband or wife, but who has given the gift of a spouse? None of this is to say that where there is not sin and wrongdoing or that we should not work to correct it, but let us not follow the example of the Israelites by complaining and saying that God has made a mistake in bringing us these things and to this place in our lives.
Thankfulness is a sure cure against complaints. As sinful human beings we tend to have very selective and greedy eyes—just like the Israelites. We choose what we want to see, and we want to see is more coming our way and going our way.
The Israelites saw their lack of food and complained. They forgot to look and see how God had richly provided for them. The trouble of complaining arises when we compare our current state to what we greedily want instead of comparing it to what we could be lacking and recognize how abundantly rich we are with everything God has given.
The Israelites could have looked back with thankfulness. That view would have said, “The LORD brought us out of Egyptian slavery. He rescued us from the Red Sea and the army. He provided water. He will care for us now too." That view ends in thankfulness and complaining is far from the mind. Instead they said, “You brought us here to die.”
Consider the misguided eyes of the Israelites the next time you find yourself tempted to complain.
Do you complain about your job and having to get up and go to it? Thankfulness for a job and source of income erases the complaint.
Do you have a complaint about the weaknesses and irritations of your spouse? Thankfulness for a God-provided spouse to be a partner in life erases the complaint.
Children, do you have a complaint against parents who ask you to do some chores. Thankfulness for a home and food, parents to love and care for you and who teach you the way of the Lord erases the complaint.
The words of David in Psalm 103 urge us on toward thankfulness and erase all complaints. “Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies you mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:2-5).
The Israelites did indeed have a need for food in the wilderness and true to His grace and mercy God provided for their need. They had bread and meat in Egypt and now, despite their complaining and lack of thankfulness, they would have bread and meat in the wilderness. “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’” So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children 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, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat.’” [v.11-15]
The “What-is-it-Bread”—Manna—was small round fine white pieces that tasted like “wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31). Throughout all of the forty years during which the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, God provided Manna for them to eat. God did not stop sending manna until the after they ate from their first harvest in the Promised Land.
There was no reason for Israel to grumble and complain. God would provide. He wanted them to trust Him alone for their daily bread and their needs for this life. God built in a lesson of trust by the way in which He provided the manna. He told Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota ever day, that I may test them whether they walk in My law (instruction) or not. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily” [v.4-5].
God instructed the people that they were to gather only a certain amount each day. Literally, “A portion of a day in a day.” The Israelites were not to worry about from where their next meal would come, but simply trust that the LORD would provide. They were not to gather extra or keep any from one day to the next as insurance. They were to simply trust their Provider. Some of the people did keep extra Manna and it became filled with worms and stank.
The only exception to the gathering rule was on the sixth day of the week when the people were told by God to gather double. There would be no Manna to gather on the seventh day because it was the day of rest, but then the extra Manna from the sixth day did not spoil and God still provided for their needs. Again, some people doubted God and went out on the seventh day to gather manna but found none.
In the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Daily bread is more than just food. It is everything we need and everything we have which God provides for this life. God provided far more than just food for Israel as well. Their clothes and shoes never wore out in the 40 years of wandering, and when they came to Canaan they defeated their enemies.
God wants us to come to Him in prayer and ask for the things we need. There is a lesson for us in the word daily. Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25,34).
Pray for your daily bread—the things that you need for life—trust that God will provide, and don’t worry about tomorrow. God provided Manna day after day. He will provide for you day after day. When we trust God for our daily bread we will also rejoice in amazement and thanksgiving as we see God providing us with what we need each day of our lives. “I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).
Depend on God alone for everything you need for this life. Recognize that He alone is the one who provides all things. Recognize Him as the gracious giver. Thank Him for His daily providing. Be content and thankful knowing that day-by-day He provides for all your needs.
There is far more to life than food and other material things because there is more than this life on earth. God’s purpose in providing what we need in this life is to preserve our life during our time of grace. It is in this life—our time of grace—that we have opportunity to learn to know Jesus as our Savior from sin and share that knowledge with others. The true life with our heavenly Father is our ultimate goal after this life is done.
The lessons God taught with the Manna went beyond teaching trust for the needs of daily life. God also wanted to provide the Israelites with the true Bread of Life which would enable them to live with Him forever. In later years, Moses instructed the people: “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).
The LORD used the Manna and all of its circumstances to test His people’s faith and to strengthen their trust in Him so that they would look to Him for their every need including the forgiveness of their many sins.
Our human nature and inclination is to consider ourselves invincible. We want to be independent and do things our way and say, “I don’t need any help.” This may be a good thing at times, but not when you truly do need help and certainly not when such independence is directed against God because without God we can do nothing. It is most disastrous when an independent spirit is assumed in regard to sin and salvation. We have no way to independently help ourselves. We are sinners in need of great help. Every time our frailty and weaknesses are shown we can be reminded that “yes, we are still weak and helpless sinners.”
Israel’s hunger made them realize they needed help for their survival. The LORD used their physical needs to bring them to a realization that they needed Him. The goal which the LORD had was to bring Israel to Himself and not just for food but also as their Lord and Savior. “Moses spoke to Aaron, ‘Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, “Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your complaints.”’ Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud” [vv. 9-10].
All of the things that God had done for Israel and all that He would yet do showed His honor, glory, and power and assured the people of His presence with them. Who but the true God could do what He had done? Throughout these events God used his name Jehovah, translated as “LORD.” Jehovah emphasizes God as the God of Promise. God promised Jacob that He would preserve his family in Egypt and make it into a great nation and that He would bring that nation back to Canaan. God was keeping His promise to Jacob. More importantly, the greatest part of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the generations that followed was that He would send a Savior from their people to redeem the world.
God’s preservation of Israel showed His faithfulness in the promises He makes. Every miracle which God did to help Israel showed that He is the God of Promise and that He keeps His promises without fail. Each new day of the LORD’s preservation confirms the promises of God and declares His glory. God’s faithfulness in these things works to strengthen faith in all of the promises which He has made, including those regarding the Savior and the forgiveness of sins.
God kept His promise and brought Israel safely to Canaan. Many years later He kept His greatest promise and sent His Son born from the people of Israel in the land of Israel to be the Savior of the world. God provided Jesus as the Savior and He is the true bread of life which is far more valuable than any bread on this earth. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:48-51).
Far more important than the life which food and water supplies is the life which Jesus supplies. We could not have the things of this life if God did not supply them, likewise we would not have salvation or the hope of eternal life if God did not supply those. The sins which each and every one of us commits each day condemn the sinner to Hell. You are a sinner, I am a sinner, everyone is a sinner and where there is sin there is no life. Jesus is the Bread of Life and gives us life because He was crucified on the cross and rose gain in order to erase the guilt of sin. The guilt and punishment of sin is gone because we have been given the bread of life, namely, Jesus our Savior.
The day after Jesus fed the 5,000 He told the people, “Do not labor for the food which perishes but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (John 6:27). The people had been filled with a free supply of daily bread for life but the true gift of Jesus is filling us with a free supply of the Bread of Life which Jesus alone provides.
Jesus has given you full and free salvation. Just like the Israelites always had enough Manna each day to fill them up; just like Jesus kept distributing bread until all the 5,000 men plus women and children were filled; so too there is a never-ending supply of the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation which Jesus the Bread of Life brings to you. Your bread-basket is full and no matter how often you take your bread of life and share it with others—which Jesus wants you to do—your basket remains full as does that of the one with whom you shared.
There is only one Bread of Life. God alone provides it. Jesus is the only way to salvation. “Neither is there salvation in any other for their is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
If you share the Bread of Life with others and it is rejected completely or if the complaint rises that it isn’t as good as what they can get elsewhere. Remember Israel’s complaint in the wilderness. It wasn’t against Moses and Aaron but against God. So too with the bread of life as Jesus has said, “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me” (Luke 10:16).
Whether we think of daily bread for this life or the True Bread of Life who gives us salvation, there are a number of important truths. Both types of bread are provided without our deserving. We sinners live and survive now and forever purely by the grace of God. His undeserved love gives us what we need to survive and has given salvation to live forever.
Both types of bread come from one source alone and if anyone proudly relies on themselves for either, they are sure to come to destruction. The LORD provides both types of bread to meet our daily needs.
Both types of bread are given in rich supply for which we thank and praise our God. We will live in a worry free completely peaceful and happy life now and hereafter when we learn to depend completely on God alone for all of our needed bread. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.