Grumbling Times

The Exodus, James Tissot

Today’s reading from Exodus tells us that one month after they leave Egypt,” the whole assembly of the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron.” The children of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread! But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!” (Exodus 16:4-5)

One month after they leave Egypt, they’ve forgotten the Lord’s mighty deeds and promises.

Food and water run out, triggering their complaints, but God gives them enough to go on. Manna, bread from heaven is their daily food. Water comes from the rock that Moses strikes with his wooden staff. A cloud by day and fire at night guide them.

Still, they grumble, and so do we. Food and water figure in climate change today, so does a confusion of leadership. As the world moves on through the desert now, can we learn from our ancestors’ journey then? 

That’s what St. Paul told the Corinthians to do in the 10th chapter of his first letter to them. “These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us…” 

Jesus promises to be Bread from heaven, the rock for our thirst.  (1Cor. 10:4) The Spirit is a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

Let’s expect grumbling–these are tough times– but hopefully that grumbling leads to a deeper faith. The Book of Deuteronomy, the last of the 5 books of the Law, ends with Moses and the people poised to enter a new land after almost 40 years of desert wandering. Significantly, they’re poised, not there yet, not yet in possession, still hoping in the promises of God. 

We need this large view of history today, don’t we?

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