Gripe Gripe Gripe

Gathering Manna
Israelites gathering Manna, Ercole de' Roberti, 1490s, National Gallery, London

Exodus 16:2-15

Out in the desert, everybody started to gripe about Moses and Aaron, saying, “God should have killed us while we were still in Egypt. At least back there we had plenty of food. Instead, you brought us out here where we’ll all starve.”

So God told Moses, “I’ll make it rain bread, and everyone will be able to gather just enough for one day. Let’s see if this lot can even follow directions. On the sixth day, they will gather enough for two days, so they can have a break on day seven.”

So Moses and Aaron told the people, “Tonight you will remember that God brought you here from Egypt. In the morning, you’ll know that God is still here. Get off our case. All your griping is not really about us; it’s about God.

“Since God has heard your griping, God will give you meat tonight and bread tomorrow until you’re all stuffed. Get off our case. It’s God you’re really griping about.”

Then Moses had Aaron make an announcement to everyone: “Come and check this out!” God has heard your griping.” And as Aaron spoke God’s avatar appeared in the clouds. And Moses heard God say, “I’ve heard all their griping, so tell them that this evening they shall eat meat, and in the morning they shall fill up on bread, and then they’ll know I really am God.”

That evening, a flock of quail landed all over their campsite. And the next morning the camp was covered in dew. When the dew lifted, it left behind frosted flakes. People started asking, “What’s this?” Nobody knew what it was. But Moses said, “It’s the bread God has given you. Go ahead. Eat it.”

Notice that the provision of the “Bread of Heaven” comes with instructions about how much can be collected. The intention is clear that this is in answer to a legitimate need (people have got to eat) not a free-for-all dispensation of wealth. This bread cannot be stockpiled and traded. It cannot be used as a commodity.

The passing line, “Let’s see if this lot a can even follow directions,” indicates that this is a test, to prove that the complaints were never about the danger of starvation at all. They are really about the lack of gratitude that has taken root in the community. It’s their insatiable desire for more and better of everything that’s being starved in the desert, not their bodies. Jesus would later tell a story that speaks to the same issue.

Such is the case with nearly all complaints; the “issue” isn’t really the issue.