Series: Becoming the People of God
Sermon #6: Promises and Provisions
By: Donnell Wyche
The Miracles of God
We left off in our story with Pharaoh chasing the people towards the Red Sea, a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in the way of the people walking in the freedom that God promised (Exodus 14:11-12.)
God rescues the people by parting the Red Sea and providing dry ground on which they could escape. Last week, I quoted my friend LaTricia Mitchell who says, “A miracle is just something that only God can do,” and you would think that this miracle would cement in the people’s minds that the God who delivered them from Pharaoh and the empire would be a God who could be trusted (Exodus 14:15–28).
But, you would be wrong.
STORY: I’ve experienced a miracle. In the midst of a heated conflict, I sent an email that I later regretted sending. I was hurt and angry, and I found comfort in this email exchange, but I quickly realized that this person might be using me to confirm information that wasn’t yet public. As the regret set in, I was pained and devastated, because as a computer scientist, I know that once I hit send, the email travels at the speed of light from server to server until it’s delivered. With no other options available, accepting the errors of my ways, I took a walk because there wasn’t anything I could do. As I walked, I remember praying to the Lord for help. Please delete that email, crash that server, or at least tag it as spam, so that it would not be delivered to their inbox. I couldn’t even imagine a possibility that the email could be returned to me. After six hours, I experienced my first miracle because I got a notice from Google that the email was not delivered. What!? Did that just happen?
When we witness or experience miracles, often they do not compute. Yet, we all seek and want the signs of the miraculous to convince us, and while signs and wonders may give us hope in the moment, they aren’t enough to sustain us. We have to reformed and reshaped to be transformed.
Whine, Whine, Whine, and Complain…
Just two months after God miraculously delivers the people, they are complaining. Yup, complaining. The people are in a battle for survival. Freed from the slavery in Egypt, they are now facing the harsh reality of that freedom, the inhospitable environment of the desert. And if the reality TV show “Survivor” has taught us anything, it’s that when we are set in difficult situations, we will lie, steal, and try to kill each other in order to survive.
I’m reading from Exodus 16, verse 1:
On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 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! 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.” (Exodus 16:1–3)
This is the third complaint lobbed by the people which follows a familiar pattern: obstacle, complaint, leadership intervention, and salvation by God.
But this is more than just a story of ungrateful former slaves trying to trust the God who has set them on a course for freedom. This is a hopeful story. This is a story about a people getting to know the God who rescued them and that God getting to know this people. This is a story for all of us.
Because this is a story that focuses on how God responds.
God responds immediately…
I’m reading from Exodus 16, verse 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. (Exodus 16:4)
The people complain that Moses and Aaron have led them into the desert to starve to death. And God responds by saying, “I will rain down bread from heaven.” While the people experienced the miracle of God rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, the stress, struggle, and chaos of this newfound freedom in the desert has the people constructing false memories (Exodus 16:3) of their time in Egypt where instead of slaves, they were able to gather around pots of plenty. When we are in transition, especially as we attempt to walk in the promise of freedom that God offers us, we struggle as we make our way.
I’m reading from Exodus 16, verse 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, 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?” 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.” (Exodus 16:6–8)
Moses is a bit peeved with the people, “Who are we?” he says, over and over again. “Who are we?” He tells the people, your complaints aren’t against us, they are against the Lord. Moses is gaining confidence in his relationship with God. He has seen God do what seemed impossible. So, Moses wants the people to know and trust the God he does. Watch what Moses does next — Moses takes what the Lord said to him, and in a stunning move, Moses takes some significant interpretative leaps on God’s provision. He expands the promise.
You may have missed it like I did.
First, in Exodus 16:7, Moses promises the people that they will see the glory of the Lord. In spite of your complaining, your lack of trust, God will indeed come through, just you wait. In the morning, you will see the glory of God.
On a roll, Moses keeps going. The Lord promises bread, Moses ups the ante in Exodus 16:8, and says that the Lord will also provide meat in the evening. Whoah! Where did that come from? Is it possible that Moses hopes that the Lord overhears what he promises the people because more than a test that God said the bread from heaven would be, Moses knows that this peopl,e bent on rebelling, need more than rules and tests, what they need is provision. They need a promise, they need something they can hold onto, they need something that will sustain them, and that’s exactly what Moses offers.
Now that I have your attention, you might think that God will would ream, steam, and carpet clean Moses for his over-reach, for his creative interpretative leaps, but remember this is a story about the promises and provision of God–it’s a hopeful story!
Watch what God does,
The Lord said to Moses, “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.’ ” That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. (Exodus 16:11–15)
God comes through just as Moses promised.
This people who have only seen the God of power and drama, now will discover the God that Moses knows, a God who is also with them. A God who responds to the people’s need for reassurance. The God of promise, who accompanies the promise with presence. They need to know the steady, reliable God who comes through on promises. I want to offer that God agrees to Moses creative interpretative leaps because God wants to shape these former slaves into the people of God.
Introducing Sabbath Rest, Enough for today and even some for tomorrow!
Prior to liberation, the people only knew the ways of empire where anxiety and fear prompted the Pharaoh to force the people to build and fill storehouses with provisions. They only knew hoarding, where they were used to fuel the insatiable appetite of empire. God, in Exodus 16, acknowledges their need for reassurance, but also the need for God to shape the people into a different kind of people, a different community.
I’m reading in Exodus 16 verse 15,
Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as they need. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’ ” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 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. Each one had gathered just as much as they needed. (Exodus 16:15–18)
There’s this thing called liturgy, and we are all being shaped by them — the empire has a liturgy, so does God, and in this passage, God will use the daily ritual of gathering food and provision as a way to teach the people with their very bodies how to come to trust God–the steady, reliable God of promise and provision. In the process they will also learn that to be human is to live in God’s provision of enough, which frees them to take what they need, not more, not less, but enough.
Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 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. (Exodus 16:15–20)
The people will indeed test God — some will ignore the command and revert back to empire thinking and try to hoard, only to quickly discover that this hoarding will produce rot and deca — a built in lesson on enough. God says, “You don’t have to take more than you need because I am the God who will provide, but you have to trust my provision, every day.”
Every test of the boundaries, the people will come to know the God of promise and provision, resisting the way of empire by trusting the provision of God and by not hoarding.
Then God takes a step further to pattern and shape the people by introducing a concept that is antithetical in empire: Sabbath, a day of rest.
I’m reading in Exodus 16, verse 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.’ ” So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the Lord. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” (Exodus 16:23–26)
In calling the people to Sabbath, God calls the people to stop, put aside their daily task of gathering in order to enter into wonder and awe, what we might call worship. God reveals something about Godself, that even the God of promise and provision rests. Sabbath invites a deeper trust in God. You can’t stop if you don’t believe you’ll have or get what you need.
God is still performing miracles in the wilderness and desert places of our lives because the wilderness seems to reveal how much we really understand about the character of God.
More than just technologies of empire, we are divine image bearers, and we are to reflect who we serve, the God of promise, provision, and rest.
Sabbath rest invites us to stop, and we can trust the God of promise and provision to come through.
I have a few prayer senses from our prayer ministry team for you to consider:
There is grace for restoration & healing for old disappointments.
There is grace for those struggling to forgive or receive forgiveness.
There is grace for generational issues dealing with depression.
There is grace for physical healing for neck pain.