Sunday, August 02, 2009

Exodus 16:2-15; Ninth Sunday after Pentecost; August 2, 2009

And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, “At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against the Lord. For what are we, that you grumble against us?” And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’ ” And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. And the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. (Exodus 16:2-15, ESV)

(from an outline by Rev. Philip Zielinski).

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So, do you know why I picked this text to preach on? Because it fits me. God’s people grumbled… That’s me in a nut shell. I grumble. I complain that I have to do two weeks worth of work before I go on vacation for a week and then two more weeks worth of work when I get back. I complain when I had to sleep on the floor at my mom’s house because the beds were all taken. (Mind you I didn’t complain to mom!). I complain about aches and pains that I have because my body doesn’t do what it used to do, but I don’t get enough exercise to keep it in shape. I complain that I’m hungry but I don’t want to cook. I complain about government and… no wait, there’s something worth complaining about. The word Moses uses in this text is grumble. The English word is great isn’t it? It sounds just like what it is. Grumble, grumble, grumble. I grumble! You grumble. The children of Israel grumbled. Well, maybe they had just cause. They left the wealth of Egypt for the dessert. Put it in their words.

“Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Maybe they were slaves and had to work hard, but at least they got food right? Actually, they complained about being slaves, too.

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. (Exodus 2:23, ESV)

It’s a bit different because this is a cry for help, not groaning. Never the less, they complained then, too. But out there in the desert they couldn’t take it any more. They were without food. Without a place to live. Sure God had delivered them from slavery, but NOW what? Hunger can change a person’s perspective pretty quick. When you’re hungry you’re likely to forget about previous pain. They had forgotten about the whips that drove them to work for no pay.

Actually, we all like to grumble. We complain about work, and school, and yes, we even grumble about church. We grumble when things go right because we think they should have gone better. We grumble when things go wrong because we think they should go right. We like to play arm chair quarterback, as if, if we were in charge everything would automatically go better. We even pretend that our hindsight is what we knew should have been done in the first place. How about this morning? “It’s great that the trustees fixed the leaky basement wall, but are they just going to leave that pile of dirt there!” Those people out in the wilderness grumbling… that’s us grumbling. Rejoicing in what God does one minute and grumbling a moment later. What has God done for me lately?

Well, they were hungry. Hunger isn’t a sin. Asking for food isn’t a sin either. God wants us to call upon him in every trouble. He wants us to ask him for the things we need and want.

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father. (LSB 323)

Their sin, and ours, is not believing in God’s promises. It ok when things are going well but when things take a sour turn… God had promised the people a land flowing with milk and honey. A land of their own where they wouldn’t be slaves. A land where he would provide them with everything they needed. They were impatient. They were hungry. That’s us too. We are impatient. We think that when things go wrong, when we have to bear crosses we aren’t getting what God has promised us. He is not above using hardships in our lives if it means we’ll be with him for eternity. But for us, as soon as there is trouble, we think God has failed us.

Our sinful nature wants the easy way. We want our best life now. We want to be healthy, wealthy and wise, without the work of being early out of bed. Given the choice we’d take the easy road away from God. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. Sometimes that means suffering now for at time and receiving life forever without suffering later. We grumble in our suffering. We reject God’s promise that no matter what happens “all things work together for the good of those who love God.” It’s just like we forget what God has already done for us. We even forget what we really do deserve from God. We deserve nothing but God’s anger and eternal punishment.

But God doesn’t give us what we deserve. Instead he takes our sinful complaints and our sinful grumbling and he hears them as prayers. He heard the grumbling of the people in the desert. He hears the grumbling of his people in Creston, Iowa, too. He speaks not a word of judgment, but a word of promise; a word of mercy; a word of grace.

“I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ ” (Exodus 16:12, ESV)

God richly and daily provides us with all we need to support this body and life. It rains down on us.

He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. (LSB 322)

Just think of the blessings right here in this place, recently. He used members of this congregation to make our worship richer with new and beautiful music on a new organ. He’s working on solving a water problem so we can continue to receive the gifts of Word and Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins in this place. He has blessed me and my family by bringing me here to serve as your Pastor. He gives wise faithful people here to teach your children the faith. He gives you friends and fellow Christians to encourage each other in faith and life as a Christian. Paul said as much to the Christian congregation at Thessolonica:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, ESV)

Just so, he provided all the people of Israel needed in the desert and more. Bread from heaven, manna filled their stomachs. Quail flew right into there laps. Water poured out of rocks. And their shoes and clothing didn’t wear out. He gave them clothing and shoes, house and home, and all they had. We can and should give God thanks instead of grumbling for all he does for us as well.

So listen again to God’s promise.

“I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know I am the Lord your God.’ ” (Exodus 16:12, ESV)

I am YHWH. YHWH is the name that he gave them to remember what he had done for them by bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. I think it is very interesting that their complaint begins with:

“Would that we had died by the hand of the YHWH in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 16:3, ESV)

It shows just how far they had come, how deep was their sin. But, God turns it around on them again. “You will know that I am YHWH your God!”

We heard words just like that in the Gospel reading today too.

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-35, ESV)

Jesus had just fed 5000 people in the desert. He had given them bread to fill their bellies. They grumbled for more. But Jesus uses their words to tell us who he is, and what he gives that we need even more then baked bread.

Our Savior shed his blood on the cross, to deliver us from our slavery to sin. We are on a journey through the wilderness of a sinful world. We are hungry for righteousness. We have come through the Red Sea of Holy Baptism. We have been delivered from sin, death and the power of the devil (who held us as his slaves!). We are tempted again and again to return to our sinful way of life. But God is faithful. He provides us with the bread of life who comes down from heaven. Jesus comes to us in his word. He reminds us of the promises he made to us in our baptism. Jesus comes to us in bread and wine, food for hungry bodies and hungry souls. We will struggle until we reach our promised land, forever with Jesus. But our entrance has been won already. We are given life, by Jesus the bread of life. In his suffering and death on the cross he endured all the wrath of God for our sin. He wandered, hungered, thirsted, suffered and died for us. He rose again from death giving us a new and full and forever life, without sin and death to trouble us. And God gives us all of this even in the face of our grumbling. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: