The Wilderness School

Written by  Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church

Theme Background

We are covering some radical territory in today’s lesson.  God wants to turn the world upside down.  The world is concerned about “big deals”, about people who are famous, or have tons of money, or who are leaders of countries.  The first radical lesson today is that God caress about . . . slaves!  No one cares about slaves (that is why they are slaves).  But God cares—cares enough to call Moses back to Egypt to confront the most powerful, important person of all, Pharaoh.

Of course, those in power over others do not give up that power willingly, or easily.  God gives Pharaoh ten lessons, each one stronger, more dramatic and painful than the last.  But he doesn’t listen.  It is interesting to me that it is God who hardens Pharaoh’s heart.  Apparently God wanted to show all of the plagues, so kept having Pharaoh change his mind.

Another radical lesson we learn from today’s reading is that we can trust God for our daily bread.  The people have been out in the wilderness for quite some time now.  God has provided them with clean water to drink, but no food.  I think this is because they still have food of their own.  They had to use it up before God would provide.

When God does provide they don’t respond all that well.   First of all they respond to the food as my family did many times when presented with my mom’s hot dishes, “What is that?”  Manna means, literally, “What is it?”  They also don’t really appreciate this gracious gift of God.  At one point they long for the “flesh pots” of Egypt!  That’s a joke!  Slaves would not have had meat to eat on any kind of a regular basis.  But as we look back at “the good old days” we often do not see things the way they were, we see some idealized version of what was.  In their minds the Israelite slaves remember nothing but prime rib every night.

Another lesson God teaches the people in the wilderness is not to hoard.  God tells them that food is going to appear in the morning.  Everyone is to take enough to feed their family, and no more.  Of course, people being who they are, take more.  It festers and stinks.  The lesson is that hoarding stinks.

Finally God teaches the people to take it easy.  Each day before the Sabbath they are to gather twice as much manna as they normally would.  Then they were to relax and do nothing on the Sabbath day.  Again they do not totally trust God and go out looking for manna on the Sabbath anyway.  There isn’t any.

In his book, “Manna and Mercy” Dan Erlander wraps up these lessons with these bullet points:

  • ·         We own nothing.  All is God’s.  All is gift.
  • ·         God gives enough for all to be shared by all.
  • ·         Hoarding causes rot.  It stinks.
  • ·         Work is helping God distribute manna, the gift God promises to all.
  • ·         God gives rest so humans can practice full time what life is all about:

FRIENDSHIP WITH GOD

FRIENDSHIP WITH OTHERS

FRIENDSHIP WITH NATURE

It is also interesting that the manna will continue until the people enter the promised land.  Once they have taken possession of the land and can provide their own food, the gift stops.

We celebrate God’s presence with us by eating bread together.  Every communion meal might remind us of these manna lessons.  God is calling us to be God’s friends, and to share that friendship with the world.  God is also calling us to share the manna meal with those in need.  Another manna lesson is that there is plenty.  We have witnessed this reality with our own Saturday Morning Breakfast.  We don’t budget for it.  We haven’t spent any church funds to provide for it.  Yet we have plenty to share with anyone who walks in the door.  That is manna living!

Quotes for the Week

“Trust is to human relationships what faith is to gospel living.  It is the beginning place, the foundation upon which more can be built.  Where trust is, love can flourish”  Barbara Smith

We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing”                Evangelist Billy Graham (net worth @$25,000,000)

“God’s people are not to accumulate stuff for tomorrow but to share indiscriminately with the scandalous and holy confidence that God will provide for tomorrow. Then we need not stockpile stuff in barns or a 401(k), especially when there is someone in need.”
― Shane ClaiborneRed Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?

” Misers  aren’t fun to live with, but they make  wonderful ancestors.”  David Benner

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.”    Erma Bombeck

1st Lesson Exodus 16:1-18 (NRSV)

The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. 2 The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. 5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” 6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.” 9 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.'” 10 And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11 The LORD spoke to Moses and said, 12 “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'” 13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16 This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Gather as much of it as each of you needs, an omer to a person according to the number of persons, all providing for those in their own tents.'” 17 The Israelites did so, some gathering more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, those who gathered much had nothing over, and those who gathered little had no shortage; they gathered as much as each of them needed.

Questions for the Week

Which of the manna wilderness lessons do you have the hardest time living out in your life?

Why do you think that lesson is the most difficult for you?

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