Exodus 16

‘God said: ‘“I will rain down bread from heaven for you.’ - Exodus 16:4

Friends, today we return to our study of the Book of Exodus which we began last year. Last time we heard about God’s concern for His people enslaved in Egypt. We heard bout the birth Moses. God’s calling of Moses at the burning bush to set God’s people free. We heard of the plagues, the Passover, and the parting of the Red Sea. Last time we heard of God’s rescue of His people, which prepares us for God’s eternal rescue of all believers at Easter. This time we will hear of God’s people following Him on a journey to the Promised Land. The journey through the wilderness mirrors and prepares all faithful believers for their journey of faith, through the journey of life. We will see in our studies that what Israel learns in the desert each Christian must learn in their own daily walk with God. Exodus, more than any other book outside of the Gospels, is a handbook, a how-to guide, an ABC in what discipleship looks like. And our studies begin, today, with one of the most important lessons of all, trust.

As everyone here knows before you can get anywhere in a relationship, whether a friendship, a romance, or a work relationship we must first learn to trust. Now, you might think that after everything God has done for His people, sending Moses, forcing  Pharaoh to let them go, providing them with gold and valuables for the journey, protecting them at the Red Sea, parting the waves, and crushing the Egyptian army that Israel might have already learnt to trust God. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. We’re told: 'In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!’ The trouble is caused—not surprisingly in a desert—by the lack of food and water. When food becomes scarce people start to grumble and their memories start to become hazy. For years they cried out to God because of the oppressive slave labour which the Egyptians forced on them; but now, just a short while after their amazing rescue, they start to wonder if life back then wasn’t so bad. ‘In Egypt […] we sat round 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.’ Amazingly, trust between God and His people is gone. The people’s eyes and their rumbling tummies override what they have been taught, what they have experience, what they have witnessed time and again that God cares for His people. Their food is gone and so it seems is their faith. The journey to the Promised Land has barely begun and the people are already faltering. This might be funny if we weren’t just like Israel. How often has God brought us out of difficult times only for our faith to fail the moment we perceive the next threat coming round the corner. Our faith—like the Israelites’ in the desert—seems only as strong as our present circumstances, our memory only as good as our last meal. However many times God proves Himself whenever we face a difficult moment our faith—like the Israelites'—starts to crumble. Time and time again—both in Exodus and in our own lives—God is forced to teach us again and again that He will catch us, that He will provide us, that He will feed us, because our faith is too small. Like a child grumbling against their parent because they haven’t eaten in a few hours, forgetting that every time before their parents have provided food. Like any good parent, like the Good Father that He is, God again provides for His desert people, ’the Lord said to Moses, ‘I will rain down bread from heaven for you’.’ We forget Who is in charge! The God who has beaten superpowers, the God who has freed slaves, the God who has parted the waters of the Red Sea, can He provide lunch? Of course He can! Oh people of little of faith! The people of the Exodus, and the Christian people of today, must learn to trust in the Lord. He has never deserted us in the past and He will never desert us in the future! Maybe for you right now you feel like you’re in the ‘desert,’may be you feel like you do not have what you need. You are worried and stressed and wish that you could go back to some other time. Turn to the Lord, for He can, and He will provide! Trust Him, He is bigger than whatever it is that you are facing and He will give you what you need. All you have do is ask. All you have do is listen to His voice and follow His commands and God will get you through. The people of the Exodus needed to learn that truth again that day and again and again on their journey to the Promised Land. Just like them we need to learn again and again that God is a Good Father who can be trusted to take care of His people. Did you notice the last verse of today’s reading: ‘The Israelites ate manna for forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.’ God provided for them! God cared for them. God fed them until they arrived at their destination. All they had to do, all we have to do, is trust. However, one of the hardest things to do is to trust another when you’re going through a difficult time, whether at home, in a relationship, or at work.

Did you know that before the pandemic 31% of UK employees felt that they did not have a good work life balance. In 2022 stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 17.1 million lost work days, and about one third of UK employees were unhappy in their work. By 2023 data shows more than half (53%) of employees in the UK felt overworked, saying things like ‘they had reached their maximum capacity’, they were being ‘spread too thin’, or were stressing over the threat of additional work. I’ve been through periods of stress and I know how difficult and even debilitating it can be. Like the Israelites in the desert we look round for ways to solve the problem, we work harder perhaps, we turn to easy fixes maybe—like over drinking or eating, or retail therapy. Too often—far too often like the Israelites—we forget to turn to God, the One who can get us through. But if we would only turn to Him, if we would only trust Him, and take one day at a time we would see our lives transformed. ‘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 […] 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.’ The people are to trust that God will provide. They are to gather what they need for that day and that day only. God will take care of tomorrow. That is what Jesus taught us again in the prayer He gave us. How did He put it?: ‘Give us this day our daily bread’. We are not to worry about tomorrow, we are to do only what He commands us to do today. Trust God for tomorrow and then we can start to relax. You know, people who trust are secure and happy, whereas those who don’t end up insecure and either drive themselves to work harder and harder or give up all together. The Israelites are not to collect more than they need or to work longer than God has asked them; instead God commands them to trust and to rest. In our 24/7 culture with our smartphones and emails, with Sunday trading all but gone, and bosses becoming more and more demanding, Christians are to learn the lesson of Exodus 16—and Jesus’ command in the Lord’s Prayer—and witness to a better way of life. A way of trust and rest. A way which does not rely on ourselves, a way which does not lead to over work rather find a way of working enough, of receiving only what we need, and therefore being able to make the most of regular periods of rest. People who trust God are secure and happy because it is not all down to them, and they rest in God’s provision. Our lives can be transformed if we would but just trust and rest in the Lord.

Additionally, this God-given pattern (of only taking what we need) could transform our community… why? Because people who trust are generous and loving. ‘The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little […] the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little’. When we trust in ourselves we are tempted to build up large reserves we are tempted to horde in case of a rainy day. In Lockdown how often were shelves empty? How often did people take home trolleys full of toilet paper, for example, just in case? People who do not trust are always tempted to horde because only in collecting more than they need do they believe they can be certain about tomorrow. However, people who trust the Lord—who know that the Lord will provide what we need for today and for tomorrow—who have take to heart the prayer ‘give us this day our daily bread’, those people can not only rest but can also generously to ensure there is enough for all. Trust leads to generosity. Taking only what we need ensures in the words of the Scriptures: ‘the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.’ How much does our world right now need people who have learned to trust the Lord for tomorrow, to rest in His Fatherly care and therefore are able to take only what they need and indeed, give generously to those who do not have enough. To live simply, so others can simply live. As we return to the story of God’s people in the book of Exodus, as we study their journey to the Promised Land let us be looking out for the lessons that we can learn from those who have gone before us on the journey of faith. Through our studies, may our trust in our God grow as we pray more heartily ‘give us today our daily bread’. Amen (from Fr Mike).