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Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Adopted Father

Exodus 16

1They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of 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. 2And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, 3and the people of Israel said to them, "Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger."

4Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. 5On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily." 6So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, "At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, 7and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?" 8And Moses said, "When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him— what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD."

9Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, 'Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'" 10And as soon as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. 11And the LORD said to Moses, 12"I have heard the grumbling of the people of Israel. Say to them, 'At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.'"

13In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. 14And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.'" 17And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19And Moses said to them, "Let no one leave any of it over till the morning." 20But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

22On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers each. And when all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23he said to them, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.'" 24So they laid it aside till the morning, as Moses commanded them, and it did not stink, and there were no worms in it. 25Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none."

27On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. 28And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? 29See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." 30So the people rested on the seventh day.

31Now the house of Israel called its name manna. It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32Moses said, "This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.'" 33And Moses said to Aaron, "Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the LORD to be kept throughout your generations." 34As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the testimony to be kept. 35The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. 36(An omer is the tenth part of an ephah.)

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When I was young, I was taught that in the Old Testament, you see an aspect of God that is more wrathful than in the New Testament where you see a God of love. As I continue to bury my nose into the Old Testament, I see love and compassion throughout.

In Exodus 16, the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea out of Egypt and had been wandering for about 45-46 days. They had just seen the Red Sea part, the bitter waters of Marah turn sweet, and had now been wandering for a month and a half. There is nothing easy about adjusting from slavery to freedom as it would be hellish to adjust from freedom to slavery, and the Israelites, under the protection of God's hand and leadership of Moses were set free and were wandering the desert, in an inhabitable land (v. 35). Above all things, I believe, this passage shows the adoptive Father's heart.

When I talk to adoptees who remember being adopted, one of the things they consistently tell me is that they had to learn to trust that they would not be abandoned, that their new parents truly cared for them, and how to behave, think, and even feel in this totally new environment. We must remember that for four generations, the Israelites had been living in captivity and slavery. Long were the days since Joseph was the Pharaoh's right hand man. This means that the great majority of those who were alive at the time (probably everyone) had been born into slavery and that was all they knew. The transition from what they knew in slavery to complete uncertainty and freedom was as big a shock as it gets. There are countless movies and narrative stories that portray people that have gone through this transition like Encino Man, Blast from the Past, Bubble Boy, among others (why most of them have Brendan Fraser, I have no idea), but they all depict a great struggle to adjust and become acclimated into their new setting. Whenever we experience a small change, many of us have a hard time adjusting to the new reality, but imagine what it was like for the Israelites who had just barely escaped Egypt in the most grand escapes and were left in a desert to trust a guy whose leadership capacity ranged from being a part of an Egyptian court to having a family and tending sheep. You see in verse 3 that they were in such shock that at the moment, they preferred the certainty of not eating and being enslaved over not eating and wandering through the desert led by a leader in training who had just been charged with history's first million member congregation.

What God knew the Israelites needed was to undo what slavery had done to them and show them that they had already crossed over and were completely free whether or not they recognized it. For this reason, He put forth a test, a marker, to help them with their faith process. He sent quails to cover the camp and manna to form on the ground. I believe He did this because it was a best form of meals on wheels. Wherever they went, they would always have food, and for 40 years (v. 35), we see that he provided the most convenient method of food delivery ever. Their only job was to walk outside their tent to collect a small pots worth of food for the day; the incredible thing is that no matter how much they collected, it would be enough, and only if they saved some would it rot, stink, and collect worms. What God was teaching them was that no matter how much they collected it would be enough. Somehow, as they filled their pots, it would always be enough, and going out there to collect more wouldn't change anything. God was teaching them that He would faithfully provide for them as any father would and that what he provided would always be enough so they could rest in the fact that He would never leave them.

We also see God's compassion on Moses as well as the rest of the Israelites. We see that as the Israelites grumble before God to Moses, he gets overwhelmed and freaks out. Twice they grumbled before God, and twice Moses gets flustered and nervous, then God calmly reminds Moses of who He is. God tells Moses, "At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD..." (v. 6-7). Essentially, the remedy for their cure is to remember and to encounter. In the evenings, God wanted them to do something they never had the chance to do, to kick up their feet, lie in their tents in peace, and just reflect on what God had just done for them. There would be no Egyptian at the door or dread of tomorrow's laborious tasks, but only learning to trust the God that had already rescued them from bondage. Then, in the morning, God wanted them to encounter Him in a new, yet familiar way. For forty years, we see a thread of familiarity in the relational aspect of God through the provision of manna intertwined with the newness of being able to trust in Him to provide. He knew that they needed this so much that He emphasized and reminded them three times that on the Sabbath, they are to rest and remember, and to just trust God without any anxiety that God is in control.

The Father heart of God is so great that when we were enslaved to sin, He rescued us by covering us with the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, that as long as we place our trust in Him, regardless of how strong or weak that trust is, that He will provide in every way we need. God, is truly good. (See John 6 and how Jesus references Himself as the manna of life)

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