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Lent 15:Bread & Meat

by Kathleen McGuire
Readings: Psalm 95, Exodus 16:9-21, Ephesians 2:11-22

Bread in the Morning, Meat in the Evening
Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to all the people of Israel, ‘Come near to the Lord, for He has heard your complaining.’” When Aaron spoke to all the people of Israel, they looked toward the desert. And they saw in the cloud the shining-greatness of the Lord. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the complaining of the people of Israel. Say to them, ‘In the evening you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

In the evening quails came and covered the place where the people were staying. And in the early morning a little water was around the tents. When the water had gone, there were small white pieces all over the ground of the desert. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has told you to do: ‘Every man gather as much of it as he can eat. Take a jar for every person that each of you has in his tent.’” The people did so. Some gathered much and some less. When they saw how much they had, he who had gathered much had no more than what was needed. And he who had gathered less had enough. Every man gathered as much as he could eat. Moses said to them, “Let no one save any of it until morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it until morning. And worms grew in it and it became bad to eat. So Moses was angry with them. Morning after morning they gathered it, every man as much as he could eat. But when the sun became hot, it would melt. New Life Version

The story behind the Exodus from Egypt was not glorious at all. There is no happy ending to this story. Why didn’t God let his children fight their way out of bondage? I don’t know if I understand fully what was planned for the children of Israel. Did the first born of each Egyptian family have to die because of the sins of their fathers? Could God have allowed the Egyptians to suffer a drought for forty years? Would that be punishment enough?

Most of the Israelites brought out of Egypt were uneducated. They existed to serve their Master.  I’m sure many were not aware that there was a God that loved them and wanted them to be free and to worship freely. And yet, once they were free, all they could think about was worshiping other false gods and they soon forgot their divine father. I think God could not do anything right by them. As a father, I think he expected too much in return from his children. They were in so many ways ungrateful regarding what he tried to do for them. He gave them a new way of life and they almost lost it. Who knows how history would have been written had they not survived forty years in the desert?

A couple of years ago I was listening to a theologian who was explaining how it is written in the Bible that God’s “Children of Israel” shall not be denied entry into his Kingdom even if they have sinned during their lifetime. I had a difficult time understanding exactly what he was saying and I felt betrayed that God would allow a group of individuals a “free ride” through life. In other words, God’s children can disregard the ten commandments and still be accepted into his kingdom. How is this possible? Their ancestors did wander through the desert for forty years for their sins and their children’s sins. God must have loved them so much that he couldn’t bear the thought of punishing them a second time, but I’m not sure if the method of punishment was appropriate or not.

I no longer struggle with the concept that God’s children get a free pass into his kingdom. I knew a man I consider one of God’s children and I watched him commit one sin after another for more than twenty years; and I’m sure he thinks because he’s one of God’s children that he’s exempt from any punishment. Maybe in God’s world, but not this one! People feared him, and they had reason to; but I think it was God’s plan that I set him on a straight path in life. One could say my work is done and I no longer worry if I’ll enter God’s kingdom someday.

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