12 November 2014

Exodus 16:2-15

“It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.” (v. 15b)


Bread of heaven! What more could they want? This quarrelsome people had got what they asked for, but also more than they had bargained for.

We need to step back a bit to understand. For years the Hebrews had been in captivity, working as slaves. This oppressive grind had been meat and drink to them for generations. There seemed to be no way out. If they prayed at all it would have been for release. Then a baby was born. A song I wrote, set to the Calypso Carol, encapsulates part of the story:

Little baby that the Levite bore,
floating safely in a boat of straw,
hidden from the Pharoah's cruel law,
Moses set your people free...

O now march with them right through the sea,
there are more ways than slavery;
show that there's another way to be.
O Moses set your people free.

But what good can a baby do? This baby grew into a man with some influence. He became recognised as the first priest and prophet of the people of Israel. He would represent the people to God and God to the people, and the plan for release was set: 

Moses grew in stature as a man,
had a scheme, a cunning little plan,
showed that in God's strength a human can
help to set the people free...

The people's prayer was answered, and the plan was enacted. Initially there was celebration, but soon the grim reality of life in the wilderness hit the people: they grumbled and lost faith. God and Moses heard their cry - "you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger" (v. 3).

The answer to this plea was the gift of manna, bread of heaven if you like. Problem solved. But God and Moses together recognised that people are inherently greedy and easily faithless. So the bounty was reliable, but also limited. Prayer was again answered but providence, even of the bread of heaven, was not to be taken for granted.

To Ponder

  • We need to be careful about what we pray for! Have you ever got more than you bargained for in answer to prayer? What happened?
  • If you wish for a different life, what would you pray for?

Bible notes author

The Revd Andrew Pratt

Andrew is a Methodist supernumerary presbyter, Honorary Research Fellow at Luther King House, Manchester, and author. He has written over 1,300 hymns.