October 06, 2013 – First Baptist Church Edmonton – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato
GodStory, Act III: Israel
Key Event #5 of 37, Exodus 16:1-18
Title: “Non-Trusters R Us”
We continue the journey with God’s People, the people called Israel…last week we were in the desert with Moses, a burning bush that speaks, a call that seems too weird and wonderful for Moses to comprehend, one that he does not seem remotely qualified for…but a call that promises that GOD will provide…
And in the beginning of the Exodus story it’s a call that leads Moses to lead God’s people out of slavery and towards a promised land of deliverance and freedom.
But the emerging pattern that we seem to see with God in these early parts of the GodStory (and perhaps this is a clue into the future, nudge, nudge, wink, wink) is that God is not in a hurry…remember….Abraham and Sara waited 25 years for the promised child Isaac…Jacob the schemer got tricked by Laban and waited 7 years for his first wife, who then turned out be the wrong wife cuz Laban tricked him and gave him his other daughter (Leah) in the middle of the night…and then Jacob waited 7 more years for the daughter that he truly loved, Rachel…
Stuff just doesn’t happen quick in God’s economy of time! We’ve even been tricked in our imaginations to think that the journey from Pharoah to the Red Sea was a quick trip! It could have taken weeks, perhaps even a month…this was not a simple fjording of the North Saskatchewan River.
And today’s story in Exodus finds us in yet another time of waiting and watching for the providence of God.
In Exodus 15 we read of the songs of Moses and Miriam…songs of praise, songs of deliverance for God’s good work in the lives of God’s people.
Now Exodus 16 might be 1-3 months later in chronological time (though remember, scientific accuracy of time and measurement is NOT the point of all these stories!).
At any rate…generally speaking, in a short amount of time, the people of God have forgotten the providence and care of YHWH.
Can we find ourselves “implicated” in this setting?
Waiting. Watching. Worrying. Complaining. Seething. Whining. In search of someone to blame. [it always starts so innocently doesn’t it?]
It’s a tense scene…
Enter in the “still trying to get his big boy pants on” Moses.
Hear the cries of the people of God…a million people strong (can you imagine a million people complaining??). Every citizen of Edmonton grumbling about an election issue as we prepare for October 21!
v. 3 “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we with pots of stew and ate our fill of bread; for YOU have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger!”
Now we don’t know if this was a fluke in the greenness of his early leadership years or whether Moses was simply so overwhelmed that he couldn’t utter a word…but the pause between v. 3 and 4 is eerily silent. You can fill in the blanks as you wish…did Moses run up to a mountain and cry out to God, did he grab Aaron in the middle of the night and have private prayer meetings with LORD…or did he walk around dumbfounded for days…in a daze…silently longing for God to show up?
Good news for Moses…God shows up! The LORD says to Moses:
“I AM going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them whether they will follow my instructions or not. On the 6th day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
Moses then reports this message to the masses (isn’t it curious to note that the message isn’t really the same?? Hmmm).
Moses (along with Aaron) says to Israel:
“In the evening, you shall KNOW that it was the LORD who brought you out of the Land of Egypt [it was the LORD, not me, you whiners!]…
and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For WHAT ARE WE, that you complain against us?”
“When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him – – WHAT ARE WE?
Your complaining is NOT against us but against the LORD.”
In the midst of this prophetic message of miraculous providence, Aaron also exhorts Israel to respond in worship:
“Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”
[an interesting call to worship eh?]
The people of God worship and God shows up in glory…appearing in a cloud.
And the words of God are spoken through the mouth of Moses:
“I have heard your complaining (did you know that a form of the word complaining shows up 6 times in this passage!)…
At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then YOU SHALL KNOW that I AM the LORD your God.”
And the rest of story unfolds as God promises…
The quail come up, the manna falls down. And it’s up to our imaginations to see what this might have looked like…but that phrase “fine as frost” is one that we Edmontonians might know too well!?!
They were free to gather as much or as little as they saw need…and the closing verse of today’s story is intriguing in terms of God’s providence…
“Those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.”
No matter how much or how little they gathered, the final tally was “enough.” They had enough.
* * * * * *
Now you may have noticed that I’ve title today’s sermon “Non-Trusters R Us.”
I haven’t done that to make us feel shameful or bad…but I hope it might nudge us to accept the reality that you and I are implicated in yet another story in the story of God. Thus we can’t point our fingers at Israel and say “what a bunch of ungrateful whiners!” Instead, the promise for Israel is the same promise for us…it’s as fresh a promise in 2013 as it was 3500 years ago in BCE 1500: “Our God will provide…Our God is Enough.”
So whether you feel like your “trusting in God” rating is 0 out of 10 or 9.5 out of 10 this morning…it seems that God’s providence and grace is greater than our ability to trust & gather. Yes, we worship and respond to God with hearts that desire to trust and depend on God in the future, but the good news is that it’s not up to you to trust enough, to rely enough, or to prove yourself worthy enough.
God meets us in the wilderness of our lives, in those places where we’ve run out of resources, run out of faith, run out of patience….run out of the willingness to even try anymore…in those places where we cry out “IF ONLY!!”
* * * * *
Where’s your place of “if only” in these days??
If only – – I had stayed in that job…in that school…in that relationship…
in that city…in that group of friends…
What are you trying to do God…kill me?
I’m hungry! I’m lonely! I’m forgotten! I’m redundant! I’m not getting what I deserve!
Our complaining is not against humanity or the ways of the world, but against the LORD.
And the good news of the GodStory today is that God loves non-trusters. God loves whiners. God loves grumblers. God loves all of creation and no matter how much we might try to work ourselves out of God’s favour or no matter how much we doubt God’s goodness to us and for us…God loves us and will provide for us.
And how then might we live in the light of God’s unwavering grace, goodness, & providence?
Well one way is to worship…and that’s what we do in this place week after week…and it’s not a one time/week event…it’s meant to be a repeating rehearsal that helps us worship in the world the other 6 days of the week…that we might be a grateful people who gush out this “God-given, grace-filled goodness” to everyone we meet.
We are to be a people in awe of a God…who, even in the midst of our biggest bellyachin’ complaints, keeps arms wide open and says: “Draw near to me.”
And as we draw near to the heart and embrace of God, this God who is from everlasting to everlasting, this God whose love abounds in depth, width, height, this God who names us and claims us as beloved daughters and sons…
Whether we have the ability to gather a lot of God in…or a little of God in…God promises that he will be enough – – that there will be enough…
God’s heart is echoed in the heart of Jesus who says:
COME…Come to me…all you who are weary and overburdened…come to me, learn from me, rely on me, depend on me….take off the yoke/harness that connects you to the worries and anxieties of the world, and yoke up/harness up with me, bind yourself alongside of me…for I am gentle and humble in heart…
my yoke is easy and my burden is light…
and you will find rest for your souls.