And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. 2 Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. 3 And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” – Exodus 16:1-3
The Israelites had astonishingly short memories when it came to the great things God had done for them. It had only been two and a half months since they escaped slavery in Egypt. God made that escape possible. He raised up the prophet Moses and sent him to Egypt to lead the people. He blasted the Egyptians with ten separate plagues before Pharaoh agreed to let the people go. Then, when the Israelites were trapped at the Red Sea, God divided the waters and let them cross over on dry land. The pursuing Egyptian army was drowned in the sea.
But now, only two and a half months later, the Israelites were grumbling and complaining against Moses and his brother Aaron. They were running out of food, and in the desert, there was nothing to eat. Their collective memory was also very faulty. They glorified the past while complaining about the present. “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full!” Really? They were reminiscing about Egypt as if it was a luxury resort. They were slaves in Egypt. Their lives were awful. They were brutally treated. Their rations were cut while their workday was lengthened. Their children were taken by the Egyptians at birth and killed. Now they were free! They were headed to the promised land- their very own country for the first time in their history. In utter sin they complained about their present freedom while glorifying their slave past.
We have an unexplainedly merciful God. Hearing the Israelites’ complaint, God caused a great cloud of quail to fly in and cover the camp. Now they had plenty of meat to eat. Next, God rained down Manna from heaven, which they could form into loaves and bake into bread. Their bellies were full. They stopped complaining, for a while. They again stood in awe of what God could do for them.
God’s people today are suffering through a great pandemic. It is hard for us to see the blessings of the day in the midst of suffering and death. It is hard for us to remember accurately the “good old days” and all the former blessings of God. We too can glorify the past, neglecting its trials and tribulations, while exaggerating its pleasures. Make it a daily exercise to count God’s blessings to you and your family during this pandemic. And look back and remember the great things God has done for you throughout your life. God will again rain down his blessings on his people at just the right time. He will bring this scourge to an end, and we will stand together to thank and praise him for yet another great thing he has done.
Lord God grant us grace to remember your blessings of the past and to count our blessings of the day. Make us a truly grateful people and brighten our hope for the good days still to come.