What Grumblers Need
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do) please turn with me to Exodus Chapter 16. Our text for this morning is found on pages 110-112 of the Red Pew Bible in front of you. Keep your Bible open, or follow along from your electronic device; the text will also be on the screen.
>The Israelites have grumbled about not having any water to drink. And now, they grumble about a lack of food. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. This is true: grumblers grumble. You can probably guess what the grumbly Israelites continue to do here:
We actually have some footage of a couple of these grumblers: [Play Commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UO2A2p-19A ]
Carol Brady is right; most people aren’t themselves when they’re hungry. Some even get a little hostile when they’re hungry. It’s called “hangry”—hungry and angry about being hungry. It starts when you’re a baby, screaming and crying until you get fed. And it continues even into adulthood, screaming and crying until you get fed (i.e. John Hough threw the biggest temper tantrum last week. He was hungry at 10:30 and I told him he’d have to wait until noon).
For the Israelites, being “hangry” is just the newest emotion that leads to complaining and grumbling and whining.
P.G. Ryken writes: “Whining is the Israelites’ besetting sin.”
1 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
The whole Israelite community set out from Elim—that wonderful place with 12 springs of natural, delicious Best Choice Drinking Water and 70 palm trees—and headed back out into the desert on their way to where they were going, led by Moses, led by the Lord.
The whole Israelite community marches on, and before long, the whole community is grumbling against Moses and Aaron. The whole community.
This—grumbling, whining, complaining—is Israel’s besetting sin.
Did you catch what they said?
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt...”
Wow. They’re saying that suffering the plagues or drowning in the Red Sea alongside Pharaoh and his army would have been better than being a little hungry. Wow.
Really, what they’re saying is: “We would rather serve Pharaoh.”
“At least with Pharaoh we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.”
This is probably a bit of revisionist history. They’re remembering it better than it was.
No one I know ever does this. I’ve never heard anyone exaggerate the advantages of a former situation.
“Boy, those were the good ol’ days!”
Really? When? Point me to the “good ol’ days”, would ya? Every generation longs for days gone by or complains about how things are now. We’re not meant to long for the good ol’ days (as if there was such a time); we’re meant to long and work for God’s Kingdom here on earth.
The Israelites, like many of us, exaggerate how good the past was. The grass is always greener. Never mind the fact they were beaten and oppressed; never mind the fact that Pharaoh attempted the genocide of all their sons; never mind the fact that they were slaves used only for manual labor, slaves for 430 years!
3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Now, to be fair, grumbling kind of worked for the Israelites a few stops ago. At Marah, where the water was bitter, the people grumbled, and presto-change-o, the water became sweet.
A little grumbling produced good water to drink. So now that they need food, perhaps a little more grumbling will work.
In response to their grumbling, the Lord rains down bread from heaven for them. Grumbling works. Grumbling, however, was and is a serious breach of faith against the living God.
In no time, the people of God have forgotten who God is and what He has done for them.
This took one month. (Moses lets us know that all this took place on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt; they came out of Egypt on the fifteenth day of the first month).
They’ve forgotten, quickly. And grumbled. This is their M.O., their modus operandi. This is how they do.
The Lord knows how to deal with grumblers, and he does so in ways unexpected:
The text—Exodus 16—shows us that grumblers need:
To Glimpse God’s Glory
To Glimpse God’s Glory
The people were grumbling well before their one-month anniversary of being led out of slavery. In no time, they have seemingly forgotten all about the Lord and His mighty work on their behalf.
What they need is to be reminded of their salvation and of the Lord’s glory.
They are still in need of coming to know and to appropriate for themselves that it was the Lord who brought them out of Egypt.
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
“In the evening, you will know that it was the Lord…in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord...”
This is the sort of thing that people living in a thoroughly polytheistic and syncretistic society needed to hear often: it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt.
The people of Israel are not alone in this. We, too, live in a thoroughly polytheistic and syncretistic society. Let me ‘splain.
The Church is not immune. The ol’ U.S. of A is certainly not immune; this country has always worshipped a plethora of gods (that’s polytheism [poly=many, theos=god]—“You worship your god, I’ll worship mine, we’ll be just fine.”).
We don’t have to look far to find an idol or ten, a false god, something we worship; we don’t have to look any further than our own hearts, idol factories that they are. Look to the person next to you; you may very well idolize them. Consider your preferences regarding what we do here on a Sunday morning, about this building, about certain traditions; some of them might be sacred cows that need to be tipped over. Idols abound: sports, money, sex, status, country, family.
We live, and are active participants, in a polytheistic society.
And we are quite involved in syncretism (salad-bar theology, buffet-style theology: a little of this and a little of that. “I’ll take a little Christianity and mix it with a political ideology (or take a political stance and call it Christianity), add a little Joel Osteen, some New Age teaching, dress it up with some non-Biblical end-times literature, and some bacon bits and croutons for crunch.”
Ours is a syncretistic age. And we might be just as guilty as mixing this with that as anyone else.
God doesn’t give us everything we want, so we’ll take what God can do for us, but we need more. We need more than He gives, more than He has to offer, so we also look to Pharaoh—he gives us pots of meat, for goodness’ sake!
We tend to grumble when we forget who God is and what He’s done for us. We grumble when we forget that it was the Lord who brought [us] out of Egypt, [out of slavery].
We need to know that it is the Lord who saves.
“There is only one Yahweh, He is the only real God, and it is He—not any other god or force or factor—who brought the Israelites out of Egypt. This, His miraculous provision of food for them after they left Egypt, should have reminded them of who He is and how He continued to provide for them. He is the same, the only God who brought them out of Egypt and now continued to be their (if they got the point, one and only) God.” —Douglas K. Stuart
The people of God needed to glimpse the glory of God anew.
10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
God wasted no time in giving His people a glimpse of His glory. He manifested His glory by immediately appearing in the cloud while Aaron was still giving them instruction.
God’s glory is His impressiveness, His awesomeness, the sense of His greatness. This is felt in terms of fear, and awe, and amazement, and the sense that one is not in the presence of anything merely worldly.
God cannot be seen, but here He lets His glory be sensed. The Israelites had no trouble sensing God was among them, in power and presence. They all turned and looked toward the desert where the glory of the Lord was.
The Lord’s response was, in part, to remind the Israelites who He was.
12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ”
When they went out and got their fill of food—quail and bread from heaven—the they would know, once more, who the Lord their God was
Only the Lord operates in this way—gracious and good, providing for His people amid their grumbling and belly-aching.
The Lord, gracious and good, gives His grumbling people what they need—food and water, yes—but even more than that: He reminds them of that He is the One who saved them, that He is the One who provides for them, that He is the glorious One.
The people glimpse His glory—that is God acts in such a way to show them how glorious He is; He shows them His glory and provides for them what they were grumbling for. A glimpse of God’s glory should stifle our grumbling.
To Glimpse God’s Glory
To Glimpse God’s Glory
>Grumblers need to Glimpse God’s Glory and they need:
To Be Satisfied in Him
To Be Satisfied in Him
God does more than give these grumbly Israelites a glimpse of His glory and goodness, though that should be more than sufficient. He also gives them food to satisfy them.
Graciously—well beyond their deserving—the Lord provides for His grumbly people.
The Lord’s provision for the Israelites takes care of their short-term ‘hangry’ predicament and their long-term need for food.
Each day, they will be able to gather enough bread—bread from heaven—for that day.
On the sixth day, they’ll be able to double up.
God is the one who provides them with what they really need, not necessarily what they expected, but what they really need.
This is what He does. He satisfies His people with bread from heaven; the Bible echoes this truth throughout its pages:
40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.
He satisfies His people with bread from heaven, and has given to us the ultimate provision, Jesus Christ who said:
48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
“You’re hungry? Here, take, eat—bread from heaven.”
God rains down bread from heaven. This is provision. This is to satisfy them. But this also serves as a test, a test to see if they’d listen to Him and to see if they’d be satisfied with the hand He dealt them—would they be content with what He provided? Would they try to hoard it? Would they try to skirt around His instructions?
8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
This verse reads a little odd; it seems like there’s all the bread the people could want, but just meat to eat in the evening. Like, is God being stingy with the meat?
I don’t think so. If you look at verse 13, it says: that evening quail came and covered the camp.
This—the quail—was a one-time meal, a one-evening supply of meat to provide them immediate relief from their “hanger pangs.” There was no shortage of quail, I’m sure.
The only other time God provides quail for the people is in the book of Numbers:
31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction.
One cubit is about eighteen inches, so the Lord stacked up quail three feet deep for the Israelites.
Plenty of bread, plenty of quail. “All the bread you want” means there was bread and quail enough to satisfy them and fill them up.
The problem is, we, people, members of the human race, are often not content with enough. We want more and more. So when the Lord promises enough for that day (v. 4), that exposes the peoples’ dissatisfaction.
We might pray out of rote obligation: Give us this day our daily bread, but what we would really like is if God would give us this day our monthly bread and then we wouldn’t have to worry about running out. “Give us this day our yearly bread or, better yet, our lifetime bread.”
We have all been dissatisfied with what the Lord gives, haven’t we? At least some of the time? So, too, were the Israelites:
11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” 13 That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” 17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. 21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.
Bread came to them from the heavens.
31 The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.
There was nothing in all the ancient world like honey. Sweet, rare, incredible; the Lord didn’t give His people stale, flavorless communion wafers, no. The Lord gave His people the most delicious stinking thing imaginable.
So significant and incredible is this bread from heaven, that Moses is instructed at the end of the Exodus 16 to put some manna in a jar and keep it for generations to come—as a reminder that the Lord satisfied their hunger. This jar of manna is one of the few things that will be kept in the ark of the covenant which is to come.
Bread from heaven. Bread enough for each day.
The test for the Israelites was in listening to the Lord. They had to go against their instincts to gather while the gathering was good. They had to listen to the Lord even though it didn’t make a lot of sense. They were only to gather so much per person, per day.
Sounds easy enough. But it’s one of those tests that’s easy to fail, especially for a group of people that is having issues trusting the Lord. If they don’t fully trust Him, they aren’t going to be satisfied with what He gives; they won’t be satisfied unless they hedge their bets.
“Nice of God to give us our daily bread, but you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow…better hide some back in the sock drawer just in case. Just in case.”
Oh, how easy it is to grumble when you aren’t satisfied. When you don’t have what you want. When you don’t have what you feel you deserve. When you get passed over. When your opinion is trampled. When that person get theirs and you have nothing. Grumbling is pretty natural.
If only we could learn to be satisfied with what the Lord gives, for godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).
If only we could learn to mean what we sing: “Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’”
To Be Satisfied in Him
To Be Satisfied in Him
I believe what God wants more than anything, really, is for His people to be satisfied in Him, to be satisfied with Him, to be satisfied simply because we are His.
I don’t think the Israelites would grumble if they were satisfied in Him, if they could say (Ps. 63:3), “Your steadfast love is better than life.”
Something less than God doesn’t satisfy. Nothing less than God will satisfy. To know Him is to have eternal life. What we really need is not bread or quail, water or comfort; we need Him.
If you don’t know the freeing, rescuing, redeeming, sin-killing, death-defeating love of Christ, you will never be satisfied.
And you will spend the rest of your life and beyond grumbling, because everything you want, shy of Jesus, will never quench your thirst or satiate your hunger.
>Grumblers need to Glimpse God’s Glory, they need to be Satisfied in Him, and, they need:
To Observe the Sabbath
To Observe the Sabbath
This is a weird one, I know. “Well, it happened. Barrett has plum lost his mind…poor bald-headed fool, talking about sabbath.”
But the text has been hinting at this all along (verse 5 gives the instruction for the people to gather twice the amount of bread on the sixth day as the other days—this is pointing to something).
The prescription is clear in the last part of the chapter: sabbath, a day or rest.
21 Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. 22 On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23 He said to them, “This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ ” 24 So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. 25 “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. 26 Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” 27 Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. 28 Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? 29 Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” 30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
The sabbath, instituted here, before the command to keep the sabbath was given to the people in Exodus 20, is crucial in the life of the Israelite.
it’s crucial for the life of the Israelite, and I believe the sabbath is a good antidote for grumbling. Let me tell you why:
Sabbath means stoppage. Sabbath is rest from work, a reminder that the Lord provides, cares for, feeds, protects, saves. Sabbath is a reminder that God provides, whether or not we produce.
The people of Israel weren’t to go out to gather food on the seventh day, but were supposed to rest instead.
They had bread to eat because God provided them bread to eat the day before. And, only on the sabbath, the seventh day did the bread stay fresh and maggot-free. Miraculous.
The people of Israel sit back on the sabbath. They take it easy on the seventh day. They rest, just as God rested after creation.
When you’re just hanging out, taking a deliberate break from your routine, setting-aside time for reflection and thankfulness, if your thoughts are fixed on everything the Lord has given you (everything down to that breath you just took, and that one, and that one)—I can’t imagine how you’d be able to grumble.
To Observe the Sabbath
To Observe the Sabbath
Sabbath—a day of rest—is given by God on purpose. It distinguished the Israelites from the Egyptians and surrounding nations.
Pharaoh didn’t give the Israelites a day off.
But God does. He commands it. The people of Israel go from working non-stop to working until the Lord tells them to stop and reflect on how good He is.
Sabbath is an antidote to grumbling. They should think: “Wow, you know…this never would have happened with Pharaoh. But with the Lord, Yahweh, we have food to eat and a day of rest to enjoy it; we are free to rest in Him and enjoy Him.”
>Grumblers grumble. The Israelites will live to grumble another day. My prayer for us is that we would grumble less and less as we understand and appreciate more and more what He has done for us, what He has given us—daily bread, rest in Him, the gift of His Son.
Ask God to give you a glimpse of His glory. When you catch yourself grumbling about this or that, ask God to give you a glimpse of His glory, a reminder of your salvation, an understanding of who He is and all He has done for you as an antidote for your whining.
Pray that the Lord and His Holy Spirit would grant you a contentedness, a satisfaction in Him. Jesus says, Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest. Apart from Christ, there is nothing that satisfies. But in Him, there is true satisfaction. Jesus is our portion, all we ever need.
Take a sabbath. Rest from your routine on a weekly basis. It’s not a suggestion from your pastor. It’s a command from God. Stop. Think. Reflect. Repent of your grumbling and rest in Him, realizing that, in Him, we have absolutely nothing to grumble about.