Israel’s journey into the desert is a liberating one (freedom from slavery!), but also a difficult one (the desert is a very threatening place to be). They have been travelling exactly one month since they made that extraordinary walk through the Red Sea. Yet the land of milk and honey is nowhere in sight, and food is in extremely short supply. This is not the rescue that they expected! And unmet expectations lead to serious disruption – Moses has a potential rebellion on his hands. He reminds them that they are not complaining against him, but against Yahweh himself.
Yet Yahweh does not respond with punishment, but with gifts. The typical Jewish meal – bread in the morning, meat in the evening – comes to these wandering tribes in the desert because of the gracious provision of God in the most hostile of environments. And in the midst of God’s bountiful grace comes the first Sabbath instructions. When all you can see is deprivation, God provides sustenance. When all you feel is anxiety, God invites you to his Sabbath rest. Both the body and the soul are provided for by Yahweh himself.
This lesson from the desert is clear: we can trust God to provide. Yet this is a lesson we all need to keep learning – but we can do this together, as we sing “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and his mercies never come to an end.”