Well, on the one hand, they made it! They made it out of Egypt, away from Pharaoh, away from slavery. They were free! But on the other hand… well… things were not quite what they had expected. Three days into the journey they found themselves without water. Grumble, grumble. Grumble, grumble. But God heard, and God provided. And now about six weeks into the journey they’re stomachs are growling and food is hard to find. Grumble, grumble. Grumble, grumble.
On the one hand, they made it! But on the other hand, things just weren’t what they had expected.
In fact, things were so bad, they started longing for the days they were back in Egypt, for the days when they were slaves. How soon we forget. The Israelites were making their way through wilderness, through the desert, yes, water was hard to come by, yes, the food didn’t seem to be enough but they were free! They weren’t working all day every day. They weren’t captives of another people. They weren’t constantly being asked to do more, sweat more, make more bricks, all for Pharaoh who was never satisfied with what he had. How soon we forget the troubles that came with those glorious days of golden memories.
But God heard them anyway. God heard, God remembered, God looked, and God knew. God knew they needed one more thing to help them trust, help them believe, and God came through to provide for their grumble, grumbling stomachs. First God promised to deliver bread from heaven in the morning. Moses, for some reason, expands that promise and says God will also deliver meat in the evening. Meat - - An extravagance! Meat is something most of us unless we have made a conscious choice otherwise, eat every day. It’s a given. It’s expected. It’s a staple. But in ancient days, meat was mostly only for festival days, for holy days. It was a luxury, not a staple.
Quail in the evening, and manna in the morning. Manna. What is it? Literally, that’s what the word manna means. “Man-hu” in Hebrew means “what is it.” This white flakey miracle they found on the ground that baffled their minds, that was given by God, but that no one could identify, would be their sustenance as they went forward. They didn’t even know what they needed when they grumbled.
They didn’t know, but God did. God gave them a gift, every day, every evening and every morning, God gave them exactly what they needed to quiet their grumbling – the grumbling of their mouths and their stomachs – and exactly what they needed for strength – strength for their bodies, for their spirits, for their community.
There was enough for everyone, exactly enough. God gave the whole body of the Israelites enough to feed them all. When everyone took just what was needed, not more because they were more important or worried about the future, not less because of some self-righteous sacrifice… When everyone took just exactly what they needed for their household, the manna stayed fresh and fed them all. Because God gave them enough. There was no need to worry about scarcity. There was no need to hoard. There was no need for anxiety that they would starve or be slaves or die right there in the wilderness. There was enough.
(In worship, I closed with the reading of the poem "Manna" by poet Yakov Azriel. I don't have permission to reprint it here, but if you Google it, I bet you'll find it. I did.)