Category: quail

Sermon

Pentecost 14A
Week 5

Exodus: Freed to Follow



Sometimes I wonder how I can see anything through to its end because of wavering attitude or tiredness or lack of understanding! That word, “fickle” seems to fit me at times. How about you? It seems that when any kind of even mild “testing time” comes along, I find it hard to hang in there and “stay the course” as they say. Certainly, when it comes to following Jesus that word “fickle” comes to mind….


The fickle human heart is on full display this morning as we encounter this first moment of real testing of the faith in the Lord of this new community on their new journey.


• We left the Israelites in a joyful moment of victory on the shores of the Sea of Reeds as they sung the song Miriam and Moses wrote for the occasion, as they saw the bodies of the once mighty Egyptian military floating in the shallows after the Lord had comprehensively won the battle on their behalf.


• They had to put fear away, stand at the ready attentive to the Lord’s work in their midst and simply be still and know that he is the LORD and he wins the victory for them. At the end of it they all “feared the Lord and trusted Moses his servant”(14:31)


• After the celebrations of song and tambourine, it is off into the desert on this epic journey that will shape a nation into their vocation – to be a people through which God blesses all nations.


• They head east and travel through the North Western part of the Sinai Peninsular (Desert of Shur)

It is not long before the first of many food and water problems present themselves before this massive travelling community. Food and water are basic to life. When you are in a situation of not having enough water especially, things get rather desperate. I think of those early inland explorers here in Australia and their stories of desperation in the search for water – like Burke and Wills, Edward John Eyre…..


Well, God’s people are now in testing times!


But there is a point to the testing times as far as the Lord is concerned – the point of the testing is trust – trust in the Lord.


This journeying community of faith will be tested on this one issue over and over again. Moses makes the point of this hard testing clear in verse 26:


“If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep his decrees, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, because I am the LORD who heals you”.


We hear of one “water problem” just before our text and then we get to other problem of food in our text this morning. How will this community on the move be shaped by God to fulfil their role in the world survive the testing times they face? This is an obvious question for any person on the journey of faith in God. How will I continue on in faith in God? We are about to find out that God will feed the people.


The LORD responds to the complaint not with harsh judgement but free gift – the gift of bread and meat for his people in the desert.


But there is something more going on here. There is that continuing shaping and testing of the people by the LORD. He gives his gifts for a purpose. He gives his gifts out of commitment to his people and love for them, but also to shape them so that they fulfil their calling as his holy people of healing and blessing in his world.


But, as we can see here ourselves, and know in our own experience, we are so very fickle when it comes to relationship in general – maybe especially so in our relationship with the Lord.


Like the people of old, we cry out for sustenance, support, learning and help from people and God, and at the same time doubt whether God and people can and will respond to us.

We so quickly forget what has already been done for us and reject the very hands that feed us by attempting trying to control our life, our present and future without the very help and inspiration we sought from others and/or God.

We reject the Lord’s manna from heaven – Jesus Christ, and his living word in a number of ways –

We don’t bother to seek it. We misuse the bread of heaven as we try to force God’s word through a number of our “filters” like science, historical accuracy, self-help thinking, and whatever else is in the wind in our time, thereby making things far too complex and missing God’s voice in our “modern sophistication”.


We reject the Manna from heaven by gathering our own manna to sustain us – a more comfortable spirituality, a more individual faith journey without much reference to the Body of Christ – the church – with all its warts.


Of course the easy one is just accumulating more things or better things – relying on other “manna” we think will do the trick – now.

The list of our ways of doubting God and his promise to sustain us even in the desert of fear and evil and death goes on.

When will the complaint and doubt end? When will be able to trust the Lord and take him at his Word, even whether we fully understand it or not? When will we contentedly place our trust in God’s grace and power, take him at his word and commit our lives into his hands, even when we cannot understand what is happening to us, but keep moving in simple trust of our heavenly Father anyway?


Enter Jesus – the “Bread of Heaven”, who opens up the possibility and the way to an intimate trust of the Lord – not as a distant unfeeling, unthinking, unloving master, but a kind and loving Father who seeks us out, bears our weaknesses and forgives our rejection of his presence and concern for our life.


As Israel wandered in the harsh desert for 40 years, so Jesus entered the desert experience for 40 days where he was also put the harshest test by the Devil himself. The test was whether or not he would trust his Father and fulfil the promised plan to defeat sin and death once and for all. Jesus did, so we do (Matthew 3:15).


Jesus even cited those same words of Deuteronomy 8:3, “Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from God’s mouth”. So, he reiterating that we cannot truly live this life or our God-given calling by mere food and drink and the possessions of this world, but only by hearing every word that God speaks in his Word. The Word of God sustains our life – not anything less.


Jesus is far more than merely an obedient Israel. He is also the new and greater Moses who has begun a new age and a new relationship between the Lord and his new people – now Israelites and non-Israelites. Moses gave the people the Law (Torah) of God and was a mediator between God and the people. Jesus gives the new LAW (Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount) and also feeds the people in the wilderness (Matthew 14:13-21).


Jesus is the “true Manna”, the “Bread of Heaven” (John 6:48-51). Jesus is the food from heaven himself who gives his own flesh and blood for the life of the world.


A friend of mine died this week in tragic circumstances. He left good mates, a loving wife and two loving boys behind, as well as a significant number of young boys in this community who looked up to him as their coach.


He was not one to partake of the bread of heaven – not in recent times anyway. I wish he was. I wish he did. Only God knows a man’s heart and God is gracious. He is the final judge on life – not you or me.


As I spent time with other blokes and their wives who also are not those who partake of the Bread of Heaven it has occurred to me again in this sadness that God’s bread is the only stuff that counts in then end.

God’s bread – Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified saviour of humanity, is life. He offers his own body and blood for life and living here and now. His body and blood and his Word are more precious than gold and of better quality than food cooked in a million cooking shows.

If you have discovered the Bread of Life and by faith receive it with God’s people then thank the Lord because this is what makes your life eternal and therefore hopeful – especially in times of grief and sorrow, but also in the everyday things of living and learning.


If you know people who have not tasted the Bread of Life, then the Call is on you to attend to his Word, be still in his presence often, trust Jesus in the testing, tell the story, do the action, invite people in to the Life of God in Jesus Christ.


If you are not sure you have ever tasted the sweet, sweet manna from heaven of Jesus Christ and his love for you, then the door is open and the gifts on offer – freely by simple faith in his good will toward you. Simply receive him.


Bread of heaven, in the desert,
feed me now and evermore.
Feed me now and evermore.
Amen

Freed to Follow – an exodus Journey Week 5

FREED TO FOLLOW EXODUS: NOTES, WEEK 5

• Remember, Exodus is all about two things – knowing God and vocation. Exodus is an account of knowing God through personal experience and how it is that God would call a nation to be the community through which he would bless the human family



• We left the Israelites in a joyful moment of victory on the shores of the Sea of Reeds as they sung the song Miriam and Moses wrote for the occasion, as they saw the bodies of the once mighty Egyptian military floating in the shallows after the Lord had comprehensively won the battle on their behalf. They had to put fear away, stand at the ready attentive to the Lord’s work in their midst and simply be still and know that he is the LORD and he wins the victory for them. At the end of it they all “feared the Lord and trusted Moses his servant”(14:31)


• After the celebrations of song and tambourine, it is off into the desert on this epic journey that will shape a nation into their vocation – to be a people through which God blesses all nations.
• They head east and travel through the North Western part of the Sinai Peninsular (Desert of Shur)

• It would be a constant worry to have to find water and food for this huge community on the move – especially in the harsh environment in which they were called to travel. They have their first experience threatening moment as they arrive at a water source after three days of travelling in the heat, shade less desert with all its dust and rocks and the water is brackish. (15:22-24)


• We get this first “grumbling” moment. There will be many of these throughout this long journey of faith (Exodus 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 14:2; 16:11; 16:41).


• These are testing times! The point of the testing is trust – trust in the Lord. This fledgling nation of blessing will be tested on this one issue over and over again. Moses makes the point of this hard testing clear in verse 26: “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep his decrees, I will not bring any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, because I am the LORD who heals you”.


• So, it is clear: this community will have to learnt o trust and obey if they are going to be the people they were created to be – a people of life and healing and blessing.


• Soon after this first dice with grumbling and doubting the LORD, the LORD ends the testing and brings the healing – they come to an oasis with 70 palm trees and 12 natural springs! The testing only lasts for as long as it needs to before the promised blessing is given again.


WEEK 5 Exodus 16:2-15 (TNIV)


The bread from heaven ( numbers relate to THOUGHTS – the bullet points below)


2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron1. 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 death2.”


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.3


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 was4, 5. 6

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.

THOUGHTS
1. Now water is no longer the immediate problem! The problem is food. How will this community on the move being shaped by God to fulfil their role in the world survive the testing times they face? This is an obvious question for any person on the journey of faith in God. How will I continue on in faith in God? We are about to find out that God will feed the people.


2. As the people become more and more skilled at complaining as they express their lack of trust in the Lord (through Moses), they look back to “the good old days”. It is a common ploy we humans use to express our doubt about the present. The Israelites are very good at it. They know how to make a good whinge!


3. The LORD responds to the complaint not with harsh judgement but free gift – the gift of bread and meat for his people in the desert. But there is something going on here. There is that continuing shaping and testing of the people by the LORD. He gives his gifts for a purpose. He gives his gifts out of commitment to his people and love for them, but also to shape them so that they fulfil their calling as his holy people of healing and blessing in his world.


4. The deal is this: The LORD will rain down bread and birds to eat in daily portions only. There will enough for everyone everyday and enough for the rest day (Sabbath). God sustains his people on a day by day basis. Can you see that this demands trust from the people’s point of view? They are not to take more than the allotted amount of bread (manna) or Quail – only enough for daily need. The manna will not store – except on Friday afternoon when it will be OK overnight for the Rest day.


5. For the most part, the people trusted God’s daily provision and his Sabbath Day food. Both took trust – trust that the Lord would provide what he promised and that there would be enough for his requirement to rest together with him on the Sabbath.


6. Some people could not trust God on this daily basis. They decided to take control of their life and needs by gathering more then was needed and trying o store up for themselves more then enough, “just in case”. Just in case? Just in case God could not be trusted and did not follow through on his daily provision. Greed is lack of trust in God’s provisions for us.


REFLECTIONS
• This reality of God testing his people’s trust of him is an ongoing stream in the bible. In Deuteronomy 8, we are told later by Moses that this whole Manna experience was a teaching thing. Through this daily provision of food for the journey, his people learnt that no human being or community can live only by bread, but actually, we can only truly live by the very Word that comes from God’s own mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3).


• In Psalm 78, the writer describes this provision by God in the form of manna as “grain of heaven” that “rained down” on the people. It was “and “food in abundance” bread of angels” (Psalm 78:24-25). Yet, in spite of this magnificent food from God himself, the people still doubted and rejected God’s nurture and sustenance. They did not believe (Psalm 78:32).


o How has the LORD been providing for you and how have you been doubting him and his promise to keep you?
o We have so much in this place. Maybe it would be easier in some ways to actually trust the Lord if we had little and were travelling in a desert in tents?
o What do you find it hard to trust God for – “things” or relationships and well-being and future?


• Have you done the “murmuring” thing against God lately? Did it lead you to want the “good old days” or just to get out of the situation asap?!


• Israel’s rejection and doubt of God was made good by the new Israel – the Messiah – Jesus Christ;


o As Israel wandered in the harsh desert for 40 years, so he entered the desert experience for 40 days where he was also put the harshest test by the Devil himself. The test was whether or not he would trust his Father and fulfil the promised plan to defeat sin and death once and for all. He did so we do (Matthew 3:15). Jesus even cited those same words of Deuteronomy 8:3, reiterating that we cannot truly live this life or our God-given calling by mere food and drink and the possessions of this world, but only by hearing every word that God speaks in his Word. The Word of God sustains our life – not anything less.


o Jesus is far more than merely an obedient Israel. He is also the new and greater Moses who has begun a new age and a new relationship between the Lord and his new people – now Israelites and non-Israelites. Moses gave the people the Law (Torah) of God and was a mediator between God and the people. Jesus gives the new LAW (Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount) and also feeds the people in the wilderness (Matthew 14:13-21).


o Jesus is the “true Manna”, the “Bread of Heaven” (John 6:48-51). Jesus is the food from heaven himself who gives his own flesh and blood for the life of the world.


• St Paul reflects on this manna episode in the desert in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where he holds up the people and their doubting as something not to engage in. Somehow, Jesus himself was present in the desert and was the “Rock from which they drank”.


• Paul uses this doubting moment as a warning to New Testament Christians – this is a warning not to swap God’s provision for other things in an attempt to sure one’s life up. He says “they became idolaters and engaged in immorality. His lesson is no “shun the worship of idols (1Cor 10:14) because it is impossible to partake of this bread of heaven (Jesus) at the altar and at the same time partake of demons at another table.


• The Promises and calling of the Lord is received on a daily needed basis and includes rest with him in his presence among his people. This however, can be rejected doubted and lost.


o How are we doubting God’s ability to sustain us as church and choosing to live by bread alone?
o Where do you go back to when under the pump?
o What is the Lord calling you to ignore, dismiss or reject in order to participate in the body of Christ?