Bible Tuesday for Sunday, August 2, 2015
Exodus 16:2-4 9-15
2The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3The 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. 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.” ’10And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked towards the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud. 11The 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. 14When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15When 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.
Prior to Jacob and his sons and their families moving from Canaan to Egypt, the Israelites had always been migratory herds people. Eventually they developed a system whereby a basecamp with gardening was more stationary and the herds were taken to grasslands.
This lifestyle changed dramatically when the Israelite males were conscripted by the Egyptians. We do not know if women and children remained in Goshen while men stayed in work camps or if everyone moved closer to the construction sites. Whether the Israelites continued to grow their own food or were given it by their taskmasters, according to the complaints of the Israelites stated above, food appears to have been plentiful. Fleshpots=pots in which meat is boiled.
The Israelites appear to prefer slavery to life in the wilderness. While enslaved, there was no guesswork, no creativity or ingenuity required, just labor. Out in the wilderness, resourcefulness was mandatory for survival but something the Israelites seemed to lack. In addition, the adversarial relationship between slave and overseer has been replaced with the relationship between freed people and their God, led by God’s agent and his brother and sister. This new relationship should not be adversarial, but it certainly proved to be so. God provides freedom…Israelites complain. God provides water…Israelites complain. God provides meat and “bread”…Israelites complain.
Yet he commanded the skies above,
and opened the doors of heaven;
24 he rained down on them manna to eat,
and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Mortals ate of the bread of angels;
he sent them food in abundance.
26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
and by his power he led out the south wind;
27 he rained flesh upon them like dust,
winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28 he let them fall within their camp,
all around their dwellings.
29 And they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
Psalm 78 recounts poetically the story of God freeing the Israelites from Egypt. In this passage, there is only the miracles of God’s gifts graciously given to the needy people; no complaining, grumbling, or rejecting God’s leaders.
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.8 Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.”
9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended[a] into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) 11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
Paul writes to the Christians in Ephesus, in part, to admonish them for their divisions and infighting. Instead of fracturing, Paul invites the Ephesians to unite in their baptismal calling. Thus united, there is then recognition that each member of the congregation has been gifted by God with abilities for various jobs within the community. Through uniting in baptism and serving Christ and community as each are enabled, the Ephesian Christians will mature in faith and in psychological state, to better serve God, community, and self.
So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
28Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
The gospel writer continues to differentiate between those who want to see or benefit from the signs that Jesus is doing, and those who learn from and obey them. The crowds who were fed on one side of the Sea of Galilee and then follow Jesus over to the other side and show up in the above passage, are identified by Jesus as those who merely want more food. But Jesus invites them to look to him for way more than free food.
While Luther wasn’t very fond of the gospel of John, it is in this gospel that works righteousness is most soundly rejected. The crowd says to Jesus, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” (I think they are hoping that Jesus will show them how to perform miracles for themselves.) But Jesus responds that performance is not necessary, but rather belief in God’s son, faith.
The crowd responds that Jesus must prove to them that he is worthy of their faith, despite the loaves and fishes they are still digesting! “God gave our ancestors miraculous food in the wilderness, “ implying “What will you give us?!”
Both in this story and the story of the woman at the well, folks are hungry/thirsty and Jesus uses that physical need to describe the even more important physical/spiritual yearning that God fills through Jesus. The Samaritan woman at the well gets it. This Israelites aren’t faring quite as well.