Grumbling, grumbling, always grumbling

About a month and a half after the Lord miraculously led the Israelites out of Egypt, they came to the Desert of Sin. Just think only 45 days ago they had seen the last of the plagues, the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt, both cattle and people. Only 45 days since the Lord has instructed the Israelites to carry out the Passover meal and put the blood of lamb on the doorposts and beams of their houses to spare the lives of their firstborn from the angel of death. Only 45 days after God’s presence led the Israelites by means of the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Only 45 days after the Lord miraculously held back the waters of the Red Sea so Israel could cross over on dry ground, and only 45 days after the Lord allowed the waters to return and drown all the chariots and horsemen of Egypt.

Exodus 16:2 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." 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. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days." 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." 9 Then Moses told Aaron, "Say to the entire Israelite community, 'Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'" 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. 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: 'Each one is to gather as much as he needs. 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, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he 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.

Again, Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron (Ex 15:24 and 16:2). During this time of wandering in the desert, the people of Israel frequently grumbled against Moses and Aaron, especially whenever they faced a crisis. Whenever the Israelites were hungry or thirsty or disapproved of the leadership of Moses and Aaron, they murmured and complained. They whined and grumbled. They were not simply grumbling against Moses and Aaron; in reality, they were really grumbling against the Lord (Ex 16:7f). And yet just 45 days after miraculously delivering them from the powerful nation of Egypt, God was providing again in an extraordinary way. The Lord told Moses he would rain down bread from heaven in the morning and meat in the form of quail in the evening. During all the years of wandering in the wilderness, the Lord graciously provided this heavenly food. Verse 31 states the people called the bread “manna,” which means “what is it?” and it was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey.

Jesus used this reference to manna or heavenly food to describe himself as the bread of life in the Gospel of John. (John 6)  John uses most of that chapter to record Jesus’ discourse on his being the bread of life. Jesus calls himself the true bread from heaven because like manna he was sent by God the Father from heaven (Jn 6:32). He compares himself to the “bread of God” because he “comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33). Jesus is the bread of life (the first of seven “I am” descriptions Jesus offers of himself. Whoever comes to Jesus “will never go hungry, and he who believes in me (Jesus) will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35). Later, Jesus says, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (Jn 6:51).


Far too often we complain about how God provides for us. We grumble that we do not have enough money, that our home is too old or too small, our cars are outdated or badly in need of repair. We need to see that the Lord continually provides for our basic needs. We simply need to trust in God for heavenly food and to be content in every and any situation (Philippians 4:12).

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