The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

August 8, 2021

Exodus 16:2-15

Behold the Glory of the Lord!

 

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”  Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.  The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day.  In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.  On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”  So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him.  Who are we, that you should grumble against us?”  Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him.  Who are we?  You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.”  Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.’”  While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.  The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites.  Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread.  Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’”  That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.  When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?”  For they did not know what it was.  Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.”  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Have you ever stopped to consider how often and how easily we grumble?  We grumble about the mask mandate being reinstated.  We grumble because the price of gas is now over $4.50 per gallon.  We grumble because the price of just about everything keeps going up.  We grumble about the weather.  We grumble about the traffic.  We grumble when we get bored.  We grumble when there isn’t enough time to do all of the things we need to get done.  We grumble about our family.  We grumble about our friends.  We grumble about school.  We grumble about work.  Sometimes we even grumble about church.  Yes, it is indeed amazing how often and how easily we grumble!

 

Are we the first people to ever grumble about things?  No we are not.  Will we be the last people to ever grumble about things?  Probably not.  Somewhere I read, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Just as we grumble about a whole host of things, so also we hear God’s children grumbling here in our text for today.  We will look at why God’s children were grumbling in just a minute.  What we want to highlight first and foremost today is how the Lord God Almighty responded to the grumbling of His children.  To help us focus on the Lord’s response let’s study our text under the theme: Behold the Glory of the Lord!  There are two points I hope you take home with you today.  First, I hope that you will behold the glory of the Lord as He provides for your physical needs.  Second, I hope that you behold the glory of the Lord as He provides for your spiritual needs.

 

God the Holy Spirit sets the stage for us when He has Moses reveal to us why God’s children were grumbling.  Look at the opening verses of our text, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’”

 

Somehow the Israelites had forgotten the power and the grace of the Lord their God as it was revealed in the ten plagues the Lord brought against Egypt.  Somehow the Israelites had forgotten the power and the grace of the Lord their God as they celebrated the very first Passover meal while they listened to all the Egyptians wailing loudly over the death of their firstborn.  (See Exodus 12:29-30)  Somehow the Israelites had forgotten the power and the grace of the Lord their God as He led them out of slavery— actual literal slavery— in the land of Egypt, loaded down with gold and silver and clothing.  (See Exodus 12:35-36)  Somehow the Israelites had forgotten the power and the grace of the Lord their God as He protected them from the vengeance of Pharoah by allowing the Israelites to cross the Red Sea on dry ground and then watch as the waters of the Red Sea swallow up Pharoah’s entire army.  (See Exodus 14:21-31)  In spite of all the power and all the grace that the Lord their God had revealed to them, in spite of the fact that the Lord their God was visibly guiding them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (See Exodus 13:20-22; 14:19-20), in spite of all this, God’s children grumbled against the Lord their God and said, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt!”

 

Thankfully for the children of Israel the Lord their God is not only the God who possesses all power, but He is also the God of amazing grace!  Instead of simply wiping the children of Israel off the face of the earth, instead of simply abandoning them in the desert where they would have died a slow and painful death, how did the Lord their God respond to the grumbling of His children?  We see the Lord’s response in His promise to provide for their physical needs.  He promised to “rain down bread from heaven” every morning (manna) and to provide them with qual to eat at night.

 

The key to understanding the Lord’s response is found in His words, “Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.”  The exclamation point to the Lord’s response is found in verses seven and ten of our text.  Verse seven reads, “in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD.”  Verse ten reads, “While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.”

 

Out of all the amazing things the children of Israel had seen, nothing could even begin to compare to seeing “the glory of the LORD.”  While the Scriptures do not give us exact details concerning “the glory of the LORD what it does tell us is quite revealing.  In Exodus 24 we are told that “the glory of the LORD settled on Mt. Sinai…To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.”  In Exodus 40 we are told, “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”  When Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem we are told, “The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).  In my little mind whenever I try to picture “the glory of the LORD I automatically picture Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration where we’re told that His face “shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2) and His clothes “became as bright as a flash of lightening” (Luke 9:29).

 

The fact that “the glory of the LORD is specifically bound together with the physical blessings of manna, the “bread from heaven,” along with the blessing of quail to eat, gives us a very relevant application of this text to our lives today, my friends.  In His power and in His grace the Lord our God daily provides us with all the physical blessings we need to maintain our body and our life.  In fact, most if not all of us would freely confess that the good Lord graciously provides us with far more than just our “daily bread.”  The only question then is this:  as we enjoy the physical blessings that the good Lord gives to us, do we stop to recognize the glory of the Lord?  Do we see all of these physical blessings as the fruit of our labor, our hard work and our planning?  Or, do we consciously look at all of our physical blessings in a way that lines up with what the Lord tells us in verse twelve of our text, “Then you will know that I am the LORD your God”?

 

Let me suggest something to you.  Every time you sit down to enjoy a meal, behold the glory of the Lord by making sure to say your table prayers.  Every time you sit down to pay your bills, behold the glory of the Lord by dedicating your “firstfruits” to Him and by thanking Him for giving you a job that enables you to pay your bills.  Every time you walk into the house or the apartment where you lay down your head at night, every time you hug someone you love, every time someone helps you do the things you can no longer do for yourself— see all of this as an opportunity to behold the glory of the Lord!

 

That ties in with the second point I hope you take home with you today.  Not only do I hope that you behold the glory of the Lord as He provides for your physical needs, but I also hope that you behold the glory of the Lord as He graciously provides for all of your spiritual needs.

 

That truth is emphasized here in our text in a way that was much more obvious to God’s Old Testament children than it is to us, God’s New Testament children.  If you look at our text as it is printed in your bulletin you will see that the name “LORD is printed in all capital letters.  This is how the NIV alerts us to the fact that in the Hebrew this Name is the great “I AM” — the Name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush.  (See Exodus 3)  This is the “covenant Name” that God gave to His people.  This is the Name which emphasizes God’s absolute independence, God’s perfect justice and God’s amazing grace.  (See Exodus 34:5-7)  The physical blessings that the Lord God gave to His children during their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness were physical reminders of the far greater spiritual blessings which the Lord God provided for His people.  All of those spiritual blessings were centered on the Messiah whom the “LORD promised to send into this world.  We might even say that the Promised Messiah was and is the epitome of “the glory of the LORD in that the Promised Messiah was and is the epitome of “the glory of God’s grace.”

 

That truth is brought out very beautifully in our Gospel lesson for today.  (John 6:24-35)  John tells us that after Jesus had fed over 5,000 people with just “five small barley loaves and two small fish” (John 6:9), the people planned on making Jesus their king— “by force.” (John 6:15)  The people were focused on how easy their life would be if only they had Jesus of Nazareth as their king— a king who could miraculously provide them with all of their physical needs.  Jesus tried to correct their perspective by shifting their focus from physical needs to spiritual needs.  He said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:32-35).

 

As people who by the power of the Holy Spirit have been given the gift of saving faith in our hearts, we know exactly what Jesus is teaching us here.  Our Brother Jesus, who is the glory of the Lord, freely provides us with all of our spiritual needs!  What does this mean?  It means that when we read and study God’s inspired holy Word we are able to behold the glory of the Lord!  It means that when we watch a little baby being baptized in the Name of the Triune God, when we receive Jesus’ true body and blood in the Sacrament of Holy Communion, we are able to behold the glory of the Lord!  It means that every time we lift up our eyes to the cross on Calvary’s hill (Pointing to the cross) and see what the Lord our God was willing to do to save us from our sins, we are able to behold the glory of the Lord!

 

My prayer then this morning, my friends, is that whenever we are tempted to grumble about something in our life, that we will overcome that grumbling by consciously striving to behold the glory of the Lord.  Behold the glory of the Lord as you thankfully enjoy all of the physical blessings that the good Lord has given to you.  Behold the glory of the Lord as you humbly treasure all the spiritual blessings the good Lord has given to you.

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen