Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Feb 27 2019 - Exodus 16:1-35 – Manna and quail

I like watching cookery programmes on the TV. I particularly enjoy MasterChef. I love the wonderful dishes cooked up by the contestants. Sometimes a contestant will cook quail – perhaps even quail three ways. It seems to be a bird that is difficult to cook well, but a real treat when accomplished.

The Israelites have now been marching away from Egypt for about eleven weeks and are now entering the desert region on their way to Sinai. What must it have been like for the Israelites as they walked with their children, pregnant women and the elderly? Present suffering distorts their memory of their previous life as they cry out, "If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat round 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." (16:2)

The Lord whom they malign is faithful to his word. He had promised to bring the people safely to Sinai to meet with him and then on to the Promised Land. He will not abandon them in the desert. So why had the Israelites not asked Moses to intercede with Moses to provide them with the sustenance they need? More to the point, why do we so often doubt God and come before him, or turn away from him, in complaint rather than coming to him in faith with our requests?

But God is faithful even when his people have lost faith. He promises that he will send them bread and meat from heaven. Again, they need only to stand and see the salvation of their God who has compassion on them in their need.

I'm not sure how they got on with cooking their quail. It probably would not have passed the MasterChef test; nevertheless they had food to eat – food enough for every one of the children of Israel. They were instructed to collect all that they needed daily but to collect twice as much on the day before the Sabbath. On the Sabbath day there would not be any manna. They were fed by God's hand and needed to learn dependence and obedience – "Give us this day our daily bread."

Jesus spoke of himself as the bread of life that had come down from heaven to give life to the world. The manna in the desert sustained the Israelites for a while but ultimately they all died. Jesus is the one who satisfies the hungry soul and gives life that will last for all eternity. We need to feast on him and be satisfied with him. He provides delights infinitely greater than the best MasterChef cuisine!

The apostle Paul had determined to help the poor in Jerusalem by organising a collection from among the richer Gentile churches around the Mediterranean. In writing to the church in the wealthy trading city of Corinth he says:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: 'The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.' 2 Corinthians 8:13-15.

Paul quotes from the chapter we have read today, from Exodus 16:18. He uses the example of the way God provided for the needs of each of his people without allowing any to gather an excess. God encourages us to share the good things he has given us with his others who are in need. There is enough for all. How does this challenge our lives today?

Heavenly Father, we thank you for Jesus, the bread from heaven who came to give us life for all eternity. We thank you for all your daily blessings. Help us to share the riches you pour upon us with those in need and especially to tell them of Christ in whom they may have life.

Peter Misselbrook