As the people continue their Exodus journey God is shaping them, providing conditions where they can learn to trust Him. Chapters 16 and 17 effectively give two parallel stories about God's provision. It is no surprise that these stories come so early in the journey - they are a basic lesson for the people!
The people have a basic need for food and water - essential for survival just as oxygen is needed for a human body. So this is about trusting God for our basic daily needs
Key Qn: [IN] Where is God calling you to trust Him?
The whole mass of people amounts to over 1 million people - thats alot of food! Yet when it runs short the collective voice of the people is troubling - see v7,8,9 that they grumble! Their words are cutting 'If only we had died in Egypt ...', in other words 'we were better off before ...'. Were they kidding? Back in Egypt they were in oppression and slavery!
What the people were effectively saying was that they didn't want to trust God. They would rather write God off and some kind of phony. Yet before we judge these people too much, just pinch yourself and think how many times do we effectively write God off in our response to issues?
Despite this grumbling God has a gracious answer. In v4-5 He says 'I will provide'. It will be miraculous, but it will be there. It will be just enough, to collect daily, with special arrangements for the Sabbath rest day. Beautifully simple. Of course some didn't get it - they collected too much, and discovered their little stockpile turned to rot with maggots. Others went out on the Sabbath anyway, and found nothing.
Nevertheless, God did provide. Yet in the very next chapter, with water now short, they grumble again. Had they learnt nothing? Again, before we judge ask yourself how many times do you learn, and then later in a new episode flip-out once again?
Challenge: Put trust into practice – stop the 'woe is me' thinking
This is not being in denial of our legitimate needs, but the challenge is how we react in the face of them. Rather than let our minds run away with a scenario of doom that writes God out of the picture, let us learn a simple trust in God. The challenge therefore is about how we think and pray, the attitudes we adopt, and thus how we live. This is a crucial lesson for us.
This is important as we continue to think about discipleship and discipling others. Would you have the confidence to lead a faith-newcomer through some one-to-one discipleship sessions? We are preparing a resource to help with that. Yet in that one-to-one relationship you must model for the newcomer the things you are talking about - so if talking about basic trust you must live basic trust yourself. Perhaps that is more scary than just having right answers! I suspect the biggest challenge, though, would be the requirement to give a couple of hours per session to prepare and meet with the person over a term.
As a church we have basic needs too. For its mission and ministry the basic fact is that a church needs given lives - people with passion and willingness to serve. Just as the church needs the Spirit (like oxygen), so it needs the bread & water of people serving. Yet we do not want to consume people (burn them out). So when we have ministry needs, we pray with an openness for God to reset our expectations when necessary. As a church we are praying for more capacity for mission & ministry - but we want to pursue God ideas, not simply good ideas.
Back in v6-7 Moses and Aaron say something interesting to the people: 'in the evening you will know ... in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord'. That can be taken in different ways, but remember the refrain in Genesis 1 (creation story) was 'the evening, the morning ... the nth day'. In God's economy we can rest (evening bedtime) confident in God's provision, knowing that He will work such that in future (the morning awakening) we will see His glory. Let us learn a simple trust, that enables us to rest confident in God, looking ahead to see His glory!