Following on the heels of provision against thirst, the children of Israel grumbled against God again. Hearing them, God once again provided.
As Aaron began to speak to the people, God’s glory appeared to them in the cloud. He gave Moses another word to speak to them; he provided Moses with the purpose for his coming provision. When they would eat meat at twilight and receive bread in the morning, they would know him as the Lord their God. The provision of food did not represent an end in itself; instead, it pointed back to the God whose glory appeared in the pillar of cloud, leading them through the wilderness. Though all people have knowledge of God in some sense, the knowledge God gives to these people in the wilderness the knowledge these people receive in God’s miraculous provision is special to them as God’s redeemed people.
God’s provision of manna proves his constant power for forty straight years. It does not cease until the people actually enter Canaan and eat its fruit. Yet the beginning of the constant miracle of manna contains an unexpected jolt in a twice disobedient people. The people will know their God in his abundant grace in the face of their direct defiance.
In Exodus 16:19, Moses gives the command not to leave any manna until in the morning, for the Lord will provide again. However, this command, a command to a hungry people to fill their bellies to stop their grumbling, proves too much for such a people. They find their stowed manna full of rot and worms and letting off a stench. In Exodus 16:22-26, the reverse occurs—the people fail to gather extra manna for the day of the sabbath. Verse 27 then reports that they go searching for it instead of resting. Those who labored as slaves for years and walked through the wilderness for more than a month fail to abide by the command to rest.
In Romans 5:20-21, Paul writes, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
No sooner does God command than mankind disobeys, even when the commands possess a striking simplicity. In God’s patience at their disobedience, the people of Israel saw just how unmerited God’s favor toward them truly was. However great sin is, God’s grace is always greater.
The God of these rebellious became a man, Jesus Christ. He is unchanging, and his favor towards his people has not changed. Though his people sin, his grace abundantly overwhelms. This is the goodness of Christ Jesus. The repentant sinner sees himself in the children of Israel. Their story is much like his own. It is a story of repeated failure. The commands of God reveal the sinfulness that is in mankind. Even so, the Son of God became a man to bear away all the sins of those who would believe in him. He would bear their punishment on the cross, trading his perfect obedience for their judgment.
Sinner, come to the Lord, the gracious God of Israel. See him in his goodness and faithfulness to those who have rebelled and disobeyed. See that he has made the way of salvation. Rest in him, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light. and his grace overwhelms the entirety of your enormous sin.