Exodus 16: A Pot of Meat, Oh How Divine?!

The Israelites have been out of Egypt for a month and a half, roughly. Last week, we listened in as they murmured and complained to Moses about the lack of water, and then no sooner read how the Lord turned bitter water into sweet and led them to twelve wells and 70 palm trees. He is a God of more than enough. Now we pick up in the following chapter where the Israelites are back on the road again. I think you’ll find out their attitude hasn’t changed much…praise God that He is patient with us!

And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. 

-        The Wilderness of Sin isn’t related to our English word, “sin.” It’s somehow related to the word Sinai, but its meaning is uncertain (Wiersbe).

-        Immediately after the Israelites rested, there was an entrance into the wilderness. The Lord offers us seasons of rest and refreshment in order to prepare us for what is coming. If this is one of those peaceful seasons for you, don’t get caught with your feet on the coffee table! Make sure you’re using this time to be renewed in His teaching, in fellowship, and in prayer (Acts 2:42) so your minds are “alert and fully sober” (1 Peter 1:13).

2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

-        Who did the Israelites complain to? Answer: Moses and Aaron. Man, have you ever had a day like this? You feel like you have Chihuahua’s nipping and barking at you about this and that. Multiply that by 2.5 million and you’ve got a Moses-and-Aaron-sized scenario. When you have days like this, remember to take it to the Lord FIRST. It belongs on His shoulders, not yours.

-        “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!” How quickly they forgot their slavery in Egypt! Look back at chapter 5 where it speaks of the harsh quotas of making brick with no straw, the beatings and harsh treatment from the Egyptians, and the burden and frustration they experienced under Pharaoh’s thumb. Sure, they sat around and ate meat each night – but with hands that were shackled and feet that were fettered. Friends, we must meditate on the goodness of God’s grace and mercy, especially when we go through the wilderness. If we don’t, we’ll start wandering back to the old pits we used to live in. Do you really want to go back to the pit? The Lord lifted you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He sat your feet on a rock and gave you a firm place to stand (Psalm 40:2). Remember, the “delicious” pot of meat your flesh craves will lead you right back into slavery!

-        “For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” I read this and I thought, “Really?!” That’s what you think, Egypt? That the Lord brought you out here just to let you die from starvation? But when we get to the point of desperation, the irrational thinking can kick in and we start acting in the flesh. We all have stories like this from our own lives. I’ve experienced (and witnessed) this several times when money was super tight (or non-existent) and you get all hyped-up and stressed about it. You know, you check your bank account four times a day, hunt down any outstanding debts folks might have, and look for things you can sell on Craigslist. When you find yourself at this point, take a deep breath, find some time alone, and lay it all on the table before God. Your fears, your feelings, your heartache – just confess it all and allow Him to speak to you as you read His Word and pray. This is the only way in which we can defeat our irrational flesh!

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not. 5 And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.”

6 Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the Lord has brought you out of the land of Egypt. 7 And in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord; for He hears your complaints against the Lord. But what are we, that you complain against us?” 8 Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the Lord gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the Lord hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.”

-        Remember verse two where it talked about the Israelites complaining to Moses and Aaron about being hungry? But look at verse eight. Who were the Israelites really complaining against? Answer: God. This is why it’s critical we learn the lesson of running to God first. Your complaints and heartache do not belong in the ear of another human; they belong in the ear of God. I do believe there is wisdom in godly counsel and that you should look to your spouse or a trusted friend for comfort and Biblical guidance; but, we need to make sure we run first and foremost to Him. Trust me, I need to learn and re-learn this lesson, too!

9 Then Moses spoke to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before the Lord, for He has heard your complaints.’” 10 Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.

-             Turn with me to Psalm 102. If you look at the heading, it reads, “A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord.” I probably need to memorize this Psalm! It starts off, “Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; incline Your ear to me; in the day that I call, answer me speedily.” When you are overwhelmed, may your cry come to Him.

-             Even though the Israelites didn’t take the right approach in communicating their pain, the Lord – abounding in love and mercy – answered their grievance with His glory.

11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’”

13 So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. 14 And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was.

-        The Lord made a double promise. That they would eat meat at night and be full of bread in the morning. F.B. Meyer tells us “a vast flight of quails, a migratory bird which often crosses the Red Sea at this very spot, fell to the ground in the near neighborhood of the Hebrew camp, and lay there in an exhausted condition, which allowed of their being captured by the hand.” Their provision literally fell out of the sky!

-        And look what God did concerning the bread. A new substance (unknown to them) appeared on the ground. When there is a need in our life, isn’t our first inclination to figure out the ways in which God could provide? You know, we come up with some “suggestions” for God. But I love how God doesn’t provide by human measures. Oftentimes, His provisions fall from the sky or are completely new and unknown. Let that encourage those of you who are waiting upon God’s provision in your life.

And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat. 16 This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: ‘Let every man gather it according to each one’s need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent.’”

17 Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. 18 So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one’s need. 19 And Moses said, “Let no one leave any of it till morning.” 20 Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted.

-        The Lord gave them provision for that day. I love the idea of this because it works the same way in our life spiritually. We aren’t meant to read or pray only on Sundays in an effort to “fill up.” When we do that, by the time Saturday rolls around, we tend to “stink” because we’ve allowed the world to pollute us all week. We are to gather our spiritual food each day, which the Lord willingly lays before us. Isaiah 55:1 speaks of how the Lord beckons us to come and eat His food. “Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters! Also, you that have no money, come, buy, and eat! Come! Buy wine and milk without money and without price.” What a joy to know that the Lord has a daily provision of food for us, just like with the Israelites.

22 And so it was, on the sixth day, that they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. And all the rulers of the congregation came and told Moses. 23 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’” 24 So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it. 25 Then Moses said, “Eat that today, for today is a Sabbath to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field. 26 Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will be none.”

-        In these verses, the Sabbath is established. While in Egypt the Israelites worked seven days a week, so this concept of “resting” was foreign to them. When the Israelites had a quota to meet back in Egypt, they wouldn’t even dream of taking a day off. But again, the Lord wanted to teach them His way. While the world labors on the seventh day, God’s people rest – yet the Lord still provides more than enough.

27 Now it happened that some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather, but they found none. 28 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws? 29 See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.”30 So the people rested on the seventh day.

-        The flesh is hard to break! Some of the Israelites just couldn’t bear the thought of not going out and collecting manna. Even though the Lord provided enough for them the previous day, they were greedy. But what did all their effort to “get ahead” produce? Nothing! 1 John 2:15-17 reminds us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

-        We can take a lesson from this one, for sure. Allow yourself a day of rest – away from the e-mail, paperwork, laundry, and to-do lists. Just a day where you can enjoy God and enjoy your family. I’m not saying it’s wrong to mow your grass or do a few chores on your Sabbath, but just remember that God desires you to rest and be refreshed in Him!

31 And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.

32 Then Moses said, “This is the thing which the Lord has commanded: ‘Fill an omer with it, to be kept for your generations, that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a pot and put an omer of manna in it, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept. 35 And the children of Israel ate manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36 Now an omer is one-tenth of an ephah.

-        Because manna was something that the Israelites had never seen or experienced, God wanted His people to keep a jar of manna as a reminder. If you were to take a jar and fill it with the miraculous things He’s done for you, what would you put in it as a reminder? My prayer is that your jar of thankful remembrance would be like the widow’s in 1 Kings 17 whose jar of oil never ran dry! Amen.