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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, August 6, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Exodus 16:2–4, 9–15

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 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.” 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. Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, ‘Draw near to the Lord, for he has heard your complaining.’“ 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. The Lord spoke to Moses and said, “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.’“

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 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. 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. (NRSV)

Reflection
The Israelite people did a lot of complaining on their long journey through the wilderness, even though they had been liberated from slavery and were headed to the Promised Land. Early on they complained, “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.” God heard their complaints and satisfied their hunger by providing manna to eat on a daily basis. Still they grumbled.

Theologian Dorothee Soelle wrote a poem about this called “Exodus,” excerpted below:

when Israel departed from Egypt, when oppression came to an end,
when they refused to be exploited any longer,
               when they got rid of the slave drivers,
          security became a thing of the past, things got tough,
               consumer goods were scarce,
the people grumble . . .
. . . the good life came to an end,
           they started worrying about where they would wind up
           and what would become of them
the people grumble . . . remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free;
           the cucumbers melons onions garlic now all we ever get is manna

The poem concludes,

“we’ve got to decide what we want comrades
            the supermarkets of Egypt or the march through the desert
            forty years of permanent revolution.”

Notice what you complain about. Is it a short-term difficulty to be endured in light of some larger goal? Reflect on where in your life, or the life of our world, you have lost sight of the larger purpose, the longer-term work that God is pursuing through creation.

Prayer
God of liberation, free me from desiring that which is familiar when it’s not in my best interest or your design. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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