We all have those moments where going back seems like the best option considering all of the uncertainty that lies ahead. What will happen next? Where are we going? How will be pay for all of this? When we don’t have the answer to life’s basic questions, it can be easy to grumble about the present and to paint a rosy picture of the past. Still, our past won’t get us to where God wants to take us. When we face those moments where we don’t have the answers, we have to learn to trust in God’s provision. This is the story of Israel in Exodus 16, and its all of our stories today.
Have you ever had a “can’t go back now” sort of moment (i.e. a moment where you had to go from a secure life situation to an insecure one)? What was happening? What did it feel like?
Read Exodus 16:1-12.
- Can someone give a little recap of where we are in the story of Israel? What happened just before this? What is that significant?
Leader’s Note: This is just two chapters after God splits the Red Sea, and one chapter after God gives them water to drink in the wilderness. It highlights how audacious Israel’s grumblings are.
- What and who are the people complaining about? Why did they feel this way? Can you relate?
- What do you think of God’s response to the people?
- Moses clarifies that the people were not complaining against him, but against God. Why do yo think this clarification is important?
- Is it always wrong to complain? Are there times where our complaining is like the complaining of Israel?
Read Exodus 16:13-26.
- The people ask for break and God gives them something they don’t recognize. What do you think of God’s provision in this story? Why would he do things this way?
Leader’s Note: All of God’s provisions in the wilderness were meant as a signs to help Israel learn to trust in God as their source.
- Look at v. 17-18. What is going on here? Is this a description of the miracle or is it a description of a community ethic?
Leader’s Note: The gift of manna is a divine gift from God that was meant to be treated with respect and reverence. These verses also seem to indicate that it also comes with the responsibility of ensuring that our neighbors have enough. Those who collected more manna reduced what they had to take care of those who were not able to get enough.
- What is God trying to do by giving Israel something that only lasts for a single day?
- Do you typically look for God’s provision in your own life? What would it look like today for us to trust God for our daily bread?
Read Exodus 16:27-36.
- Why does God forbid them to collect manna on the Sabbath? What is God doing by setting the Sabbath apart?
Leader’s Note: This is actually the first time the word ‘sabbath ‘ is mentioned in the Bible. Here it is defined as a day to rest from the work of gathering, but it also has the added dimension of trusting that God’s provision will last an extra day.
- What is the point of putting the manna in a jar and keeping it for later years?
- Do you have a story of God’s provision in your own life?
- Why is it important to remember how God has come through for us in the past? How does it help us face the future?
Diving Deeper: Grumbling in the Wilderness
- The grumbling and complaining of Israel in this passage is a theme in the Book of Exodus (Ex. 5:1-22; 14:11-12; 15:22; 16:1-3; 32:28) and beyond. Look at some of these passages from Exodus. What is a common complaint that you see?
- What is God’s response to Israel in each of these passages?
- How do these complaints and God’s response align with what you see in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?