Israelites Gathering Manna

Well this is a hop skip and a jump through the story isn’t it? Last week we stood with Moses beside the burning bush as he was given a job to do. This week we are already out in the desert with this nation of complaining hungry people. You can read this week’s story here. And as usual the folks at Working Preacher have provided a commentary and podcast. Much of this passage (verses 2-15) was in the RCL lists for September 24 as well. Text This Week resources to go with that selection are here.

Just a chapter ago the people were joining Miriam to sing and dance in joy as YHWH washed away Pharaoh and the Egyptian army. Now the desert had turned out to be, well, a desert. Not the Promised Land they were hoping for just dry and foodless. I have to say they may be a little bit justified in their anger, even if their memory of what life in Egypt was like seems a little bit inaccurate (pots of flesh? really?).

But then there is God. I have to wonder if the people have forgotten about God. In their complaint to Moses and Aaron it is those two who have led the congregation into the wilderness, not God. But even if the people forget God from time to time God does not forget the people. Last week we read that God had heard the cries of God’s people as they toiled under the harsh oversight of the Egyptians. This week we read that God hears the grumbling of God’s people as they starve in the desert.

  • Do we really believe that God hears us in our moments of despair and hardship?
  • How do our actions and words show that we believe that?
Catching Quails

God hears the people and God provides. Meat in the evening and bread-like substance in the morning. I admit, there is a part of me that laughs at the fact that for 40 years the people survive by eating something called “what is this?”. And that is miraculous, but you won’t believe what comes next.

God ensures that everyone gets what they need–no more and no less. The story is about the God who ensures that people’s needs are met. But God also ensures nobody is going to profit from this.  Work hard–get what you need with no surplus. Work less hard — you won’t come short.

Reading on from verse 18 we find that some people still are not sure about this plan. So they do the logical thing and try to save some of the manna for the next day. After all, what if it doesn’t fall tomorrow? But it rots. The people have to trust in God. Hoarding or saving accomplishes nothing. God will provide, but only as much as is needed on a day-to-day basis.

  • Can we live with that sort of trust?
  • Should we give up our savings and retirement funds and trust that God will provide? (Note that I personally have no plans to do that — every “logical” voice in our society would say that is the absolutely wrong thing to do)
  • Can you imagine what freedom there would be in such a trust-filled life.

Where is the balance? If we can not live relying that quails will fill our yard at night and manna will fall like dew in the morning (not to mention who will pay the power bill and the heating bill and the rent and…) and yet we want to get out of the rat race which tries to convince us we need to spend $1000 on the newest IPhone where is the balance?

I think the text invites us to explore trust in God and the question of what “enough” means.


Gord Waldie is an Ordained Minister in the United Church of Canada, currently in Northwestern Alberta. He shares his life with his partner and their four daughters and blogs (periodically) at Following Frodo or shares his “churchy-stuff” at Ministerial Mutterings


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3 thoughts on “Narrative Lectionary: What is this Stuff? Edition (Exodus 16:1-18 — Bread/Manna From Heaven)

  1. This reflection was written a week ago. In the interim of course life happened. Over the weekend there was a suspected terror act in Edmonton Alberta and then there was the atrocity in Las Vegas. How do we preach that God will provide in the face of these things? More to the point, in Canada it is Thanksgiving…where are we thankful when our news is full of fear and horror?

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  2. I am in Australia, so the shooting will not be as prominent for my people. My current, Wednesday afternoon, thought is:God is present in spite of how bad things seem, and, things look worse when we leave God out of our thinking. i have been at a Church Synod meeting, and am thinking of how negative we can be about the future of the church.

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    1. THanks for this Pearl. It is helpful to remember that while news (accurate and not-so-accurate) now flies around the globe in seconds (or fractions of seconds) that does not mean it has the same prominence or priority for everyone.

      ANd yeah, the trust in God/trust God is here piece is one the church does not do well with.

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