As we continue with our sermon series, “Holy Moses”, looking at the life and times of Moses, we need to remember how far Moses has come. When we first met him, he was a shepherd, taking care of his father-in-law’s sheep. Now, he’s the unquestioned leader of the nation of Israel. With God’s help, he’s defeated the Pharaoh and the entire Egyptian army. Now, they’re headed out to the Promised Land. Should be smooth sailing from here on in.
Except, of course, life very rarely works that way. We overcome something big, we do something we thought we could not do, we feel good about ourselves, we start thinking we can sit back and take it easy, and before we know it here comes something else to cause problems for us.
For the people of Israel, it was food. See, the Promised Land was a long way away. To get to there, they had to cross a desert. There was no food. And, once again, the people of Israel start complaining. They’re scared that they’re going to starve out there. So, God produces manna for them to eat.
We may not realize what a major thing this was. Nobody had ever seen anything like this before. It’s not like they were walking around and found some food. God just produced it. It was there, on the ground, every morning. And at first, nobody knew what in the world it was. You heard in our Bible reading that when the people of Israel saw the manna, they said, “What is it?” They did not know. The way it sounds, they had no idea what this stuff was. They may not have even known it was supposed to be food. In school we used to make jokes about mystery meat, but at least we knew it was supposed to be food. The people of Israel may not even have known that much. They asked “What is it?” In fact, that’s what the word “manna” literally means: “what is it”. God gave the people of Israel “what is it” to eat for forty years.
As we read this story, the striking thing about it is how slow the people of Israel were to trust Moses and to trust God acting through Moses. We skipped over this part, but when Moses first went in front of Pharaoh, the people of Israel did not really think anything was going to come of it. They did not expect to be set free. Then, they were set free, but as we heard last week, they thought the Egyptian army was going to either capture them or kill them. Then, in a part we also skipped over, in Exodus Fifteen, the people thought they were going to die of thirst because there was no water. After God acted through Moses to get them water, we come to the current reading, where the people think they’re going to die because they don’t have any food. Over and over again, the people of Israel refuse to trust that God is going to act through Moses and take care of them.
And it continued through the rest of this reading. Moses tells the people not to try to save any manna until tomorrow, but some don’t listen. They try to save some for tomorrow, and it’s no good. Moses tells them to take a double portion on the sixth day, because the seventh day will be the Sabbath, the day of rest, and there won’t be any manna that day, but again, some don’t listen. They go out looking for manna on the seventh day, and of course don’t find any. They keep refusing to trust Moses and refusing to trust God acting through Moses. They keep trying to do things their own way.
Why? Why do they do that? God acts through Moses time after time in Exodus. God comes through for the people and gives them everything they need, time after time. And yet, the people of Israel never learn to trust God. They keep doubting. They keep complaining. They keep trying to go their own way. Why?
Well, some of you have probably already guessed part of the answer. It’s fear. They were afraid of what might happen. The people of Israel did not trust Moses and did not trust God to act through Moses because they were afraid.
Look at it. They’d been slaves in Egypt all their lives. They’d been there longer than anyone could remember. It was not great to be slaves, of course, and I’m not trying to sugarcoat it in any way. But still, it was all they knew. It was all they’d ever experienced. And they were used to it. They’d been born as slaves, they’d grown up as slaves, they’d gotten married as slaves, they’d had kids as slaves. They’d come to accept slavery as their lot in life.
And now here comes Moses, telling them that God is going to get the mighty Pharaoh to set them free. And it may have sounded good in theory, but they really did not believe it could happen. And in fact, when they thought it might happen, they were scared of it. After all, they did not know what freedom was like. What would freedom mean? Where would they live? What would they do? How would they survive? At least the Egyptians gave them food and shelter. They knew where their next meal was coming from. They knew what tomorrow held. If they were free, who knew what might happen?
And after they were set free, some of those fears seemed to be realized. Yeah, we’re free, but where are we going to get any water? Yeah, we’re free, but where are we going to get food? We’d have been better off to stay in Egypt, to stay with what we were used to. It was not great, but it was safe. We knew how to handle it. Now, we have no idea what’s going to happen to us.
It was the same when Moses told them not to save any manna for the next day. They tried to save some because they were scared. What do you mean, Moses? Don’t save any for tomorrow? We don’t know where this manna came from. We’ve never seen it before. We don’t even know what it is. How do we know there’ll be more tomorrow? What if there’s not? I’ve got to take care of myself and my family. I’ve got to save some manna for tomorrow, just in case we don’t find any when tomorrow comes.
God, acting through Moses, comes through for the people of Israel time after time after time. And yet, the people of Israel can never get over their fear. They can never just trust that God will take care of them. God gave them a chance to live a worry-free life. All they had to do was trust God. But they could not do it. Their fear got in their way.
That’s what fear does to us. It keeps us from living a worry-free life. The reason we have so many worries, the reason we have so many fears, is that we don’t trust God. We say we do, and maybe sometimes we do, but a lot of times, we don’t.
And I’m no better at it than anyone else. There are a lot of times when I fail to trust God, when I let my fear get in the way. But it’s sad. It’s sad for me, and it’s sad for you. God gives us the chance to not have to worry. God gives us the chance to live our lives without fear. “Give us this day our daily bread” is what we pray. Give us enough for today and help us trust that God will give us enough for tomorrow. We pray it. But so many times, we don’t do it. We believe it in theory, but we don’t live our lives by it. Our thoughts are just like those of the people of Israel. What do you mean, trust that God will give us enough for tomorrow? How do we know there’ll be more tomorrow? What if there’s not? I’ve got to take of myself and myfamily. I’ve got to save some for tomorrow. And we let our fears get in the way of our worry-free life.
Over and over again, the Bible tells us to trust God and to not be afraid. Some of you may have seen the thing that says there are three hundred sixty-five times in the Bible where it says “do not be afraid”. I don’t know that that’s actually true--I’ve never counted--but I know it says it a lot. It says to trust God a lot, too. Over and over again. Trust God. Have faith. Believe. Don’t be afraid.
The people of Israel never got over their fear. But we can. With God’s help, we can get past our fear. We can trust God. We can live our lives without fear. God will give us enough for today. And when tomorrow comes, God will give us enough for tomorrow.