Transition to Freedom

Today I started the book of Exodus.  At this point in the Biblical narrative, the children of Israel – which I always thought of as a poetical name, but they were literally his descendants – have been in Egypt for 430 years.  Joseph is dead and gone and a new Pharoah, one who didn’t know of Joseph or all the good he did, arose.

He noticed there sure were a lot of Hebrew people.  Thousands.  He decided to make them slaves.  The Bible says “they [the Egyptians] made their lives bitter” (v.14).  And yet…verse 12 says that they more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread!  It alarmed the Egyptians greatly.  Granted, this was before birth control, but still!  They were already outnumbered.  Might as well get the benefit of slave labor from them.  Pharoah even instituted a policy where every male Hebrew baby was to be killed, upon sight.

Enter Moses.

Set adrift in a waterproof basket, he was rescued by Pharoah’s daughter.  Raised in Pharoah’s court, he never forgot who he really was:  a Hebrew.  When the time arose to defend a fellow Hebrew, he acted:  murder.  Misunderstood and fearful of being discovered and punished, he runs to the desert.  There, God speaks to Moses out of the burning bush, a story we’re all familiar with.  In Exodus 3, God appoints Moses as his mouthpiece to Pharoah.  Moses, a man of checkered past, arises as the Israelites’ deliverer.

Pharoah, even with Aaron as interpreter, is not impressed.  In fact, Moses’ plea to let the Hebrew slaves go intot he wilderness and sacrifice to God only arouses his ire.  He’s not impressed with the god of a slave-people.  To show he cares enough to send the very best, he tells the Egyptian slavedrivers and Israelite foremen that now the slaves must make bricks without being supplied the straw.  They must gather it themselves (5:6) and still make their daily quotas.  Nobody likes this.

Everyone complains.  The Israelite foremen even go back to Pharoah and blame him (rightly so) for this ridiculous requirement.  Pharoah tells them they’re lazy and that’s why they want a 3-day excursion – or vacation!- to offer sacrifices (v. 19).  The Israelite foremen then complain to Moses:  “May the Lord judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharoah and his officials.  You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” (v. 21).

This causes Moses and Aaron to go back to the Lord and question the whole thing.  Little did Moses know how much longer it would take to finally leave Egypt for good.  Yahweh gives comfort, edification and identity:  “Say to the people of Israel:  ‘I am the Lord.  I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt.  I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment.  I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God…I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob'” (v.6-8).

What I really noticed for the first time this reading is that the Israelites could not receive that word.  They had no intimate knowledge of this I Am.  The Bible says “but they refused to listen anymore.  They had become to discouraged by the brutality of their slavery” (v.9).  Wow.  I think the ever-worsening plagues were just as much for the benefit of Jacob’s offspring as they were to establish God’s sovereignty to the Egyptians.  There was a revealing of who God really is, despite their awful circumstances up until this point.  As the plagues unfolded like a bouquet of crusty black flowers, the faith of God’s chosen people grew.

If you read on in this chapter, verse 14 outlines all the genealogy of  Moses and Aaron.  Wait.  There shouldn’t be *any* sons, right?  Apparently, the Hebrew children found a way to keep their male babies from death.  To me, that shows they already had some courage, some desire to be free and do what was right.  They saw themselves as independent and part of another nation.  They had the tools, perhaps still in a rough form, to follow after God and fully obey His commands.  The seeds of their eventual freedom were already there.

So the questions become:  What is freedom worth?  How many times did Moses go to Pharoah, asking him to “let my people go”?  Would you do that for yourself or those you love?

Red Sea Trouble

This week, our local Presbyterian church put on a vacation Bible school for school age kids.  Ruby went, her cousins went, some other friends of ours went.  Ruby had a great time.  They did crafts, were fed well and sang songs.  They all memorized a verse and got camp t-shirts. All of this was free!  Which is a very good price, to quote Tom Peterson.

Today was Family Day, a day to show the parents what their kids were up to all week.  They showed slides of the kids doing crafts.  We sang songs together.  We had a game time outside, complete with a shootout involving homemade marshmallow guns.  Ruby joined in some of these things, suddenly shy.  The weather cleared up a bit and the day was sweet. 

The drama presentation caught my attention. As you may know, Jonathon and I wrote the Christmas play our church put on this past year.  This morning’s drama was written by the pastor of the church and his wife.  It chronicled the Israelites slaving away in Egypt, through the Exodus and ending at the conquering of Jericho.

It got a little lengthy but was super funny.  They spoke in the vernacular, Pastor Jeff as Pharoah of course.  The other cast was all youth and kids.  Some of the kids were genuine hams.  Some were soft-spoken.  But it was very well done, with slides behind on some of the scenes, and funny songs.  “Camelback Ribs”, an original song I’m sure penned by Pastor Jeff, summed up the Hebrew children’s complaints about the “manna-every-meal” conundrum. 

The audience even got into the act.  When Moses and company crossed the Red Sea, parted by God’s almighty hand, we put our hands up and the actors walked down the aisle on one side.  It really looked like a sea of hands.  Okay, we’re not blue and green, but you get the picture.  When Pharoah, chuckling menacingly, followed behind, we put our hands down.  Pharoah and his army fell to the ground and said, “Glug glug!” 

I’ve probably heard or read this story hundreds of times. Somehow, I got something new out of it this time.

I started thinking.  I’m wondering if the Israelites didn’t think, “Finally, we’ve got God’s ear! This rescue is so dramatic, and we’re ready to not be slaves anymore.  C’mon, God, show Yourself strong! Now what will He do next?”  There was probably even an element of swagger involved.  “My God beat your god!  We’re SO much better than these other miserable peoples!”

The thing is, once God does something like that for you, it’s pretty memorable.  In fact, The Exodus was one of the things taught orally from generation to generation among the Jewish people.  To be able to point back to something like that is extraordinary.  It builds your faith. 

But…

What if God never does that again?  I mean, He didn’t.  He did other things.  He provided manna.  Moses’ people complained about the lack of variety.  Okay, He rained down quail.  Again with the murmuring.  I’ve mentioned before that this people had never had to fend for themselves, to be adults and responsible.  An immature people suddenly experiencing a miraculous rescue seems a big risky to me, a daring act of love. Aside from that (which is significant), where did God go? 

Sometimes when the Lord does a miracle, we think we’ve got it all locked up.   If I pray/fast/read the Bible enough, God will do it again!  But folks, that’s witchcraft.  We need to pray and seek God in a number of Biblical ways; we need Him on a daily basis, not just in crises.  We cannot, however, manipulate Him into doing anything. 

I believe God was there all the time.  His provision of food was miraculous.  The fact that their clothing, shoes, utensils and tents never wore out:  amazing!  His provision of the 10 Commandments to Moses set the Israelites apart from other nations. God’s agenda is not our agenda.  He, unlike our finite selves, is infinitely creative and limitless. It’s a frustrating quality in a deity: sovereignty. He has a plan and a purpose and we’re along for the ride…or not. What if the miracles we seek in a showy, demonstrative way, are simply unnecessary?  What if the simple sustaining power of His love is enough for the moment?  Will we still see it and appreciate it for what it is?

The Promised Land

Today’s Bible reading was Joshua 1-4.  I got a bit restless with all the Deuteronomy passages about laws and Moses recounting all the bad things the Israelites did before he died, as an oral tradition for them to pass down.  Did he sound bitter to anyone else?

Joshua 1 starts off with God telling Joshua that all the land he walks on will be his (1:3-5)  and that He will be with Joshua as He was with Moses. He then tells Joshua to be strong and  courageous (1:6), something He exhorts Joshua with 3 times in three verses.  

They are going forward to claim the land God promised them.  And it’s not a passive walking through the land this time.  Oh no, it’s all out war.  The 40,000 armed troops of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh will lead the Israelites into battle.  Their inheritance is on the other side of the Jordan but they pledged to fight for the rest of their brethren until the other tribes have their inheritance.

I really like these chapters.  The Israelites finally show a certain amount of maturity.  They assign their loyalty to Joshua.  They get ready to take what is theirs.  Now, they are in on the vision. 

Rahab, a prostitute, protects the 2 Israelite spies who come to check out the land.  She hides them on her roof and lies to the king’s men who come looking for them. I love that 1) she lied to protect the scouts, and 2) she knows that Jericho is going down.  She’s on board with the invasion. She wants protection for herself and her family for her silence, and she gets it (2:9-13).  God can speak through and to anyone.  The two spies report back to Joshua that “the Lord has given us the whole land for all the people in the land are terrified of us” (2:24).

The shoe is on the other foot now!  Their reputation precedes them.

In the next chapter, the Israelites amass on the bank of the Jordan.  The officers went throughout the camp and told them to follow the Ark of the Covenant, but stay back a bit.  Keeping their distance, considering the possibility of instant death, seems a good plan.  The Jordan parts as the priests carrying the Ark step into the river. The water piled up like a wall on either side of them, and the people walked through.  We’re  talking thousands and thousands of people.  For those who were children or youths at the Red Sea crossing, it probably brought back lots of memories.

Once all the people had crossed, the Lord directs Joshua to have the people build a couple of memorials.  Twelve men, one from each tribe, took a stone out of the middle of the river near where the Ark waited.  They carried them out on their backs and made a memorial near their camp (4:8).  Joshua made another monument or memorial in the middle of the Jordan, next to where the priests took their stand. Because of Joshua’s faithfulness, the Lord made Joshua a great leader to the people, and they revered him as much as they had Moses (4:14). Moses had to work a lot harder to win their admiration, however!

Joshua tells the people the monument of the twelve stones is a reminder, an Ebenezer, of what the Lord had done (4:21-24).  It’s something they can point to when their children ask and when they themselves need to recall God’s almighty hand in their lives. This feels like a groundbreaking or a kick-off meeting for a new project.  They’re taking a solemn moment to think about where they’ve been and what lies ahead.  This time, I think they’re ready.

Do you have Ebenezers in your life, things that no one but God could do for you, things that encourage you when you start to feel like you’re not making any headway in difficult situations? Please share.

When You Fall

(This song plays twice.  Just a heads-up).

A good friend of mine asked me to write a spiritual post, something that would encourage and inspire her. 

Okay.

I am not sure if this will fit the bill, but it’s been on my mind.  My reading has been in Numbers lately.  The never-ending round robin of the people grumbling against Moses and Aaron, Moses and Aaron going to God to get answers, God getting angry and threatening to burn the people up, Moses and Aaron pleading with Him not to do it, and God relenting gets on my nerves.  It looks like this:

Susan no like.  It’s tedious and predictable.  This 40 year gig would have driven me crazy. Numbers 13 described the Israelites exploring the Promised Land, the land God wanted them to have.  It flowed with milk and honey and, on the negative side, was filled with giants.  Of the twelve spies sent into the land, 10 said, “No way.  We were like ants to them; they are HUGE! We could never take this land from them!”  Only Joshua, groomed under Moses, and Caleb said, “We got this!  With God on our side, nothing is impossible!” The people, not surprisingly, listened to the 10 negative spies.  They got fearful and balked, like dumb animals.  God got angry, and badda-bing, they got to die in the desert, everyone from 20 years old and older.  They, the accountable adults, would never settle in the promised land. 

In Chapter 20, it’s Moses’ turn to get schooled.  At this point, it’s been a long journey – too long. Camped at Kadesh, the people start murmuring again about, what else, lack of water.  Moses and Aaron headed into the tabernacle to inquire of God.  God directs Moses and Aaron to take the staff (the one that budded, I assume), assemble all the people to watch Moses speak to the rock (very important) and watch the water pour out, enough for all living things. 

Moses did it.  They people gathered.  Then Moses spoke:  “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out.  So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill (v. 9-11).

So…did ol’ Mo do it right?  I mean, water gushed out, people drank and everything.  So why did God get all over Moses’ case in the next verse? “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” (v. 12).

Huh?  Didn’t Moses do what God asked?  No.  He struck the rock.  He didn’t speak to the rock. This probably seems minor.  And, judging by Moses’ speech, he was pretty angry.  In fact, I would wager he had quite the anger issue, based on the whole murder of the Egyptian that took place right before he fled to the desert in the first place. 

What fascinated me is that Moses 1) didn’t protest against God.  He didn’t complain or try to excuse his behavior, but also, 2) didn’t intercede for himself, either.  He who was so good at making sure God didn’t rain down fire and brimstone on the rebellious children of Israel made no such provision for himself.  Why?

Maybe it was because he knew he was in the wrong.  As God’s representative, he needed to be above rebellion.  He found he was all too human, again.  He didn’t deserve to go into the promised land. 

But if you read on in this chapter, as the Israelites journeyed on and tried to get to where they were going, they were denied passage through Edom and other places.  But, the Israelites learned that if they promised to destroy an entire nation, they got to live there.  That meant total destruction – every person and animal, every structure razed to the ground.  They destroyed the Canaanites this way, and later the Amorites.  Slowly, slowly, they were learning how to fight and take ground.  They acquired the promised land piece by piece, sort of like eating an elephant one bite at a time.

Did God go back on His word?  No.  But the Israelites learned what it meant to be disciplined and to fight in the Lord’s strength.  Even after they disappointed God and Moses so many times.  And Moses, God’s chosen mouthpiece, got to see the victories and see a little of what God had for his people all along.  He fell, but God restored, just not in the way he or anyone else expected.  Our sins are no match for God’s grace. We can have hope that God will do the same for us.

Law Abiding

It doesn’t take long before you realize the book of Leviticus is tedious. The Lord called Moses from inside the Tabernacle (cool!) and starts giving instructions.  Everything from offerings and what they should be and how they should look to how they’re arranged and who touches what, what can be eaten and you name it. 

It’s kind of boring.  By chapter 13, I was starting to drift.  Okay, before that, but I noticed it in chapter 13.  Chapter 13, of course you know, is about Serious Skin Diseases.  It’s about swelling, rashes, or discoloration of skin. The priest got to examine the skin.  They had no doctors back then, so this is how God dealt with the freaky stuff that showed up on the children of Israel’s epidermises.  The priest became the spiritual as well as medical authority for the tribes. 

This is a very detailed chapter:  “But if the affected area of the skin is only a white discoloration and does not appear to be more than skin deep, and if the hair on the spot has not turned white, the priest will quarantine the person for seven days” (13:4).  And there’s a lot more.  Clothing must be washed, and the person declared unclean.  Sometimes they have to remain outside the camp for a few days, or at least alone.

It’s kind of fascinating, though, how God describes what it looks like when the skin heals:  “if the affected areas have indeed turned white, the priest will then pronounce the person ceremonially clean by declaring, ‘You are clean!’ (v.17).  By providing the information in this way, as a public document, there is no mystery.  The people aren’t held hostage by an “opinion” of a “professional”.  It’s all written down, no interpretation necessary.

In this way, it’s similar to my job.  I have a 4″ CDBG binder I’m plowing through.  CDBG is the Community Development Block Grant, the program for the federal grant for the shelter/office building our local shelter will be constructing this year.  CDBG was enacted in 1975 by President Ford and enables communities to submit requests for federal money to pay for, in our case, new temporary housing for the homeless. It is one of HUD’s (Housing and Urban Development) longest-running programs. The binder I have is the standard, published May 2011, of federal rules and regulations regarding the use of their grant money. 

I, of course, am bogged down.  I am temporarily lost in the forest of acronyms.  RROF?  NEPA?  SEPA? Let’s not forget my personal favorite, FONSI.  Aaayy!

The Feds left nothing to chance.  There are rules for how the money is to be spent, how the files are set up, who can see the files and even what kinds of permits the site needs before any excavation can proceed. 

For example, our site, a greenfield site, meaning it’s bare of any buildings, electrical or sewer, has to have a couple of studies performed on it before we even THINK about building on it.  First:  SEPA.  It’s a state-approved environmental protection study.  We hope to dodge it by sending in the necessary documentation and application.  Next:  106.  That’s an open letter to the local tribes and archaeological society saying, Hey, is this an ancient burial or ceremonial site?  Cause we’re gonna dig it up.  Heads up, y’all.  The last is: NEPA.  NEPA is the national environmental protection study.  Estminated turn-around time?  Two to six months.  SEPA has to be done before NEPA. 

But what about FONSI?  I know you were wondering!  FONSI stands for Findings Of No Significant Impact.  Should the studies pull up nothing of interest in the possibility of ground disturbance at our site, a FONSI will be published in the local papers of a certain circulation for at least 2 weeks.  That way, anyone who objects can step forward with objections or forever hold their peace. 

All of this testing, permitting and whatnot could have been avoided if we were only a pawn shop.  No testing needed.  Or a cabaret.  We could just move in and move out, no sweat.  Good thing those were listed in the exceptions.  Wouldn’t want to skip over that possibility.

As much as Leviticus bores me, it gives me a certain amount of comfort that God planned ahead for contingencies like skin issues. He dealt with the ugly stuff; in this He shows His kindness anew.  He didn’t want anything left to chance or to be interpreted wrong.  And I don’t enjoy the manual, but I am thinking we won’t miss many exceptions – unless someone is riding a unicycle.

The Golden Calf

The golden calf incident has always mystified me.  I mean, after all God did for the Israelites, and they make an idol to worship?  It didn’t make sense.

In Exodus 30 and 31, Moses and God are talking on Mt. Sinai.  Okay, God is dictating the specifications of the tabernacle furnishings – priests’ clothing, the incense altar, etc.  There was a lot of gold. A lot of the descriptions of the furnishings say “overlay the top and sides with gold, and run a gold molding around it”.  Wow.  It’s sort of amazing.  God must have loved gold.  The heavenly city in Revelation has streets of gold. Gold represented purity and beauty, which in turn represented God.

The irony of the people requesting a God to worship and then making it out of pure gold, melted down from their jewelry, is not lost on us.  Moses had been gone a long time and the people complained to Aaron.  “Come on, make us some gods who can lead us.  We don’t know what happened to Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt” (Ex. 32:1).  They wanted a god they could see and touch and worship.  They wanted a god they could understand.  This Yahweh was frightening.  He did stuff they didn’t understand and disappeared without warning. They knew about livestock and what could be more harmless than a calf, especially one without a mother?

Aaron, the go-along guy, did as they requested.  He melted down their gold jewelry and molded a calf for them to worship.  Why a calf?  On the surface, it seems like a sort of permanent sacrifice.  It wasn’t a many-breasted fertility goddess or a reptile.  It wasn’t a “half man/half animal” type of God like so many of the ancients worshiped.  It was a beautiful golden calf, standing alone and innocent. It’s possible also that the Israelites had been influenced by the Egyptians and their worship of similar “bull” gods.

But Aaron didn’t stop there.  He saw how excited the people were (32:5) and built an altar in front of the calf.  “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” So this calf represented…God?  Perhaps it wasn’t idolatry in the strictest sense.  The calf represented God, the One who got them through the Red Sea, provided water and food in the desert and made an entire mountain holy. This “new” God who moved in a cloud and fire would probably have terrified the Israelites, so mysterious and yet ever-present, no touching allowed.

In Exodus 32:7, the Lord told Moses to get back down the mountain because the people were out of control and worshiping a calf.  God calls them “your people” to Moses, charging him with responsibility.  Interesting.  God laments how quickly they turned away from His commands.  He’s angry and wants to let His anger blaze against them.  He promises to make Moses a great nation, wiping out all the infidels at the base of the mountain.

Moses reminds God (and Himself) of how the Lord’s great power got the people out of Egypt, and how bad it would look to the Egyptians if God wiped them out now (32:12) and then Moses reminds God of the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (32:13).  So the Lord changed his mind about bringing down the hammer on the Israelites (32:14).  But did he really change His mind?  I think the reminders Moses gave were for Moses just as much as for God.  Moses needed to remember what was at stake as well. Just keep swimming…

Moses and Joshua returned to camp.  Moses saw the people engaged in revelry, got angry, and threw down the tablets God himself inscribed, smashing them to bits.  He took the calf and burned it.  This probably took a lot time, and felt like when your parents were mad at you when you were a kid:  a slow burn.  You know the punishment is coming, but when?! Moses ground it into powder, threw it in the water and made the people drink it (32:20).  Ick!  The original Goldwater. 

Aaron did not escape unscathed.  Moses called him on his actions.  Aaron, eager to escape Moses’ wrath says, “Calm down, Mo. Dude, you know how evil these people are!  They made me do it!  I took their jewelry  and – the fact that it came out a calf, well, that was weird!” (32:22-24, Susan paraphrase).

Moses was not fooled.  He made the people choose sides.  Whoever was on the Lord’s side stood by Moses; Moses and the Levites stood together.  Moses commanded the Levites to kill everyone who was not on the Lord’s side – brothers, friends and neighbors (32:27-28).  The Levites did it and killed 3000 people.  This seemed like a very harsh punishment.  What appears to be happening here is that idolatry in any way, shape or form won’t be tolerated.  The people needed to be completely worshiping God and none other, and worshiping God the way He wanted to be worshiped. Moses commended the Levites and said they earned a blessing (32:29).

Moses talked to the remnant of the people next day, explaining that though they’d committed a terrible sin, he would go to the Lord and intercede for them.  Moses pleaded with the Lord to forgive their sin and if not, to erase his own name from the record God has written (32:22).  This surprised me.  Moses was willing to take the punishment for the people’s sins, to be the scapegoat.  The Lord says he’ll only erase the names of those who sinned against him (you can almost hear God sighing in resignation here).  Having your name erased out of the record was a big deal. It would be as if those people never existed. 

The chapter ends with the Lord sending a great plague upon the people because they worshiped the calf.  This is probably where a lot of prophets get their ideas about AIDS and other diseases being curses from God. 

Don’t we have our calves?  Don’t we have the “ways” we want to worship God?  I know Jonathon and I are very particular about worship, what it sounds like, being musicians.  We attended a church for a brief time with a saw in the orchestra. But God cares very little about what it sounds like.  What pleases God? He’s always been after our hearts.  His ways are not our ways (Is. 55) and we need to remember that.

Manna & Quail

Sounds like a detective team, doesn’t it?  It’s really what God did in Exodus 16.  The people are complaining against Moses and Aaron, again, but really the complaint is against God.  “If only the Lord had killed us back in Egypt. There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted.  But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death” (16:3).  Cause being in slavery was so awesome.  Oh wait, did we sort of skip over that part?! They forgot, or maybe never knew, they were a people of promise.

 This occurs a scant month after leaving Egypt, and it’s the second time the Israelites complained.  The first time was about water.  What seems to be happening here is two things – a lack of trust or knowledge of God, despite the astounding Red Sea crossing, and the inability to take care of themselves.  If you and your family have been enslaved for hundreds of years, your mobility and thought processes are trained to think only about your next meal.  You serve others and they take care of your basic needs; you don’t need to plan ahead or think of the future.  That’s it.

So if the Israelites seem like a whiny bunch of children, it’s because they are.  This time in the desert is a time to grow up and get to know God.  He wants to be their provider and their God, hence the manna.

In verse 4, God doesn’t seem too upset.  He tells Moses he’s going to rain down food from heaven (cool!).  He instructs Moses to tell the people to gather what they need and that it’s a test about following instructions.  On the sixth day, they must gather twice as much because there will be no food-rain on the seventh day (v. 4-5). 

Mo and Aaron pass on the message, adding that in the evening they will have quail, flocks and flocks of them, and in the morning, bread.  All of this because of their complaints.  What if they had just asked for bread and not complained about their lack?  How would things have been different?  Maybe God would’ve created a garden for them to eat from, or occasionally a place to fish.  Who knows? Would they have had to wander for 40 years?  (16:7-9).

The people present themselves to the Lord, who showed Himself as a cloud.  It’s like He wanted to see their reaction as the quail descended.  Nothing is said about gathering and killing the quail; we can surmise the people knew what to do with it.  Quail casserole, anyone?  But the manna that fell like dew – “a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground” (v. 14).  Wow!  God is so creative.  The Israelites are completely stumped about it.  Moses instructs them to pick up 2 quarts per person, everyone to get what they needed (v. 15-16).  Some are greedy and some are not, but as they measure it out, everyone has just enough (v. 17-18).  Again, God is reigning them in and bringing them into a normal pattern of thinking about food. Competition and hoarding are unnecessary.

Moses goes on to tell them not to keep any until morning.  But a few don’t listen and keep some (science experiment?) and it gets all maggoty and smelly.  Moses is very angry.  He must have felt like he’d birthed 6 million children and there was a high percentage of idiots (v. 19-20).  Amazingly, as the sun rises and it gets hotter, the manna melts and disappears.  God shows there is a time for everything, especially gathering food.  God invented recycling here:  no muss, no fuss. 

On the sixth day, the people gather twice as much manna for each person, four quarts instead of two.  The leaders come to Moses for an explanation and he explains that the 7th day of the week is to be a day of complete rest, holy and set apart for God.  Do all the food prep and cooking today, and it will keep for tomorrow (v. 22-23).  He goes on to say, on the Sabbath, that there will be no manna.  Of course, some yahoos go out and look on the Sabbath (because they can) and lo and behold, no manna.  Now God is upset.

“How long will these people refuse to obey my commands and instructions?”He does not blame Moses and Aaron for not getting His point across, and He explains   that the Sabbath is the Lord’s gift to them.  They must rest and not look for food that day.  There *won’t* be any! (v. 28-29).  Then the people get it.  It’s hard sometimes to think of rest as a gift, but if you’re walking and walking and walking, endlessly packing and unpacking, it’s gotta get old and tiring. 

The Lord instructs Moses to collect a two-quart container full of manna to preserve for future generations.  Moses, great delegator, has Aaron do it (v. 32-34).  It got placed in the Ark of the Covenant along with the stone tablets.  The account states that they ate manna, which apparently tastes like “honey wafers” and is white “like coriander seed” (v. 31) for all forty years.  Hope they got inventive with their recipes.

Again, stubborness is highlighted, both God’s and the Israelites’.  But we can see God’s great love for a people who are ignorant of God and how jealous He is for their attention and love.  They are very childish and immature. He performs amazing miracles daily with the quail and the manna and it’s not enough.  They deliberately disobey His instructions about food gathering and resting.  We start to wonder if they will ever learn. We are a people of promise, too.  But then, will we ever learn? His kindness and mercy are neverending.

 

 

* Thanks, readers, for pushing the views of my blog to 1000 for just last month!  You inspire me to keep writing.