In our text today, God has delivered His children from slavery under Pharaoh.
Freedom was theirs; no more overlords, no more whippings, no more living at the whim of a master!
You would think there would be nothing but nonstop rejoicing and embracing of their new found freedom. But it’s the opposite of that!
They are actually suggesting it would be better to die in Egypt, with bellies full of meat!
Granted, I will allow they might have been worried about potentially starving to death in the wilderness.
It’s possible that after a month in the desert they were starting to run low on the provisions they could carry and their flocks, that Pharaoh told them to take (Exodus 11:32) may have been thinning out before their eyes.
But Faith is rarely appreciated when we are fed, healthy and without compromise, and God, hi-lites their ingratitude as their faith struggles in the face of everyday reality.
To cry out to God for redemption and restoration would be an act of faith, but to grumble against God, and Moses, and Aaron in the wilderness is the sin they commit today.
So let us unpack that sin for a moment and see if we find ourselves in that narrative as well.
First they sinfully grumble against God’s chosen leaders.
Now to hold our leaders accountable for sin or dereliction of duty is righteous and necessary for the Gospel to be proclaimed.
But too often we are turned off, disrespectful, and even undermine their efforts for numerous unwarranted reasons.
Maybe they’re not as popular with the peanut gallery or they dress like they are still in previous generation.
Or maybe they’re to bombastic or to demure.
Or most likely…we simply don’t want to reflect on their counsel and change the way we think and act.
It’s like my doctor Sharon Findley. I know she has been appointed to care for my physical and emotional well-being, and she has no problem gently holding me accountable when I fail in that regard.
She has one test on my lab work that has made it obvious to her, for years, that I do not do the minimum amount of cardio I should be doing at my age.
I have no idea how that single line on a report of over 30 lines knows that, but it exposes me every time I see her.
But instead of just doing the cardio, I have found other ways to try and compensate for it through the latest herbal remedies, taking more allergy medicine and inhaling more albuterol.
No matter how I tried to ignore her directions and come up with a way around her suggestions for my diet, she would simply pull out the report again and gently but firmly say, “You’re still not doing enough cardio!”
Well something in me flipped about two months ago and I really started to watch what I ate and started losing weight and finally started jogging every day.
Then something really strange happened.
I stopped taking my herbal remedies, I quit taking allergy medicine, and I even quit using my albuterol inhaler.
I slept better, felt more refreshed, and even way more at peace with the chaos of daily church work!
Had I just done, what God’s appointed physician told me to do, all along; I could have been living this well for years!
That’s the Israelites problem too.
They didn’t want to listen to their appointed ministers, they would rather be happy with being unhappy!
Next they sinfully fantasized about the good old days that were not that great!
We all do this as well. Boy wasn’t high school awesome! Ah college is the best days of your life! Man I wish I never left that good job! Boy that old girlfriend or boyfriend looks really good now that they’re with someone else!
We totally forget the hazing and gossip of high school, the living hand to mouth and stress of tests and papers in college, the awful boss and less than stellar pay of the old job, and the excellent reasons we had for breaking up with that boyfriend or girlfriend to begin with.
Sometimes we even go so far as to create fond memories that really had no bearing in reality, in order to sinfully distract ourselves from truly addressing our current difficulties.
Just look at the people of Israel who the Egyptians “made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.” (Ex. 1:14)
And they remembered the meat pots? “Slaves were not often given meat, so the people were fantasizing about the best moments of their life in Egypt,” (LSB Note 16:3b Pg. 122) that usually did not exist.
Sadly, when we sinfully look back to the “good old days” that were never that great, or look away from leaders appointed to look over us, we no longer see the goodness God brings in the midst of our current challenges.
And what was right before them was Father God giving them exactly what they needed, and not a smidgen more.
The test would be if they could walk in His law and receive His abundant gifts.
Right here, God had three particular goals for His children.
#1. To give life; daily sustenance would indeed be provided through Manna and Quail meat.
#2. To test them; will they trust God every day? It is a question we frequently ask ourselves these days as well.
#3. Most importantly for us today; that God would reveal that He is the one redeeming them from slavery, feeding them in the wilderness, and taking them into the Promised Land; NOT Moses and Aaron.
Certainly God gave them life.
He gave them sweet water at Marah (Ex. 15:25); meat for the evening and manna for breakfast; fresh every day, provided they take only what they needed. (Ex. 16:12-14)
There was simply no room for complaining.
But it was also a test; so they could see for themselves if they really trusted God.
Not surprisingly we learn later that “…they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till morning, and it bred worms and stank.”(Ex. 16:20)
Moses said “today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none.” (Ex. 16:25b-26)
On the 7th day some of the people went out to gather anyway, and I know shocker, they found nothing.
The Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?”(Ex. 16:28)
Test administered…test failed.
But God gives us a clue today that He anticipated this.
Back in verse 12 He said, “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.”
“At Twilight” is a telling time for the people of Israel, for in Chapter 12:6 concerning the rite of Passover Observance God also commanded, “and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at TWILIGHT!” (Emphasis mine)
God owns the night and twilight in particular.
Jesus in our Gospel today brings all these little clues together and solves the mystery of how those of us who failed God’s test in life live as sinners passed over for the sake of the blood of the lamb.
When the disciples gathered around Jesus, they were all too keenly aware of their failures before God.
But here was the messiah. They saw Him walk on water, they saw him feed the 5,000, and they knew he healed the sick and lame saving many from certain death.
Surely He would tell them the formula, give them the rules they could follow, and show just how they could do what God wanted them to do, to His’ satisfaction.
So they asked Jesus, “…what must we do, to be doing the works of God? Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (JN. 6:28-29)
That’s it? They must have been thinking, because they pressed him all the more saying, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our Fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He (Moses) gave them bread from Heaven to eat.”(JN. 6:29-31)
Right here Jesus brings it together for all people for all time.
Jesus connects those days, with His day, until our day today, saying;
“Truly truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven, for the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (JN 6:32-33)
At this point you’d think they’d get it, embrace him and devote themselves to His every word.
But they are still stuck in another temporal mind set.
Just like the Samaritan woman at the well who thought Jesus was talking about normal water, just like the people of Israel worried about water and food, just like we pray for our immediate needs nearly all the time.
The disciples are missing the eternal blessing right in front of them.
So Jesus helps them by saying, “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall not thirst.” (JN 6:35)
This is Jesus, sent by God the Father to rescue us.
Through His death and resurrection from the cross He resuscitates us from our body of death and then we believe in Him and every word He says.
Now you understand just why Jesus says in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me”.
Now you know why he rebuked the devil in Matthew 4:4 saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
When we gather around Jesus, we remember we have failed God’s test as well, for we are sinners incapable of saving ourselves.
But we are also gathered around His Word, the embodiment of His Gospel proclaimed for the forgiveness of sins.
We are gathered around His Body and Blood given to strengthen our faith in Him and forgive us individually.
We are made partakers in His bread of life through His work for us.
The Bread We Could Never Live Without.