Read Exodus 15:22-16:10
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.
There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”
27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Manna and Quail
16 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. 5 On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”
6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” 8 Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.”
9 Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”
10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud.
It’s a pattern.
Their faith is strong and bright right after God does something they like, but then he does something they don’t like and the grumbling starts.
And I mean – three days without water; many days without food; the vast barren desert stretching away from them, empty and food-less – I’d grumble.
I’ve grumbled for less.
They’re scared. Maybe it’s all a trick. Maybe God isn’t so good after all, or maybe Moses and Aaron have been lying all this time.
They’re still fresh out of slavery and trust is hard to manage.
The first time, at Marah, God patiently instructs Moses how to un-poison the water.
The second time, though, he starts with a lesson. At issue is how the Israelites keep directing their grumbling at Moses and Aaron.
Neither they nor God seem to like that.
“You will know that it was the Lord”, “Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”
God makes these crazy promises. He’s going to bring them meat in the evening and ‘rain down’ bread in the morning – awfully hard to believe, looking around. How can he possibly?
But first, “Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.”
“They looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord.”
See, that’s the main thing. It’s the very most important thing – the glory of the Lord.
I don’t know exactly what He did that showed them ‘his glory’. The cloud had never left them. It was there with them all the time, leading them, lightening the night for them. But something is different just now as they look at it.
And it certainly isn’t Moses or Aaron.
There’s no mistaking that God is something … other. Something bigger.
This is like when a loving, good, parent takes a child by the face and says, “Look at me”. The child needs that perspective, that grounding. They need the reminder that they aren’t alone and Someone is with them who is capable and strong and for them.
Someone who might be able to bring food in the desert.
Sometimes we need that, too.