GRACE AND GRUMBLING
Sovereign Lord, I praise You that You do, indeed, reign over all in power, love, mercy and grace.
Read Exodus 15:22 – 16:9
The Waters of Marah and Elim
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.[a]) 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.’”
- Exodus 15:23 Marah means bitter.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHave you ever had a time when you felt that God let you down? How did you handle it?
The Israelites are off. Freed and led by God: what could possibly go wrong? Well, thirst (15:22–24) and hunger (16:1–3), to name two things!
Here in the wilderness they are tempted to let their senses determine their situation. They are thirsty and hungry – lacking the very essentials of life – and so, they conclude, they are without hope (15:24; 16:3). What to do when we lose hope? Complain (15:24; 16:2,7) – against those whom we hold responsible or ultimately, against God (16:8).
The great news in this passage is, perhaps, that God can accommodate complainers. Our honest cries are the very essence of true prayer (15:25). God hears the Israelites’ complaints (16:9; see also 3:7), and far from punishing them for being faithless he meets their needs for clean water (15:25) and food (16:8). Far from being a God who harbors resentment against his grumbling people, he is a listening God who intends to bless them and provide for their needs (15:26; 16:4). What kind of God is leading Israel’s journey? One who shows grace to grumblers.
‘I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble’ (Psalm 142:2). Polite. Correct. Honest. Raw. Which word comes closest to describing your prayer life? Take time for a few honest – or even raw – words with God now. He can handle it!
Lord, I want to live thoughtfully and thankfully. Enable me to learn the grace to be thankful in all situations, even if it is difficult to be thankful in some situations.
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