Forgetting and remembering

August 24th, 2017

Exodus 16:2-15

“How soon we forget,” Moses must have thought! Not long before, the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt. How quickly the people could forget how ruthless Pharaoh could be. But all the Israelites remembered was that at least they knew the routine. Do what Pharaoh wanted and most of the time, you’d at least get something to fill your belly. The people were looking at their hard slave life through rose-colored glasses. Although they had been mistreated, all they remembered was a comfort zone and a routine.

Their memory of God’s activity in their lives had been erased. When there was a shortage of food, instead of looking to God, they only remembered Pharaoh. They were also quick to blame Moses and Aaron for leading them into the wilderness to starve. Complain, complain, complain! Accuse, accuse, accuse! Ultimately, God was to blame, and so the implication is that the people are turning from God. They were losing their faith.

But God must have heard the cry of the Israelites, and God responds to this need. The gift of food is tied to God’s good intentions for creation. God has promised to provide for our every need, and God does not break promises.

God, however, wants us to be in a covenant relationship. Therefore, God gives Moses special instructions on how the Israelites are to harvest the food. There is an order to their harvesting. Normally, they are only to harvest enough food for their daily portion. However, as they prepare for the Sabbath, they are to harvest enough for two days. God provides for their daily needs, and God provides a way for them to keep the Sabbath.

There is something vital about this passage and its relationship to creation and in relationship to the Sabbath. As God was creating, God brought order out of chaos. There is something sacred about having order to our lives. There is something holy about having lives that are not out of control. The one way to help assure that we are able to have ordered lives is by keeping the Sabbath.

While many of us view the Sabbath as something that God orders us to keep for God’s sake, the truth about the Sabbath is that it is for our sake. Jesus makes that very clear in his conversation with the Pharisees in Mark 2:23-28. By observing Sabbath, we take the time to rest and refocus our lives. It helps our memory be clearer and allows us to reflect on God’s sustaining grace and provision for our lives. In essence, keeping the Sabbath helps us find order amidst the chaos of the world.

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