- The Explore the Bible lesson for Oct. 1 focuses on Exodus 16:1-5,11-20.
The point is clear for this lesson: God provides for the needs of his people. For some reason, it may be easy to take this truth for granted and simply offer “lip service” with either little or limited depth. The people of Israel experienced God’s provision in ways that may seem more amazing and miraculous than our present context.
Ask yourselves as you begin: Why does God’s provision not move us more deeply? Do we only get excited about miraculous or above-and-beyond provision? We need to see each breath from God as a miracle, and so his daily provision for his people is already above-and-beyond.
Recall that Israel already had experienced God in many amazing ways, such as witnessing plagues, crossing the Red Sea, and water sweetened by a piece of wood, to mention just a few examples. Why then would they doubt God’s provision?
Questioning the future
When we move from an oasis to the desert, the environmental change is enough to bother the human mind. We experience this today when our surroundings change without our control. Simply put, we rest in pleasure when we are where we want to be, but we wrestle with the future when we are not where we want to be.
Grumbling by the people of Israel intensified from the previous account to a wish for death. Could things really be so bad? One may reference Numbers 11:5 to see the type of nostalgia the community was experiencing. In reality, things probably were not as good as they claimed they had been in Egypt, but it was likely better than being hungry in a desert.
We must not see Israel as different from us here. We also grumble and question the future along with God’s care and provision. How have we already questioned God this day? Like Israel, we also have concerns that cause us to complain, so we all are guilty of questioning God.
In verse 3, the Israelites said, “We sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted.” Here we may see what Walter Brueggemann once labeled as “over-remembering.” This “return to the good old days” makes us think better of times past when they were not really so good. We must be cautious not to fall for this fallacy.
Questioning their obedience
One thing I have wrestled with in this story as well as the same account in Numbers 11 is God’s intention. Was God blessing them with manna and quail, or was he also including some judgment? While this may be an interesting question, the fact is God did meet their hunger need along with clear specifications.
Verse 4 shows God has a test for the people in all of this. In fact, this reminds me of myself as a child when my teacher would scold me for not reading the directions before beginning an assignment. This is a test to see if the people would be ruled by their stomachs or by their God.
Nahum Sarna sees two possible goals for the testing: The restrictions were given to test the people’s obedience and trust, or hunger was used to demonstrate a lesson of their dependence on God for meeting needs (Sarna, Exodus, 86). In either case it is clear that when God provides, he intends to show himself as he suggests in verse 12, “Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
Questioning the provision
Encourage your group to peruse these verses and see if there is one time when Israel responds with a “thank you” or “praise you” to God. Instead of being joyful at the appearance of the frosty manna, they simply asked, “What is it?” Moses’ answer is not met with any acknowledgement except that they began gathering.
Because none of us were present for this happening of the manna and quail, we easily jump on the people for their lacking gratitude. Again, I suggest we are not too dissimilar today. What does this teach me about gratitude? How guilty would someone find me of saying “thank you” when I receive?
Paul later encouraged people to sing to God “with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16b), yet we see nothing of this here and little to nothing of this today. It seems that because we take God’s provision for granted, we neglect gratitude. Instead of asking what God has given us, our natural reaction needs to be, “Thank you, God!”
Questioning the next meal
The obedience test evidently was ignored as people started to take their provision in their own hands by storing up too much. This describes a word we wrestle with in American culture—hoarding. No one wants to admit to hoarding, yet more often than not, we hold a tight grip on our “stuff.”
Perhaps people did not believe God would supply the food for more than that one day. Their lacking obedience showed their lack of trust. If we are not careful, we too prove our obedience (or disprove it) by our trust or lack thereof. Go deeper by asking: Where do I have a tight grip that needs to be let go? This question may set one free to trust and obey.
Charles Swindoll once said: “Furthermore, provision is God’s responsibility, not ours. We are merely called to commit what we have—even if it’s no more than a sack lunch.” As a people today, we must learn that God provides and we receive, not the other way around.
Challenge one another to have looser grips on “stuff,” to be amazed at God’s daily provision (or “daily bread”), and to prove our trust in God by obeying him. The sooner we discover our lack of control, the sooner we will experience life in God’s hand.
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.