The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. 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."
As I studied Exodus 16 this morning it was inevitable that I heard the lessons of the chapter echo against the circumstances of our own time. It seems so ridiculous that the people of Israel actually pined for the benefits of slavery. They were ready to trade their liberty and protection under God's rule for the full tummies they enjoyed in the shackles of slavery!
It seems that today when we are facing hardship (collapsed credit markets, shrinking GDP, rising unemployment, higher taxes) we are reacting just as the Israelites did: grumbling about empty tummies and pining for full bank accounts, even if it means living with less liberty and bigger government.
Isaiah 25:9 says:
In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."
Sometimes God's salvation isn't what we expect. The desert comes before the promised land. The hardship and suffering come before the glory. Today it is fashionable to expect government to provide for our needs, but this is making government into an idol. No matter who wins next Tuesday, government will not provide our salvation. Our emptiness requires a different kind of filling.
Jesus said in John 6: 57-58:
"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever."
Consider this rhetoric level discussion question from Tapestry of Grace Year 4 (week 10), which is a study of Roosevelt's New Deal and the Great Depression:
"[O]ur Federal Government has grown and grown since FDR's time until our national budget is now approximately two trillion dollars each year. This is a very big government that seems like it can afford to do anything it desires. The family is a government, too, but it is a very small government. Many families are poor, and feel like they cannot afford some of their most basic needs, but in order to receive government assistance they must follow government dictates about some aspects of their everyday lives. What would make some people choose to give up some family freedoms in return for Federal benefits?"
The curriculum suggests an answer:
"People generally believe that their greatest needs are food, clothing, and shelter. The more they have, the more they tend to "need." Do your children have a CD player? A video player? Do you own a microwave? These are, today, basic tools in most households. Truly, though, our only need is salvation, and a right relationship with God through Christ. The desire for even such basic "needs" as survival may not be a good reason to give up basic freedoms."*
*Marcia Somerville, Tapestry of Grace Year 4, Week 10, page 21, copyright 2003