Exodus is one of the greatest books in the Bible.
The story of the Exodus
It tells the story of Moses and how God calls him to take on the mighty ruler of Egypt who is persecuting and murdering the Israelite people.
It takes ten plagues - rivers that turn to blood, swarms of frogs, gnats, flies and locusts, a pestilence that kills the Egyptians’ cattle, an affliction of boils, hailstorms, three days of total darkness and a sickness that kills the firstborn son of every Egyptian family – before Pharaoh finally says yes to Moses’s demand to ‘let my people go!’ And even then, he chases after the Israelites and is only defeated when his army are drowned as they pursue them across the Red Sea and the waters that had recently parted suddenly return.
It’s a story of deliverance from evil. And it’s a story that is the foundation of the Jewish faith.
But the story does not stop there.
Grumbling in the wilderness
Moses and the Israelites journey on through the wilderness - in search of the land that God has promised to lead them - ‘a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’
After a couple of months, however, the Israelites are growing impatient in finding this land. They are starving and they start complaining. They start to think they would have been better off staying in Egypt. It was dreadful being in slavery but is it worse to have freedom yet die of starvation in the wilderness?
Bread from heaven
So God rains manna – bread from heaven – every morning for them.
But just enough manna to feed each Israelite each day. God says that it is a test – to see whether the Israelites will trust Him to provide just what they need for each day. He says they are not to take anything more than exactly what they need for that day – an ‘omer’ per person.
So the Israelites go out to gather the manna. And some take too much. And some are left with too little. But when they get it back to camp and measure it out, they discover that each person has exactly an omer.
The curse of taking too much
Then Moses tells then to eat their whole rations and keep nothing back for the next day, trusting that the Lord will provide again.
But some of them are fearful and untrusting and they keep a store of their rations. And the following morning they discover that the manna has ‘bred worms and was foul.’
This little story is the first of many in the Bible that warns us against hoarding and not trusting that God will provide.
Why this story is important to us today
In our current circumstances, people are understandably fearful.
But we are told, first, that there is plenty of food and, secondly, that if we only take what we need for right now then there will be plenty for absolutely everyone.
It was distressing to see Dawn Bilbrough, a critical care nurse, in tears on the TV the other night because she’d been unable to get to a food shop until after her shift and then found the shelves were almost completely empty.
So, may we remember the Israelites in the wilderness with their manna.
May we trust that God will provide and one of the ways He will do that is by giving us soft hearts - that make us want to leave as much food on the shelves as possible. For others.